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1419: The (first) Defenestration of Prague

July 30th, 2010 Meaghan

(Thanks to Meaghan Good of the Charley Project for the guest post. -ed.)

On this day in 1419, an angry mob of Hussite peasant rebels stormed the town hall on Charles Square in Prague and threw the judge, the mayor and several city council members (either seven or thirteen; accounts differ) out the window. They all either died in the fall or were killed by the crowd outside.

The event has been the subject of several paintings, as well as being beautifully illustrated in Lego form and also reenacted.

Hussites followed a Christian reformer, Jan Hus, who was one of the forerunners of the Protestant Reformation. Hus was eventually excommunicated and burned as a heretic. The cause of the July 30 riot was the city council’s refusal to release from custody several Hussite prisoners.

The mob, led by the Hussite priest Jan Želivský and future general Jan Žižka, marched to the town hall, but they only became violent after someone inside the building threw a stone at them. After that there was no stopping them.

The riot had far-reaching consequences, inasmuch as it is seen as the start of the Hussite Wars, which lasted until 1434 or so and involved government-sponsored military action against the Hussites as well as Hussites fighting amongst themselves.

This event has come to be known as the First Defenestration of Prague. That is, I’m sure we all can agree, an AWESOME name, and probably the principal reason the riot is still remembered today. The word “defenestration” comes from Latin: de-, meaning “out of,” and fenestra, “window.”

The Czechs have a habit of throwing people out of windows at critical junctures in history; since 1419 there has been at least one more (nonfatal, but more famous) Defenestration of Prague, in 1618. A couple of similar events since then have sometimes been called the Third Defenestration of Prague, though this is not universally agreed upon.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 15th Century,Arts and Literature,Borderline "Executions",Cycle of Violence,Czechoslovakia,God,History,Language,Lynching,Mass Executions,No Formal Charge,Nobility,Notable Participants,Politicians,Popular Culture,Precipitated,Public Executions,Summary Executions

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14 thoughts on “1419: The (first) Defenestration of Prague”

  1. chris y says:

    Apart from Masaryk, what are the other candidates for the 3rd defenestration?

  2. KYGB says:

    Don’t anyone yell at Meaghan about the Lego depiction of the Defenestration.

    She didn’t create that one, either.

  3. Fiz says:

    What a passive aggressive little rant! Well said, Headsman. :)

  4. Kevin M. Sullivan says:

    Well said, headsman; well said.

  5. Headsman says:

    I’m the editor and the picture selection is on me, not Meaghan.

    I think you’re right. Here’s a cookie.

  6. Ryan says:

    Sorry, dear Meaghan,
    but you got the picture completely wrong. This is a depiction of the SECOND defenestration of 1618, at the start of the Thirty Years’ War, not of 1419!

    Proof # 1: You write yourself, that in 1419 several people were thrown out of the window. On your picture, however, there are only two people thrown (or about to be thrown) out of the window. This applies to 1618, when two Catholic ambassadors were forced to leave the municipal council-room via the window!

    Proof # 2: You write yourself – and correctly so – of an angry peasant rebel mob. Now have a look at the painting: Does anybody on that painting look like a peasant (simple, plain clothes, no embroideries or the like)?

    Proof # 3: As a matter of fact, the clothing of the people on the picture is definitely early modern (17th century baroque) and not late medieval.

    To put the matter in a nutshell: On a number of important points, the painting contradicts your own account of the Hussite or first defenestration of 1419. The conclusion to be drawn from this is obvious: You should consider to correct this and remove the picture in order to avoid misleading your readers.

    Best regards,
    Ryan

  7. me says:

    too bad we don’t do that on wall street

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