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Burning of Pavel Kravař

The cross of stones set in the roadway in Market Street marks the former location of the mercat (or market) cross close to which, it is believed, Pavel Kravař – known in Scotland as Paul Craw – was burned at the stake for heresy in 1433. The victim was a physician from Bohemia, now part of the Czech Republic, educated in France at universities in Montpellier and Paris.

Cross in the roadway

Pavel Kravař was an adherent of the social and religious reformist Hussite movement, then predominant in Bohemia, and which was in armed conflict with the authorities of the Catholic Church. The reasons for his journey to St Andrews are unclear but he was possibly on a mission to seek allies in Scotland for forthcoming peace negotiations with the Church leadership.

At the time, however, the authorities in St Andrews were staunch supporters of Catholic orthodoxy and considered Pavel Kravař to constitute a dangerous presence. He was tried for heresy in the cathedral, found guilty and condemned to death. It is claimed that, at the execution, a brass ball was placed in the victim’s mouth in order to prevent him addressing the assembled crowd. This claim, made by John Knox, many years later, led to speculation that the Hussite emissary spoke English. That is very unlikely, but his Latin would have been readily understood by scholars in the town.

Memorial plaque

The blue plaque nearby, commemorating the event in English and Czech languages, was unveiled by the Ambassador of the Czech Republic to the United Kingdom in 2012. The chalice depicted on the plaque was adopted by the Hussites to symbolise their belief that communion should be given to the laity in both kinds – bread and wine.

Turn left at the plaque and walk along Church Street, turn right when reaching South Street, cross the roadway by the pedestrian crossing and turn left into Queen’s Gardens.


Images © Paul Vyšný, CC BY-SA 4.0