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The archive of Matouš Konečný, discovered in August 2006 during construction work done in Mladá Boleslav, is one of the most significant discoveries in modern history of source materials relating to the history of the Bohemian Reformation. At its core is a set of 523 letters addressed in large part to Matouš Konečný († 1622), the last pre-White-Mountain bishop of the Unity of the Brethren in Mladá Boleslav. Among those who sent the letters – each, as a rule, with its own seal – were the senior of Prague’s Utraquist consistory, the bishops of the Unity of the Brethren in Moravia and Poland, regular priests of the Brethren, students, teachers and members of the Brethren from among the burghers and both aristocratic estates. Whereas the dominant theme in the correspondence is the administration of church aff airs, in the case of the letters from students and teachers, it is the progress of the studies of the future clergymen of the Brethren sent to academies abroad. Another, substantial portion of the materials discovered comprises lists of members of Bohemian Brethren groups and inventories of their possessions. To a considerable extent, they expand the range of sources dealing with the material furnishings of the buildings serving towards devotional ends or towards the accommodation of Brethren priests and other associated individuals. Among the most important items discovered is an agenda, kept for several years, providing an overview of church services held within the district of the Mladá Boleslav group; two library catalogues belonging to the Brethren priests B. Jafet and Š. Věrník; information regarding the distribution of titles published by the Unity of the Brethren in the early 17th century; a record of the convocation of Lutheran clergymen at Holešov which documents the organizational structure of Moravian Lutheran groups; and other documents relating to the administration of the properties of the Unity of the Brethren in the Mladá Boleslav district. The documents published in the adjoining publication illustrate the character of each individual portion of the abovementioned archive. The material in the archive considerably extends the scope of our knowledge concerning the complicated religious state of aff airs in Bohemia and Moravia during the period between the issuing of Rudolf’s Letter of Majesty (1609) and the start of the Estates Revolt (1618).
Even though after 1555 there was religious freedom within the Holy Roman Empire, such liberties could not be enjoyed by the Reformed higher aristocracy in instances when they wanted to found a university. This could only be done once an ‘Emperor’s Prerogative’ was granted. The question for the Reformed higher aristocracy was how to ensure that the academic level of education in their own institutions was similar to universities. The solution was found in the creation of a system of regional academies (so called gymnasium illustre). The model for such academies is considered to be the Strasbourg Academy, which was further refined in the Herborn Academy. The Herborn Academy inspired the rise of other educational centres, one of which was the gymnasium illustre in Bremen, which was reorganized in 1610 by Matthias Martinius, the school’s most significant rector. The Bremen Academy had two parts, the pedagogeum and the gymnasium illustre. The teaching at the pedagogeum followed established teaching syllabuses, which, unfortunately, are not available to us from Rector Martinius’s period. However, there are certain references to the content of the teaching materials and textbooks used at that time, which can be found in correspondence and the accounting records of the academy’s students, the priests-to-be of the Unity of Brethren, who due to the lack of suitable educational centres in the Czech lands, studied at foreign schools. From the accounting records of Daniel Němčanský, who studied at the Bremen Academy at this time, we know of several books that were used. The listing of these books is located at the end of this work.
Not many reports have survived which capture the pre-exile activity of Jan Amos Comenius, and his personal life in particular. A signifi cant number of them consist of brief retrospective communications preserved in some of Comenius's literary works and in his correspondence. The actual sources from the pre-White Mountain period make possible only a rough reconstruction of the basic milestones in his life, often only hypothetical (the question of his birthplace can be mentioned as an example). Somewhat more light is shed on this period by material from the Archive of Matouš Konečný, discovered in Mladá Boleslav in the summer of 2006. Included in it are letters from Jan Lanecký († 1626) to the Bishop of Mladá Boleslav, who was, between 1609–1620/1622, Matouš Konečný. As Bishop of the Přerov diocese, Lanecký was Comenius's immediate superior and at the same time his closest guide on the path to his priestly profession. An indivisible part of this process was the, at least partial, absolving of the theological study for which the novices of the Brethren's priesthood were sent to educational institutions abroad. Lanecký's letters supplement in interesting details the background to Comenius's stay in Herborn and Heidelberg, starting with the late departure of the Brethren students from Moravia and Bohemia because of the invasion of the Passau soldiers (1611). The letters capture in a very rounded way the chronic problems the students had with the fi nancial demands of the study, culminating in the indebtedness of several individuals, which became a heavy burden to them after their return to their native land. The letters also document the tension arising from the diff ering ideas of the students and the bishops about the content of the study itself, and its form. They provide valuable evidence for the motives of Comenius's journeys and his pleasure in the travel the students enjoyed in their free time. A number of new pieces of information relate to Comenius's activity in Moravia after 1614. Especially valuable are reports about Comenius's ordination as a deacon, which took place on 2 February 1616 in Prague, as well as Lanecký's communications about Comenius's literary beginnings: for example, clarifi cation about the authorship of the work Retuňk proti Antikristu [Warnings Against the Antichrist], and the reaction of the Brethren bishops to the origin of the work Theatrum universitatis rerum. Among the interesting matters which the new information about Comenius opportunely supplements are reports of two letters from the Ivančice Bishop Jiří Erast (from 1616 and 1618). They are evidence of a Brethren priest called Komenský, who was working in the Ivančice diocese in the time before the Uprising of the Bohemian Estates broke out. However, we know nothing more about his life or possible relationship to Jan Amos Comenius.
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