The Jan Hus Memorial stands at one end of Old Town Square, Prague in the Czech Republic. The huge monument depicts victorious Hussite warriors and Protestants who were forced into exile 200 years after Hus, and a young mother who symbolises national rebirth. The monument was so large that the sculptor designed and built his own villa and studio where the work could be carried out. It was unveiled in 1915 to commemorate the 500th anniversary of Jan Hus' martyrdom.
The memorial was designed by Ladislav Šaloun and paid for solely by public donations. Born in 1369, Hus became an influential religious thinker, philosopher, and reformer in Prague. From within the Orthodox Greek Church, Cyril and Methodius ("Apostles of the Slavs") had created a Slavic-language Bible and began Church services in the Czech language in 863 at the request of Greater Moravia's ruler. Religion in the "language of the people" became a Bohemian tradition. The Archdiocese of Moravia was created in 867, independent of the German and Roman church hierarchy.
Slavic independence became a target for attack. Accordingly, the Czech patriot Hus believed that mass should be given in the vernacular, or local language, rather than in Latin and leaned toward Orthodox Christian views of hierarchy, as well as many teachings of John Wycliffe. Hus was ultimately condemned by the Council of Constance and burned at the stake in 1415.
To the people of Bohemia and other regions around Prague, Jan Hus became a symbol of dissidence and a symbol of strength against oppressive regimes. His opposition to church control by the Vatican gave strength to those who opposed control of Czech lands by the Habsburgs in the 19th century, and Hus soon became a symbol of anti-Habsburg rule. He is said to stand arrogantly in the square in defiance of the cathedral before him. In 1918, a Marian Column that had been erected in the square shortly after the Thirty Years' War was demolished in celebration of independence from the Habsburg empire.
When Czechoslovakia was under Communist rule, sitting at the feet of the Jan Hus memorial became a way of quietly expressing their opinion and opposition against the Communist rule. Another memorial statue commemorating Jan Hus is found in the Union Cemetery in Bohemia, Long Island. This statue was erected in 1893 by voluntary contributions from Czech immigrants, and it is the first officially dedicated memorial in the United States erected to honour a foreigner.