Famous Defenestrations

by Andrew Stein

I am unsure how many famous defenestrations there have been in history, but I did learn about two that took place in Prague. As I remember from back in the days of SAT vocabulary, to defenestrate is to throw one out of a window. However, why a word exists that is so specific is unclear and makes me wonder if there is other similar vocabulary such as to debalconizate, to deroofate, or to destairate.  During our New Europe Free Tour of Prague, Gabe and I learn more about these defenestrations.

Defenestration Window

The site of the second defenestration.

Quick history lesson: The two defenestrations of Prague occurred in 1419 and 1618. The first involved an angry mob being frustrated that the town council members would not release their Hussite prisoners. As a result, the mob flooded the town hall and proceeded to throw the judge, the mayor, and 13 others out of the window and onto the street. This event sparked the Hussite wars, which lasted until 1436. The second defenestration is now marked as the starting point for the Thirty Years War between 1618 and 1648. This one began when Roman Catholic officials ordered that Protestant chapels stop being built on land which they thought belonged to them. A meeting occurred in the Prague Castle, where two imperial governors were tried for violating the Right of Freedom of Religion. They were found guilty, and afterwards, they were defenestrated from a 16-meter high window. Not even their secretary’s life was spared. Legend says that the governors landed on a large pile of manure and survived unharmed. They then left for Vienna to explain to the Emperor what had happened thus exciting only more conflict.

The moral of the story is when in Prague, don’t find yourself near a window during times of conflict.