6 July 1415

Jan Hus is condemned as a heretic and then burned at the stake.

On 6 July 1415, the Czech religious reformer Jan Hus, condemned as a heretic against the doctrines of the Catholic Church, was burned at the stake. This date has long been a Czech national holiday in his honor.

The story of Jan Hus is more than a question of internal church disputes. As a priest, philosopher, and Master at Charles University in Prague, he is considered, after John Wycliffe, the English theorist of ecclesiastical Reformation, the first church reformer, living before Martin Luther, John Calvin and Huldrych Zwingli.

Hus was a key predecessor to the Protestant movement of the 16th century. His teachings had a strong influence on the establishment of a reformist Bohemian religious denomination and, more than a century later, on Martin Luther himself.

A century after his death, as many as 90 percent of inhabitants of the Czech lands were non-Catholic; to this day some still follow the teachings of Hus. In asserting their independence from Rome, the Hussites represented an early expression of Czech nationalism.

After earning two university degrees, Hus was ordained as a priest in 1400. In 1402 Hus began preaching in Prague demanding the reformation of the Church.

Hus tried to delineate the moral failings of clergy, bishops, and even the papacy from his pulpit. He enjoyed some local support, but on June 24, 1405, Pope Innocent VII, directed Hus’s archbishop to counter Wycliffe’s heretical teachings, and to ban any further attacks on the clergy. Hus, however, continued to promote Wycliffe’s ideas.

Like Wycliffe, Hus spoke out against indulgences. Hus asserted that no pope or bishop had the right to take up the sword in the name of the Church; that a Christian should pray for his enemies and bless those who curse him; and that a person obtains forgiveness of sins by true repentance, not by a donation of money to the church. Hus’s followers considered the church a fraudulent mob of adulterers and “Simonists,” people who bought their positions.

To some, Hus’s efforts were predominantly designed to rid the Church of its ethical abuses, rather than a campaign of sweeping theological change. To others, the seeds of the Reformation are clear in Hus’s and Wycliffe’s writings. In explaining the plight of the average Christian in Bohemia, Hus wrote, “One pays for confession, for mass, for the sacrament, for indulgences, for churching a woman, for a blessing, for burials, for funeral services and prayers. The very last penny which an old woman has hidden in her bundle for fear of thieves or robbery will not be saved. The villainous priest will grab it.”

In response, three men from the lower classes who openly called the indulgences a fraud were beheaded. They were later considered the first martyrs of the Hussite Church.

Martyrdom and vindication

Sigismund of Hungary, who was “King of the Romans” (i.e., head of the Holy Roman Empire, though not then Emperor), and heir to the Bohemian crown, was anxious to end religious dissension within the Church. He arranged for a general council to convene in November 1414, at Konstanz in southern Germany, on Lake Constance just across from Switzerland. The Council of Constance became the 16th ecumenical council recognized by the Catholic Church. Hus willingly agreed to go to Konstanz, under Sigismund’s promise of safe conduct.

A few weeks after his arrival in Konstanz, Hus was arrested and thrown into the dungeon of the Dominican monastery. In December a formal investigation against Hus began, but Hus was not allowed an advocate for his defense. Transferred to the castle of the Archbishop of Konstanz, Hus was kept for 73 days, separated from his friends, chained day and night, poorly fed, and ill.

On June 5, 1415, his trial began, and Hus was moved to a Franciscan monastery. He declared himself willing to recant if his errors should be proven to him from the Bible, but otherwise defended his reformist protests against the Church.

The condemnation took place on July 6, 1415, in the presence of the assembly of the Council in the Cathedral. After the High Mass and Liturgy, Hus was led into the church. He protested that even at this hour he did not wish anything, but to be convinced from Scripture. He fell upon his knees and asked God to forgive all his enemies.

At the place of execution, he knelt down, spread out his hands, and prayed aloud. The executioner undressed him, tied his hands behind his back, and bound his neck with a chain to a stake around which wood and straw had been piled up so that it covered him to the neck. At the last moment Hus refused to recant and thus save his own life.

“God is my witness that the things charged against me I never preached,” Hus said. “In the same truth of the Gospel which I have written, taught, and preached, drawing upon the sayings and positions of the holy doctors, I am ready to die today.”

Hus’s ashes were thrown into the Rhine River.

Responding with horror to Hus’s execution, the people of Bohemia moved even more rapidly away from papal teachings, prompting an announced crusade against them. Pope Martin V issued a papal bull that all supporters of reformers like Hus and Wycliffe be slaughtered. Some two thousand Hussites were thrown into the Kutná Hora mines by pro-Catholic townsmen. The Hussite community became a major military power, and defeated a wave of crusades that lasted until 1434. Fighting ended with a compromise in 1436.

According to Hus, the Church is not the hierarchy; it is the entire body of those who have been predestined for salvation. Christ, not the pope, is its head. It is no article of faith that one must obey the pope to be saved. Neither membership in the Church nor churchly offices and dignities assure that the persons in question are members of the true Church. Hus’s theology predates by almost a century similar developments that would take place in the Lutheran Reformation. His extensive writings earn him a prominent place in Czech literary history.

Nearly six centuries later in 1999, Pope John Paul II expressed “deep regret for the cruel death inflicted” on Hus. Cardinal Miloslav Vlk of the Czech Republic was instrumental in crafting John Paul II’s statement.

5 July 1946

The bikini first goes on sale after debuting during an outdoor fashion show at the Molitor Pool in Paris, France.

On July 5, 1946, French designer Louis Reard unveils a daring two-piece swimsuit at the Piscine Molitor, a popular swimming pool in Paris. Parisian showgirl Micheline Bernardini modeled the new fashion, which Reard dubbed “bikini,” inspired by a news-making U.S. atomic test that took place off the Bikini Atoll in the Pacific Ocean earlier that week.

European women first began wearing two-piece bathing suits that consisted of a halter top and shorts in the 1930s, but only a sliver of the midriff was revealed and the navel was vigilantly covered. In the United States, the modest two-piece made its appearance during World War II, when wartime rationing of fabric saw the removal of the skirt panel and other superfluous material. Meanwhile, in Europe, fortified coastlines and Allied invasions curtailed beach life during the war, and swimsuit development, like everything else non-military, came to a standstill.

In 1946, Western Europeans joyously greeted the first war-free summer in years, and French designers came up with fashions to match the liberated mood of the people. Two French designers, Jacques Heim and Louis Reard, developed competing prototypes of the bikini. Heim called his the “atom” and advertised it as “the world’s smallest bathing suit.” Reard’s swimsuit, which was basically a bra top and two inverted triangles of cloth connected by string, was in fact significantly smaller. Made out of a scant 30 inches of fabric, Reard promoted his creation as “smaller than the world’s smallest bathing suit.” Reard called his creation the bikini, named after the Bikini Atoll.

In planning the debut of his new swimsuit, Reard had trouble finding a professional model who would deign to wear the scandalously skimpy two-piece. So he turned to Micheline Bernardini, an exotic dancer at the Casino de Paris, who had no qualms about appearing nearly nude in public. As an allusion to the headlines that he knew his swimsuit would generate, he printed newspaper type across the suit that Bernardini modeled on July 5 at the Piscine Molitor. The bikini was a hit, especially among men, and Bernardini received some 50,000 fan letters.

Before long, bold young women in bikinis were causing a sensation along the Mediterranean coast. Spain and Italy passed measures prohibiting bikinis on public beaches but later capitulated to the changing times when the swimsuit grew into a mainstay of European beaches in the 1950s. Reard’s business soared, and in advertisements he kept the bikini mystique alive by declaring that a two-piece suit wasn’t a genuine bikini “unless it could be pulled through a wedding ring.”

In prudish America, the bikini was successfully resisted until the early 1960s, when a new emphasis on youthful liberation brought the swimsuit en masse to U.S. beaches. It was immortalized by the pop singer Brian Hyland, who sang “Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka-Dot Bikini” in 1960, by the teenage “beach blanket” movies of Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon, and by the California surfing culture celebrated by rock groups like the Beach Boys. Since then, the popularity of the bikini has only continued to grow.

4 July 1976

The USA celebrates its Bicentennial.

The United States Bicentennial was a series of celebrations and observances during the mid-1970s that paid tribute to historical events leading up to the creation of the United States of America as an independent republic. It was a central event in the memory of the American Revolution. The Bicentennial culminated on Sunday, July 4, 1976, with the 200th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence.

he nation had always commemorated the Founding, as a gesture of patriotism and sometimes as an argument in political battles. Historian Jonathan Crider points out that in the 1850s, editors and orators both North and South claimed their region was the true custodian of the legacy of 1776, as they used the Revolution symbolically in their rhetoric.

The plans for the Bicentennial began when Congress created the American Revolution Bicentennial Commission on July 4, 1966. Initially, the Bicentennial celebration was planned as a single city exposition that would be staged in either Philadelphia or Boston. After 6½ years of tumultuous debate, the Commission recommended that there should not be a single event, and Congress dissolved it on December 11, 1973, and created the American Revolution Bicentennial Administration, which was charged with encouraging and coordinating locally sponsored events. David Ryan, a professor at University College Cork, notes that the Bicentennial was celebrated only a year after the humiliating withdrawal from Vietnam in 1975 and that the Ford administration stressed the themes of renewal and rebirth based on a restoration of traditional values, giving a nostalgic and exclusive reading of the American past.
On December 31, 1975, the eve of the Bicentennial Year, President Gerald Ford recorded a statement to address the American people by means of radio and television broadcasts. Presidential Proclamation 4411 was signed as an affirmation to the Founding Fathers of the United States principles of dignity, equality, government by representation, and liberty.

3 July 1844

The last of the great auks are killed.

The great auk is a species of flightless alcid that became extinct in the mid-19th century. It was the only modern species in the genus Pinguinus. It is unrelated to the birds now known as penguins, which were discovered later and so named by sailors because of their physical resemblance to the great auk.

It bred on rocky, isolated islands with easy access to the ocean and a plentiful food supply, a rarity in nature that provided only a few breeding sites for the great auks. When not breeding, they spent their time foraging in the waters of the North Atlantic, ranging as far south as northern Spain and along the coastlines of Canada, Greenland, Iceland, the Faroe Islands, Norway, Ireland, and Great Britain.

The great auk was 75 to 85 cm tall and weighed about 5 kg, making it the second-largest member of the alcid family. It had a black back and a white belly. The black beak was heavy and hooked, with grooves on its surface. During summer, great auk plumage showed a white patch over each eye. During winter, the great auk lost these patches, instead developing a white band stretching between the eyes. The wings were only 15 cm long, rendering the bird flightless. Instead, the great auk was a powerful swimmer, a trait that it used in hunting. Its favourite prey were fish, including Atlantic menhaden and capelin, and crustaceans. Although agile in the water, it was clumsy on land. Great auk pairs mated for life. They nested in extremely dense and social colonies, laying one egg on bare rock. The egg was white with variable brown marbling. Both parents participated in the incubation of the egg for around 6 weeks before the young hatched. The young left the nest site after 2–3 weeks, although the parents continued to care for it.

The great auk was an important part of many Native American cultures, both as a food source and as a symbolic item. Many Maritime Archaic people were buried with great auk bones. One burial discovered included someone covered by more than 200 great auk beaks, which are presumed to be the remnants of a cloak made of great auk skins. Early European explorers to the Americas used the great auk as a convenient food source or as fishing bait, reducing its numbers. The bird’s down was in high demand in Europe, a factor that largely eliminated the European populations by the mid-16th century. Scientists soon began to realize that the great auk was disappearing and it became the beneficiary of many early environmental laws, but this proved ineffectual.

Its growing rarity increased interest from European museums and private collectors in obtaining skins and eggs of the bird. On 3 June 1844, the last two confirmed specimens were killed on Eldey, off the coast of Iceland, ending the last known breeding attempt. Later reports of roaming individuals being seen or caught are unconfirmed. A record of one great auk in 1852 is considered by some to be the last sighting of a member of the species. The great auk is mentioned in several novels and the scientific journal of the American Ornithologists’ Union is named The Auk in honour of this bird.

2 July 1494

The Treaty of Tordesillas is ratified by Spain.

The lands to the east would belong to Portugal and the lands to the west to Castile. The treaty was signed by Spain, 2 July 1494, and by Portugal, 5 September 1494. The other side of the world was divided a few decades later by the Treaty of Zaragoza, signed on 22 April 1529, which specified the antimeridian to the line of demarcation specified in the Treaty of Tordesillas. Originals of both treaties are kept at the Archivo General de Indias in Spain and at the Arquivo Nacional da Torre do Tombo in Portugal.

This treaty would be observed fairly well by Spain and Portugal, despite considerable ignorance as to the geography of the New World; however, it omitted all of the other European powers. Those countries generally ignored the treaty, particularly those that became Protestant after the Protestant Reformation.

The treaty was included by UNESCO in 2007 in its Memory of the World Programme.

The Treaty of Tordesillas was intended to solve the dispute that had been created following the return of Christopher Columbus and his crew, who had sailed for the Crown of Castile. On his way back to Spain he first reached Lisbon, in Portugal. There he asked for another meeting with King John II to show him the newly discovered lands.

After learning of the Castilian-sponsored voyage, the Portuguese King sent a threatening letter to the Catholic Monarchs stating that by the Treaty of Alcáçovas signed in 1479 and confirmed in 1481 with the papal bull Æterni regis, that granted all lands south of the Canary Islands to Portugal, all of the lands discovered by Columbus belonged, in fact, to Portugal. Also, the Portuguese King stated that he was already making arrangements for a fleet to depart shortly and take possession of the new lands. After reading the letter the Catholic Monarchs knew they did not have any military power in the Atlantic to match the Portuguese, so they pursued a diplomatic way out. On 4 May 1493 Pope Alexander VI, an Aragonese from Valencia by birth, decreed in the bull Inter caetera that all lands west of a pole-to-pole line 100 leagues west of any of the islands of the Azores or the Cape Verde Islands should belong to Castile, although territory under Catholic rule as of Christmas 1492 would remain untouched. The bull did not mention Portugal or its lands, so Portugal could not claim newly discovered lands even if they were east of the line. Another bull, Dudum siquidem, entitled Extension of the Apostolic Grant and Donation of the Indies and dated 25 September 1493, gave all mainlands and islands, “at one time or even still belonging to India” to Spain, even if east of the line.

The Portuguese King John II was not pleased with that arrangement, feeling that it gave him far too little land—it prevented him from possessing India, his near term goal. By 1493 Portuguese explorers had reached the southern tip of Africa, the Cape of Good Hope. The Portuguese were unlikely to go to war over the islands encountered by Columbus, but the explicit mention of India was a major issue. As the Pope had not made changes, the Portuguese king opened direct negotiations with the Catholic Monarchs, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, to move the line to the west and allow him to claim newly discovered lands east of the line. In the bargain, John accepted Inter caetera as the starting point of discussion with Ferdinand and Isabella, but had the boundary line moved 270 leagues west, protecting the Portuguese route down the coast of Africa and giving the Portuguese rights to lands that now constitute the Eastern quarter of Brazil. As one scholar assessed the results, “both sides must have known that so vague a boundary could not be accurately fixed, and each thought that the other was deceived, diplomatic triumph for Portugal, confirming to the Portuguese not only the true route to India, but most of the South Atlantic”.

The treaty effectively countered the bulls of Alexander VI but was subsequently sanctioned by Pope Julius II by means of the bull Ea quae pro bono pacis of 24 January 1506. Even though the treaty was negotiated without consulting the Pope, a few sources call the resulting line the “Papal Line of Demarcation”.

Very little of the newly divided area had actually been seen by Europeans, as it was only divided via the treaty. Castile gained lands including most of the Americas, which in 1494 had little proven wealth. The easternmost part of current Brazil was granted to Portugal when in 1500 Pedro Álvares Cabral landed there while he was en route to India. Some historians contend that the Portuguese already knew of the South American bulge that makes up most of Brazil before this time, so his landing in Brazil was not an accident. One scholar points to Cabral’s landing on the Brazilian coast 12 degrees farther south than the expected Cape São Roque, such that “the likelihood of making such a landfall as a result of freak weather or navigational error was remote; and it is highly probable that Cabral had been instructed to investigate a coast whose existence was not merely suspected, but already known”.

The line was not strictly enforced—the Spanish did not resist the Portuguese expansion of Brazil across the meridian. However, the Catholic Monarchs attempted to stop the Portuguese advance in Asia, by claiming the meridian line ran around the world, dividing the whole world in half rather than just the Atlantic. Portugal pushed back, seeking another papal pronouncement that limited the line of demarcation to the Atlantic. This was given by Pope Leo X, who was friendly toward Portugal and its discoveries, in 1514 in the bull Praecelsae devotionis.

For a period between 1580 and 1640, the treaty was rendered meaningless, as the Spanish King was also King of Portugal. It was superseded by the 1750 Treaty of Madrid which granted Portugal control of the lands it occupied in South America. However, the latter treaty was immediately repudiated by the Catholic Monarch. The First Treaty of San Ildefonso settled the problem, with Spain acquiring territories east of the Uruguay River and Portugal acquiring territories in the Amazon Basin.

Emerging Protestant maritime powers, particularly England and The Netherlands, and other third parties such as Roman Catholic France, did not recognize the division of the world between only two Roman Catholic nations brokered by the pope.

1 July 1903

The first Tour de France bicycle race start.

The 1903 Tour de France was the first cycling race set up and sponsored by the newspaper L’Auto, ancestor of the current daily, L’Équipe. It ran from 1 to 19 July in six stages over 2,428 km, and was won by Maurice Garin.

The race was invented to boost the circulation of L’Auto, after its circulation started to plummet from competition with the long-standing Le Vélo. Originally scheduled to start in June, the race was postponed one month, and the prize money was increased, after a disappointing level of applications from competitors. The 1903 Tour de France was the first stage road race, and compared to modern Grand Tours, it had relatively few stages, but each was much longer than those raced today. The cyclists did not have to compete in all six stages, although this was necessary to qualify for the general classification.

The pre-race favourite, Maurice Garin, won the first stage, and retained the lead throughout. He also won the last two stages, and had a margin of almost three hours over the next cyclist. The circulation of L’Auto increased more than sixfold during and after the race, so the race was considered successful enough to be rerun in 1904, by which time Le Vélo had been forced out of business.

After the Dreyfus affair separated advertisers from the newspaper Le Vélo, a new newspaper L’Auto-Vélo was founded in 1900, with former cyclist Henri Desgrange as editor. After being forced to change the name of the newspaper to L’Auto in 1903, Desgrange needed something to keep the cycling fans; with circulation at 20,000, he could not afford to lose them.

When Desgrange and young employee Géo Lefèvre were returning from the Marseille–Paris cycling race, Lefèvre suggested holding a race around France, similar to the popular six-day races on the track. Desgrange proposed the idea to the financial controller Victor Goddet, who gave his approval, and on 19 January 1903, the Tour de France was announced in L’Auto.

It was to have been a five-week race, from 1 June to 5 July, with an entry fee of 20 francs. These conditions attracted very few cyclists: one week before the race was due to start, only 15 competitors had signed up. Desgrange then rescheduled the race from 1 to 19 July, increased the total prize money to 20,000 francs, reduced the entry fee to 10 francs and guaranteed at least five francs a day to the first 50 cyclists in the classification. After that, 79 cyclists signed up for the race, of whom 60 actually started the race.

Géo Lefévre became the director, judge and time-keeper; Henri Desgrange was the directeur-général, although he did not follow the race.

30 June 1953

The very first iconic Chevrolet Corvette rolls off the assembly line in Flint, Michigan.

Sixty-three years ago at a small factory in Flint, Michigan on Van Slyke Road, the first 1953 Corvettes rolled off the assembly line and into automotive history. On June 30th 1953, these Chevrolet workers and executive gathered for a group photo around the VIN 001 Corvette.

In the early 1950’s, Harley Earl, GM’s head of styling, envisioned a low-cost American sports car that could compete with Europe’s Jaguar, MG’s and Ferrari. Codenamed “Opel”, the very first prototype made its debut in January 1953 at the GM Motorama show at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City. The great reviews and pubic acclaim for the little white roadster prompted GM to fast track the Corvette into production and the first retail models were hand assembled in the back of the Chevrolet’s Customer Delivery Center in Flint, Michigan just six months later.

Chevrolet built 300 Corvettes over the course of the 1953 model year. A uniform design allowed the workers to concentrate on putting the bodies together without being distracted by trim and equipment variations. Therefore, all 1953 Corvettes were Polo White with Sportsman Red interiors and equipped with a canvas soft-top, 6.70 x 15 whitewall tires and a Delco signal-seeking radio. Also standard was a 5,000-rpm tachometer and a counter for total engine revolutions.

29 June 1987

The painting, the Le Pont de Trinquetaille by Vincent Van Gogh, was bought for $20.4 million at an auction in London, England.

LONDON — Dutch-born artist Vincent van Gogh’s “The Bridge at Trinquetaille” was sold at auction Monday for the equivalent of $20.2 million, the second-highest price ever paid for a painting.

The winning bid in the sale at Christie’s auction house that took just over one minute came in a telephone call from an unidentified German-speaking collector in Europe.

The bidding–in British pounds–was raised in increments equivalent to $800,000. The total price includes a 10% commission charged to the buyer.

Last March in London, Van Gogh’s dazzling yellow painting called “Sunflowers” became the most expensive auctioned picture when a Japanese firm, Yasuda Fire & Marine Insurance Co., paid $39.9 million for the painting.

“Le Pont de Trinquetaille,” portrays an iron bridge that spans the Rhone River in southern France between Arles and its suburb of Trinquetaille. It was painted in a single afternoon in 1888–less than two years before its impoverished creator committed suicide at the age of 37. Van Gogh thought it might be worth $100, according to Christie’s Impressionist expert, James Roundell.

The painting was sent for sale by an American, Sonja Kramarsky, of New York, a descendant of Siegfried Kramarsky of Amsterdam who bought it at a Paris sale in 1932 for about $18,000.

The entire Kramarsky collection, including the Van Gogh bridge, was sent from Holland to the United States for safekeeping just before World War II.

For the past three years, the painting had been on loan to New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art.

28 June 1846

Adolphe Sax patents the saxophone.

Antoine-Joseph “Adolphe” Sax 6 November 1814 – 7 February 1894 was a Belgian inventor and musician who invented the saxophone in the early 1840s patented in 28 June 1846. He played the flute and clarinet. He also invented the saxotromba, saxhorn and saxtuba.

Antoine-Joseph Sax was born on 6 November 1814, in Dinant, in what is now Belgium, to Charles-Joseph Sax and his wife. While his given name was Antoine-Joseph, he was referred to as Adolphe from childhood. His father and mother were instrument designers themselves, who made several changes to the design of the French horn. Adolphe began to make his own instruments at an early age, entering two of his flutes and a clarinet into a competition at the age of 15. He subsequently studied performance on those two instruments as well as voice at the Royal Conservatory of Brussels.

27 June 1977

France grants independence to Djibouti.

In 1967, shortly after the second referendum was held, the former Côte française des Somalis was renamed to Territoire français des Afars et des Issas. This was both in acknowledgement of the large Afar constituency and to downplay the significance of the Somali composition the Issa being a Somali sub-clan.

The French Territory of Afars and Issas also differed from French Somaliland in terms of government structure, as the position of Governor General changed to that of High Commissioner. A nine-member council of government was also implemented.

With a steadily enlarging Somali population, the likelihood of a third referendum appearing successful had grown even more dim. The prohibitive cost of maintaining the colony, France’s last outpost on the continent, was another factor that compelled observers to doubt that the French would attempt to hold on to the territory.

On June 27, 1977, a third vote took place. A landslide 98.8% of the electorate supported disengagement from France, officially marking Djibouti’s independence. Hassan Gouled Aptidon, a Somali politician who had campaigned for a yes vote in the referendum of 1958, eventually became the nation’s first president 1977–1999.