Had someone ever pissed you off so much that you literally just wanted to throw him out of the window? You’re not the first because apparently, the act was common in Prague between 1419 and 1618 and was called “defenestration.” We are not certain who started the idea or who ticked the person off so much that he decided to just throw the person out the window. What we know was that this act sparked a much, much bigger catastrophe that caused the death of more than eight million people, the Thirty Year’s War.

Thirty Years’ War

A Scene of the Thirty Years War (oil on canvas), Crofts, Ernest (1847–1911) (Эрнест Крофтс (Ernest Crofts) — британский художник, специализирующийся на батальных сценах и истории (british painter of historical and military scenes)., Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

The Thirty Years’ War was a religious conflict that happened in the 17th century in central Europe. It was one of the longest and most brutal (and active) wars in history, not including the 335-year war that was basically forgotten. Eight million people died from the conflict and the famine and diseases that it brought about. The war began among the Catholic and Protestant states when Emperor Ferdinand II decided to force the citizens of the Holy Roman Empire to adhere to Roman Catholicism the moment he stepped in as the head of the state in 1619. He was supposed to honor the Peace of Augsburg Settlement, which allowed the princes of states to freely practice their Lutheranism or Calvinism and coexist with Catholicism.

All that went out the window with Ferdinand and he revoked the Peace of Augsburg.  The Bohemian nobility did not appreciate that one bit. As an outward act of displeasure, they grabbed three of his representatives and tossed them out of a window at the Prague Castle. Although the three survived, this act was the beginning of the Bohemian states’ open revolt, backed by Sweden and Denmark-Norway, thus beginning the Thirty Years’ War. Even as the war started as a religious conflict, as time went by, it became more of a geopolitical question about which group would lead and govern Europe.

Some Other Instances of Defenestration in Prague

Depending on who you ask, surviving after being thrown out the high window involved some divine intervention (if you ask the Catholics) or a good pile of dung. Here are some other instances of defenestration:

On July 30, 1419, a Hussite priest named Jan Zelivsky led his congregation on a procession on the streets of Prague to the New Town Hall on Charles Square. They did so to protest the inequality between peasants, the Church’s prelates, and the nobility; thus, they saw the state of the Catholic Church as corrupt. The town council members also didn’t want to exchange their Hussite prisoners, which they wanted back. While they were on procession, someone from the town hall window threw a stone and hit Zelivksy. His followers were understandably enraged. They stormed the town hall and grabbed the judge, the burgomaster, and several members of the town councils and,…wait for it… tossed them all out the window, killing them all.

Upon hearing the news, King Wenceslaus IV of Bohemia was so shocked that he died shortly after. This first defenestration in Prague started the Hussite Wars that lasted until 1436.

Second Defenestration of Prague, 1483. (Matthäus Merian, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

The 1483 Defenestration

It was September 24, 1483, during the reign of King Vladislaus II of Hungary, when a party called the Communion Of Both Kinds(bread and wine being used instead of just bread) so feared the influence of the Prague population(bread only) that they decided to carry out a violent coup in the Old and New Towns and Lesser Town. They threw the burgomaster out the window along with the bodies of seven New Town councilors from the windows of their respective town halls. This contributed to the limitation of the ruling power that staved off getting the Hussite war stirred up again.  A treaty was signed on October 6, 1483, with three Prague municipalities agreeing on unity and common action, which brought the dominion of Utraquism, which was about worshippers all taking communion in bread and wine rather than just the priest.  Yes, they actually fought wars over this stuff folks.

In summary, if you were elected or made a prince or leader in the Rennaisance, better take the windowless office on the ground floor just to be on the safe side.

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