Detail of First Defenestration by Adolf Liebscher. Public domain

Prague celebrates 600th anniversary of the First Defenestration with a re-enactment

A re-enactment of an important historical event will include tossing a medieval councilor out of a tower window

Prague has a peculiar historical way of settling disputes: chucking people out of windows.

The city will celebrate the 600th anniversary of the First Defenestration of Prague, as it is called, which took place July 30, 1419 at the tower of the New Town Hall (Novoměstská radnice) in Prague 2, next to Karlovo náměstí. Planned events include a re-enactment with a medieval councilor being thrown out of a tower window.

The First Defenestration was when Hussite priest Jan Želivský and his followers marched from Wenceslas Square to New Town Hall to ask for some Hussites held prisoner in the tower to be released.

A stone was thrown at Želivský from the window of the town hall. The Hussite mob stormed the town hall and threw a judge, the burgomaster, and several members of the town council out of windows. They all fell to their deaths. One-eyed Hussite leader Jan Žižka is also said to have been present.

The New Town Hall at the start of 1419 was given by King Wenceslas IV to the Catholic Councils as a base to ward off the growing Hussite movement. It was meant to be through propaganda and similar methods, though many arrests were made also.

new town hall
New Town Hall. via Raymond Johnston

King Wenceslas IV allegedly died of shock shortly after hearing the news, and the Hussite Wars then broke out after and lasted until 1436.

Prague 2 is organizing a day of events. On July 30, a whole day of free events will take place at Karlovo náměstí, starting at 10 am and lasting until 7 pm. There will be Hussite camps and a historical marketplace all day. Starting at 1 pm there will be period music and dancing, plus fencing demonstrations and displays of weapons. Many activities will be geared to children and families.

At 5 pm, actors playing the medieval councilors will meet with the current Prague 2 mayor, Jana Černáková.

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The highlight will be at 6 pm, with a re-enactment of a defenestration from a tower window.

new town hall
Windows of New Town Hall. via Raymond Johnston

“We want residents and visitors to the city district to spend the summer day with a return to the middle ages,” Černáková said, adding that while the event is historically controversial it would be a mistake to ignore the anniversary.

The tower operators have also organized some events. A screening of the 1955 historical film Jan Žižka by director Otakar Vávra will take place for free in the courtyard of New Town Hall on July 31 at 7:15 pm. The film will be in Czech without subtitles.

There are also some two-hour guided tours of the tower in Czech, but advance reservation are required, and most spots are filled. The tour costs CZK 100. More information on the tours can be found at Nrpraha.cz.

The Hussite movement, which still exists, was new at the time of the defenstration. Jan Hus, who preached in Prague at Betlémské náměstí, called for reforms in the Catholic Church. He was executed in 1415 for heresy. A statue of Hus is at Old Town Square. Jan Žižka has a large horse statue on top of Vítkov Hill, and the entire Žižkov neighborhood is named for him. The street Jana Želivského is a main artery in Žižkov.

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For more information visit the Prague 2 website or Facebook.

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