The Bohemian Brethren (also known as Unitas Fratrum – ‘United Brethren’ – or the Moravians) are attributed with producing the first Protesant hymnbook in 1501. The Brethren were started in the mid-15th century and were zealous singers of hymns, and enthusiastic users of the printing press.
The Brethren hymnbook published in 1501 was not only the first hymnbook to be published in the Bohemian/Czech language, but also the first hymnbook printed for use by Protestants. Its compilation and production was overseen by Luke of Prague (c. 1458-1528), who was the leader of the Brethren from 1480 until his death. Luke contributed 11 of the 89 hymns in this collection, which included both texts and tunes.
One of Luke of Prague’s hymns from the 1519 edition of the hymnbook, Rozžehnejmež se stĭm tělem, was later translated into German, and then into English by Catherine Winkworth as ‘Now lay we calmly in the grave’. The hymn is still found in hymnals and sung today by congregations of Moravians and other denominations.