Defenestrating in Prague leads to war
—By Katy Devlin, e-newsletter editor
When I set out to write a glassblog during my New Year’s vacation to Prague, I assumed I would focus on the few iconic glass buildings that rise up in the famed City of 1,000 Spires—perhaps Frank Gehry’s Dancing House with its dramatic curved all glass façade on the banks of the Vltava River. However, after I learned of the city’s rich—and unbelievable—history of defenestration during my audio tour of Prague Castle, I chose to use that for my window-centric Prague blog (try to say that five times fast!).
I suppose I should begin with a definition of defenestration. (Apparently, it's neither a four-letter word, nor a tawdry form of deglazing.) My friend Merriam-Webster’s Online clarifies that defenestration is:
- a throwing of a person or thing out of a window
- a usually swift dismissal or expulsion
Prague’s history of defenestration concerns the former definition—specifically the throwing of many persons out of windows.
The First Defenestration of Prague, so deemed by Frommer’s and several other handy travel guides, occurred in 1419 when a crowd of Hussites—a radical segment of the early Protestants—tossed the town council members from the third-story windows of the New Town Hall on Charles Square for refusing to release Hussite prisoners. The incident served as a catalyst for the 15-year Hussite Wars that ended in the defeat of the radical Protestants.
Prague’s next, and more famous, defenestration—simply called the Defenestration of Prague—occurred at Prague Castle in 1618 when two Imperial governors were found guilty of violating the right to religious freedom and thus thrown—along with their innocent scribe—out a window 16 meters above the ground. All three miraculously survived the fall thanks to a large pile of manure in the dry moat below (at least according to my occasionally less-reliable Web friend Wikipedia). This defenestration led to the uprising of the Czech estates and eventually the Thirty Years’ War.
Let that be a lesson to you: Don’t pick fights around windows in Prague.
If you know of any other fantastic tales of defenestration, please comment below.