Daily TWiP Archives

Something interesting has happened on (just about) every day of the year, and Daily TWiP provides the proof. An offshoot of my local events column The Week in Preview (affectionately known as TWiP), Daily TWiP was published April 2008-Aug. 2011 and is still giving readers reasons to celebrate.

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Daily TWiP – July 30, 1419: Czechs chuck politicians (literally) during the First Defenestration of Prague

If you’re going to throw stones at the Hussites, make sure your door is locked. Otherwise, they might take matters into their own hands, like they did July 30, 1419 during the First Defenestration of Prague.

A commonly featured word in the more interesting Word-A-Day calendars, “defenestration” is “the act of throwing someone or something out of a window.” The etymology of this word is very simple – from the Latin “de” (meaning “out of”) and “fenestra” (meaning “window”).

The Hussites were a Christian denomination founded on the principles of Jan Hus, a forerunner of the Protestant Reformation who believed in access to the Bible for all (not just the clergy) and keeping secular power out of the hands of the priests. Things had been a little touchy between the Hussites and the mostly-Catholic government since Hus was executed by the ecumenical Council of Constance in 1415.

On July 30, 1419, Hussite priest Jan Želivský and his congregation marched through the streets of Prague to the town hall to protest the town council’s refusal to release fellow Hussites who were being held prisoner. One of the councilors threw a stone at Želivský from the window of the town hall.

It was not the smartest decision the town council ever made. The already-unhappy procession quickly turned into an angry mob. Hussite leader and general Jan Žižka led the charge and the Hussites stormed the town hall, making a beeline for the council room.

The judge, the burgomaster and several councilors were unceremoniously heaved out of the window to the pavement below. Any who survived the initial plunge were made short work of by the mob.

The religious tensions that had been simmering for the past few years had now come to a boil, and the country (then known as Bohemia) was launched into the lengthy and ultimately inconclusive Hussite Wars.

You may notice that this event is referred to as the First Defenestration of Prague. The Second Defenestration of Prague, also the result of conflict between Protestants and Catholics, occurred in 1618 and led to the start of the Thirty Years War. This time, the defenestrated individuals survived – a sizable pile of horse manure broke their fall.

Several less memorable defenestrations have occurred since (and between) those two incidents. The Real-Time Encyclopedia defines defenestration as “the traditional Czechoslovakian method of assassinating prime ministers.”

– Teresa Santoski


Originally published July 30, 2009.

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