the first defenestration of Prague

On July 30, 1419, a Hussite procession led by priest Jan Želivský attacked Prague’s New Town Hall and threw the king’s representatives out of windows onto the street in what became Prague’s first defenestration.

Background

Jan Hus spoke out against the pope for selling indulgences in Bohemia to raise funds, which did not sit well with King Wenceslaus IV of Bohemia, who received a share of the indulgences sales. Without the king’s support, Jan Hus was eventually excommunicated and fled to southern Bohemia, where he remained in exile for two years.

When the Council of Constance assembled in 1415, Jan Hus was invited to be there and present his views. But upon his arrival, the Czech reformer was arrested and, refusing to recant, was eventually burned at the stake for heresy. Troubles in Bohemia began soon after when Hussite preachers urged their congregations to take up arms against Catholic leaders.

The first defenestration of Prague

People were shouting at each other to break down the doors. Jan Želivský continued to encourage the invaders saying: “Do not be afraid, children of God!

Under the onslaught of beams brought from the enemy building, the gates burst and everyone rushed up the stairs of the New Town Hall. At the last moment, the advisers block the door to the meeting room with a bench, but it is of no use to them.

This is how the Hussite Revolution began on July 30, 1419, according to Jan Bauer, who wrote the book Revolutionary events in Czech history. “Within a short time, the councilors and the purkmister Jan Podivínský were caught and thrown out of the windows on spears and barrels. Those who survived the fall were brutally defeated on the spot,” Bauer describes the events of the time.

Historian Petr Čornej described the events in New Town Prague as a carefully planned coup. “The fact that the victims ended up with their valuables, which they had with them at the time, testifies to the perfect preparation and direction of the coup,” Čornej wrote.

Not even a shred of evil intentions could cling to the violent death of the enemies of the Hussite interpretation of the word of divine law.

But what has radicalized the Czech public enough to take up arms and stand under the banner of the chalice emblem four years after the burning of Jan Hus in Konstanz? “After all, four years is a long time and the initial bitterness and anger must have faded to some degree,” Bauer writes in his book.

In Bohemia at this time there was a de facto disintegration of royal power. King Wenceslas IV, already utterly defeated by alcoholism, resigned himself to rule the country and it was only through occasional tantrums that he showed that he was still the monarch.

“The tired and disgusted king did not seem to notice what was happening in his country at that time. All he wanted was peaceful peace and a permanent residence in his favorite castles and the forests around them,” wrote historian Jiří Spěváček.

The defenestration of the anti-Hussite gendarmes in the New Town of Prague simply returned all of Prague to the hands of the Hussites and made it clear to the king that the Hussites would not back down. The premature death of Wenceslas IV was the final straw that broke the revolutionary vase.

The events of 1414-1419 and the fact that the Hussite politicians conditioned the accession of Sigismund of Luxembourg to the Czech throne on the observance of the principles of the immediate reasons for the outbreak of the Hussite revolution lie in the political and ecclesiastical-religious spheres.

About Bernice D. Brewer

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