Standing on the precipice between life and death!
This must have been what it felt like to be one of the Protestant noblemen, knights and burghers as they awaited their fate on a dark and sombre day in 1621.
Religious freedoms had been granted to protestants throughout the Czech lands in 1609 by Emperor Rudolph the second. At the time, he was ailing, and some commentators said he was coerced into signing into law extended rights of protestants in the land. This is a very important fact, because, after his death in 1612, the catholic rulers ended up reneging on this order, which lead to fury and disgust by the protestant nobility.
It all came to a head in 1618 when three Catholics were pushed from a window at the Prague Castle. It would prove to be a tinderbox moment and one that set off a chain of events that would change the course of history forever. The revolt against the Catholic rulers was led by 28 noblemen, knights and burghers who stood up against indiscretion and oppression, only to be defeated at the battle of the White Mountain (now a historical moment of Prague’s history and one that is celebrated year on year).
Ferdinand the second, Catholic ruler at the time and quelled the revolt, rounded up the 28 ringleaders and had them formally sentenced to death. They were kept in the Prague dungeons until that fateful day, the 21st of June 1621. One by one they are led from the dungeons to meet their fateful end at the Old Town Square in the heart of Prague. 15 ringleaders were beheaded that day, 12 hung and one soul by the name of Martin Fruwein z Podolí jumped from the castle when Ferdinand’s forces were trying to arrest him.
As a sign to others to never rise up against the catholic church, Ferdinand the second had 12 heads put in metal cages and put on the Charles bridge towers for everyone to see, warning them to not revolt again. They were up on the tower for ten long years, through rain, through snow and sunshine. It was not until the protestant sympathizing Saxon armies liberated Prague in 1631, that the heads are taken down and led to the sounds of the church bells to the Tyne church in the old town square.
Mystery surrounds the final resting place of the executed leaders that perished that day under the skilful sword of Prague’s master executioner. However, a clue uncovered makes reference to them being buried under a tower structure.
One thing is certain, the execution that took place during Prague’s darkest moment in history will continue to awe and inspire people for generations to come.
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