Safe Conduct

By Eric Stapleton


Jerome of Faulfish attempts to talk his friend John Hus out of facing a church tribunal in which he is most certain to be found a heretic.  John is not swayed and is determined to speak the truth of scripture.  This scene is based on the historical events of the 15th century, along with the writings and sayings of both John Hus and Jerome of Faulfish.


John Hus


(Scene:  The study of John Hus.  The room is candle-lit.  The room is spare.  A table, a pair of chairs, parchments, the Holy Scriptures, and a candle are the set.  Jerome of Faulfish and John Hus recline in chairs.  It is October in the year 1414.  A Bottle of wine, half empty, and a pair of wine glasses are on the table.)

Narrator:  We would like to take you back in time to 15th century Europe when the seeds of the reformation were being planted.  Christendom was in shambles, divided by a power struggle between three men who claimed the office of pope.  Meanwhile, the teachings of John Wycliffe were gaining ground in Western Europe and now spreading to Eastern Europe.  Wycliffe’s teachings were embraced by a zealous man of God — John Hus of Bohemia.  John Hus’s preaching of the Word eventually won him the honor of standing trial before the Emperor at the Council of Constance, which was convened to put an end to the power struggle and demolish heresy. 

Jerome:  John Hus!  I envy you and fear for you at the same time.

John:  Why so, my good friend?  What is the difference whether we make our stir here in Bohemia or among the pomp and circumstance of the apostate church?

Jerome:  The wine is getting to your head, my friend.  This isn’t the Archbishop of Prague we’re dealing with, but the Emperor and The General Council, who have put themselves above the popes.

John:  Exactly my point!  Popes!  Plural!  Not one, but three popes!  How can there be more than one Head of Christ here on earth. Here we are in the 15th century of our Lord and we can’t even recognize Him as Lord.  He is the rock upon which the church is built!  Jesus with three heads?

Jerome:  John!

John:  The body of Christ is divided while these charlatans masquerade as Christ’s true vicar on earth.  If that is so, which one are we to obey?  John XXIII., who is at Bologna; Gregory XII., who is at Rimini; Peter de Lune, who calls himself Benedict XIII., and is in Arragon. If all three are infallible, why does not their testimony agree? and if only one of them is the Most Holy Father, why is it that we cannot distinguish him from the rest?

Jerome:  John, you are going to be tried as a heretic!  You will be silenced and all you, we, have worked for will die.  The word of truth will cease to be preached.  The ground for reformation is not ripe yet.  I beg you, do not go to this Council of Constance!

John:  If God be for me, who can stand against me?  I will speak the truth from the Holy Scriptures (picks up Bible).  You, who have been so eloquent in speech and profoundly logical in your defense of the truth have inspired me to have audience with the Emperor.  God in his sovereignty has given me his safe conduct.  ( pick up parchment)  Read that.

Jerome:  I know, but…

John:  Read it!

Jerome:  “to all ecclesiastical and secular princes, & clergy., and to all our subjects. We recommend to you, the honourable Master John Hus, journeying from Bohemia to the Council of Constance, whom we have taken under the protection and safeguard of the Empire, treat him kindly and allow him to PASS, SOJOURN, STOP, AND RETURN FREELY AND SECURELY for the honour and respect of the Imperial Majesty. Given at Spiers this 18th day of October of the year 1414, etcetera, etcetera”.  I don’t know, John.

John:  You, who have been so bold in the public places!  You who are a knight of Bohemia, would counsel me to step back.  And I, who have been slow of speech and with faltering lips charge forward.  (Pause and a swallow of wine)  They say that my name means ‘goose’.  Honk!  If the goose, which is but a timid bird, and cannot fly very high, has been able to burst its bonds, there will come afterwards an eagle, which will soar high into the air and draw to it all the other birds.

Jerome:  (laughing)  The wine is indeed getting to your head!  They will cook your goose! You will be burned at the stake!

John:  (with passion)  It is in the nature of truth, that the more we obscure it the brighter will it become.  I am convinced that the truth will prevail.  I have been given safe conduct.  Amid all the crimes of these Popes, who will also be on trial, I will be vindicated!  Their crimes and abuses testify to the word of truth that I have been preaching, we have been preaching!  The Council and I should be on the same side.  How can they reject such an obvious truth?

Jerome:  The truth to them will be as new wine in old wine skins.  For them to renounce their traditions of men in favor of the truth of God’s Word would be new idea and an unwelcome one at that. You will be asked to renounce your errors.

John: What errors shall I renounce? I am guilty of none. I call God to witness that all that I have written and preached has been with the view of rescuing souls from sin; and, therefore, I will joyfully confirm with my blood that truth which I have written and preached.  If it indeed be so that I be burned at a stake, what urgency does that give me to renounce God’s truth.  Jesus Christ, our Lord, has redeemed us by his bitter death, without all our merits, and given us paradise.  In light of this blessed hope, what is a quarter of an hour of torment at a stake?  Although I should stand a hundred ages at the stake, I will not deny my Saviour. Now I am ready to face the Council; it can kill the body, but it has no more that it can do.

Jerome:  I could not have said it better.

John:  Lord, willing, you won’t have to.  I have been granted Safe conduct by the Emperor!  To speak the truth, which will be heard, prevail and set me free!  (music swells with a triumphant strain—BLACKOUT)

Narrator:  John Hus’s safe conduct was revoked at the Council of Constance.  He was not allowed to speak when put on trial.  He was imprisoned and on July 6th, 1415, his birthday, he was burned at the stake as a heretic.  On that stake John Hus, spoke, “It is thus that you silence the goose, but a hundred years hence there will arise a swan whose singing you shall not be able to silence.”  And one hundred years later, Martin Luther successfully continued what John Hus and others had started.

© Eric Stapleton, All rights reserved
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