Little Bits of History

June 21

Posted in History by patriciahysell on June 21, 2017

1621: The Old Town Square executions take place in Prague. A Protestant uprising of the Bohemian estates against the Catholic Hapsburgs of the Holy Roman Empire resulted in the Thirty Years’ War. Begun in central Europe in 1618 as a clash among religiously aligned countries, it continued on to become one of the most destructive conflicts in European history involving most of the continent as well as allies outside Europe with 8 million casualties, it was the deadliest European religious war. As the Holy Roman Empire fragmented, leaders of smaller state/nations brought in mercenaries to help them gain independence from both France and the Holy Roman Empire.

The Bohemian estates were Bohemia, Moravia, Silesia, and Upper and Lower Lusatia. They would eventually become Czechoslovakia, Saxony, and Prussia and today they are parts of Austria, the Czech Republic, Germany, and Poland. The Battle of White Mountain, fought on November 8, 1620 pitted the Bohemians against the Holy Roman Empire with help from Spain and the Catholic League. The 15,000 strong Bohemian force was overwhelmed by the 27,000 soldiers of the Holy Roman Empire and allies. The armies met outside Prague and the Bohemian forces were quashed. The loss would affect the Czech lands for the next 300 years. They had been predominantly Protestant prior to the war, and were predominantly Catholic into the 20th century.

The Bohemian portion of the war was essentially over with the loss. On this day, 27 Czech leaders were executed in the town square. Jindřich Matyáš Thurn managed to escape into exile in Sweden where he became a leader and diplomat in the continued resistance to Ferdinand II. Martin Fruwein z Podolí was expected to be executed as well, but died before he could be killed. The 27 men were three noblemen, seven knights, and 17 burghers. Some other leaders of the uprising were able to escape and others had their punishments reduced or were pardoned. Today, there is a monument in the square holding 27 crosses to commemorate the men killed here.

While this portion of the War may have ended, the conflict remained as Ferdinand II tried impose religious uniformity among the lands under his control. The outside world was appalled by Ferdinand’s treatment of Bohemians and atrocities committed during the period. Other countries entered the fray with Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden transforming Ferdinand’s wish for religious unity under the Catholic Church into a full scale war. Six days short of thirty years after the beginning of the fighting, with about 8 million dead, the Hapsburg regime was curtailed, Protestants were free to practice, feudalism throughout Europe was in decline, and the Swedish Empire was on the rise.

Love has its place, as does hate. Peace has its place, as does war. Mercy has its place, as do cruelty and revenge. – Meir Kahane

I love it when Muslims go to war with each other, as I do when the Christians do, because it shows there’s no such thing as the Christian world and the Islamic world. That’s all crap. – Christopher Hitchens

Alas, nothing reveals man the way war does. Nothing so accentuates in him the beauty and ugliness, the intelligence and foolishness, the brutishness and humanity, the courage and cowardice, the enigma. – Oriana Fallaci

A society that admits misery, a humanity that admits war, seem to me an inferior society and a debased humanity; it is a higher society and a more elevated humanity at which I am aiming – a society without kings, a humanity without barriers. – Victor Hugo