Respublica Christiana: Spirituality and Church-political Ideas of Bohuslav of Lobkowicz and Hassenstein

Pages 5–7
Citation HLAVÁČEK, Petr. Respublica Christiana: Spirituality and Church-political Ideas of Bohuslav of Lobkowicz and Hassenstein. Acta Musei Nationalis Pragae – Historia litterarum. Prague: National Museum, 2007, 52(1-4), 5–7. ISSN 0036-5351. Also available from:
Acta Musei Nationalis Pragae – Historia litterarum | 2007/52/1-4

The transition between the 15th and 16th centuries is an important period in the history of both Europe and Christianity. It is the time of renaissance, humanism and European reformation. And Bohuslav of Lobkowicz and Hassenstein, prominent Czech aristocrat, scholar and poet is a conspicuous personality in the process. His interests naturally focused on the geographic, political, religious and cultural questions of his time. His christianitas, or res publica christiana, is a hybrid of theology and politics, which started from the concepts of Ecclesia universalis and Civitas Dei. It centered on Europe. However, Bohuslav’s travels of 1490 to 1491 brought him into Asia and Africa. Besides Rom, he visited Jerusalem, Cairo and Alexandria. He intended to visit India, and only due to dangers, abandoned his plan. He constantly sought information about newly discovered Americas. He followed the Portuguese conquest of North Africa. He realizes that the geographical boundaries of the Christian world were “fl oating.” While christianitas was spreading through the New World, Bohuslav was frightened by its losses in the South-East, where the Osman Empire threatend Europe with an Asiatic paganism. (Not to be confused with the cultural Greco-Roman paganism!) In the year 1499, he wrote his Summos Christianos principes contra Turcos excitans abhortatorium carmen, a call for a crusade against the Turks. He addressed emperor Maximilian, kings of France, Spain, England, Poland, Portugal, as well as the City of Venice, while ridiculing Pope Alexander VI’s incompetence to protect Christendom. He put his highest hopes in the Czech and Hungarian king Vladislav Jagiello. Together with the political and literary elite of his time, he hoped for the liberation of Greece, the Graecia docta, the “bleeding heart of eastern churches and cradle of antique wisdom.” Fifteenth century brought a special kind of piety in worshiping the “boundaries of Christendom.” It was both a nostalgia for the loss of the Holy Land, of the eastern patriarchates, for Constantinople and all of Balkan, and a hope for the extension of Christendom into the New World. Bohuslav considered himself a Czech, Bohemus, but at the same time, he wasa humanist scholar. His country, Boemia – Bohemia, was a part of antique Germania, which, by Charlemagne’s translatio imperii, was a continuation of the Imperium Romanum. For him, the Czech Kingdom was the best and fundamental part of the empire, nobilissima portio imperii, and Prague was the capital of all Germania. In his 1499 treatise De re publica, he exalts the time of the reign of Charles IV, when Prague was nobilissimum Germaniae emporium and her name was celebrated in omni Europa. Nevertheless, as a scholar and humanist, Bohuslav also belonged to the respublica litteraria, a community of educated Europeans. Their language was the Latin of the humanists. They admired Greek and Hebrew language and literature. Their “other Europe,” Europe of scholars, barely developing under the “apostolic” influence of Conradus Celtis, had its own topography different from its church-political counterpart. It divided the world into several sodalitates, o whom the Sodalitas Danubiana was certainly the most important one. Bohuslav’s ideas about the theological, political and geographical horizons were navigations through contemporary christianitas, the Germania of antiquity and an “empire” of his dreams, his respublica litteraria. While spending the last years of his life on Hassenstein near Kadaň, Bohuslav was a citizen of many homelands.

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