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FOLLOWING THE HUSSITE MOVEMENTS DURING THE FIRST PRAGUE DEFENESTRATION

Bety

We decided to follow the steps of the radical Hussite priest Jan Želivský during the First Prague Defenestration, which is the moment that can be regarded as the beginning of the Hussite revolution.

Disputes in the church, the selling of dispensations, payments for Church offices, and nepotism evoked justified criticism among the reformers. Critics considered a return to the original ideals of the Church to be the remedy to this situation.  They demanded that the Church renounce secular power and extensive property, which of course it didn’t do.

On 30 July 1419, at a time of great tension, a procession was planned to take place in the New Town. After a fiery sermon at  Our Lady of the Snows, Želivský led the procession, with a monstrance at its head, to the church of St. Stephen. They were returning to Our Lady, crossing the New Town marketplace, passing by the Town Hall. Here a conflict broke out. Želivský demanded the release of the imprisoned followers of the proto-reformation preacher Jan Hus.  After a stone had been thrown at Jan Želivský from the window of the town hall, the angry crowd took the town hall by storm and once inside they threw seven people out of the window. This event, known as the first Prague defenestration, was the start of the difficult period of the Hussite wars in Bohemia which ended up in the battle of Lipan.

Our first stop was the church of Our Lady of the Snows, which was founded in 1347 on the occasion of the coronation of Charles IV and his wife Blanche of Valois. This church has one of the highest vaults in Prague. The original idea was to build the biggest church in Prague, something that would outshine the St Vitus Cathedral, however the only part that was completed according to the plans was the presbytery. It’s interesting to imagine what would have this place looked like if the church had been completed according to plan. It would probably fill up much of the square.

During the Hussite Wars the construction was interrupted, the church was heavily damaged, and the local monks left the monastery. Today, the Gothic presbytery serves as a church of the Franciscan order.

The church is accessible from the Jungmann square, just a few steps away from the Wenceslas square and close to the Můstek metro station. Being at the spot, it’s also nice to have a look at the Franciscan gardens (“Františkánské zahrady”) next to the building complex, since they form a sort of seclusion in the middle of a very busy part of the city, possibly the busiest one. It’s one of the places in the center, which offers peace where one hardly expects it.

Our next stop was the church of St. Stephen. This church is one of the most important churches in the New Town. It is situated in Štěpánská Street, not far from Wenceslas Square. The church was built at the end of the 14th century. Želivský began to preach in 1418, beginning his ministry right in this church. The greatest treasure inside the church is a beautiful Gothic painting of the Madona.

Next to the church, standing there somewhat independently, there is a bell tower. It was not built at the same time as the church, it was added to it in 1605. The reason for doing so, was simple, the church spire was not able to hold such heavy bells.

We completed our early evening walk in front of The New Town Hall. The New Town Hall dates back to the reign of King Charles IV. Since the very beginning when it witnessed the start of the Hussite Revolution the New Town Hall has held an important place in many historical events to follow, and thus it is a national culture heritage now. It hosts exhibitions, concerts, theatre performances, lectures and other cultural and social events. A unique view of Prague is also offered at the top of the great wooden staircase that winds it's way up this tower, it is definitely worth the climb. The New Town Hall is located in the northern part of the Charles Square. You can get there by metro B - station Karlovo náměstí.

The Hussite war and the events which preceded it encompass a very important and very interesting part of the Czech history. The Hussites lost the war, but gained religious freedom for the Czech people for 200 long years.  When you will feel like you have seen all the “must” see sights, maybe a stroll through New Town and some stops by the landmarks we mentioned will be an interesting adventure! Enjoy!


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