Tag Archives: Dual Monarchy

A History of Prague, Part 4, The Hussite Wars

With the death of Charles IV in 1378 and the accession of his son Wenceslas IV, Prague’s golden age ended. Years of religious dissent, civil war and unstable sovereignty followed, where the great and glorious city of Prague foundered.

At the gates of Prague Castle
At the gates of Prague Castle

Religious dissent, between the Catholic establishment and the followers of the protestant reformer Jan Hus, escalated until, in 1419, the Hussites threw the City Councillors from a window in Prague Castle. Sixteen days later, Wenceslas IV died. The establishment’s outrage at the “Defenestration”, (as the practice of throwing unpopular leaders out of windows became rather pompously known) along with the Hussites refusal to accept Wenceslas’ half-brother Sigismund as King, resulted in war. In 1420 Sigismund’s army was defeated at the Battle of Vitkov Mountain.

Still the war raged on. Bohemia was torn apart, both literally and metaphorically. Buildings and national treasures were destroyed and Prague Castle fell into disrepair. Finally, in1434, the Hussites were defeated at the battle of Lipany and Sigismund became King.

Sigismund’s reign was short lived. He died in 1437, the last male of the Luxembourg Dynasty. There followed several more brief reigns. Sigismund’s son-in-law, Albert II of Austria ruled for two years. Sigismund’s grandson, Ladislaw Posthumous (so named because he was born after his father’s death) was next to the throne. When he died, aged 17, his advisor George of Podebrady was unanimously chosen as King by the Hussites and the Catholics. However, this displeased the Pope who mounted a Crusade, led by Matthius Corvinus of Hungary. After the Crusade, Bohemia became a Dual Monarchy, with Matthius of Hungary as Emperor and George of Podebrady as King of Bohemia.

Vladislav Jagellon succeeded George of Prodebody. Son of the Polish King Casimir IV and the sister of Lasilaw Posthumous, he was descended from both the Luxembourg and the Premyslid Dynasties. When he died in 1526, so did the Jagellon line and this sorry era came to a close.

Take a stroll around Prague Castle and look down at the River Vlata. Imagine the City Councillors’ last minutes!

Pest, Part 1, a brief history

A Pest Square
A Pest Square

Pest, which lies on the east bank of the Danube, is flatter, bigger, busier and younger than Buda and Obuda. However, it is by no means less well endowed with majestic buildings, grand monuments, fascinating history and iconic characters than its west bank sisters.

Following the final defeat of the Magyars in 955, Istvan I set up Hungary’s Royal Court in Pest. His Arpad Dynasty flourished here until 1242, when, after the Mongol attacks, Bela IV moved it to his hilltop castle in Buda. Life continued peacefully for Pest until it was razed by the Turks in the 14th century. The town was rebuilt from the ashes after Hungary was finally freed from the Turks by the Hapsburg commander Eugene of Savoy in 1686. So, even though Pest’s history as a Hungarian town is older than Buda’s or Obuda’s, its bricks and mortar are younger. Its oldest building is the former Péterffy Palace, now Százévres Restaurant, which was built in1708.

With the formation of Budapest in 1873, came a frenzied building boom as the Dual Monarchy sought to create a city to rival Vienna, Paris and the other great cities of Europe. Pest, as the centre of government, administration and commerce for the new capital, benefited royally from the boom and its beautiful, coherent cityscape was born of this time.

Flat, compact, logically laid out and liberally dotted with landmarks, as well as picturesque spots to pause and drink them all in, Pest is a wonderful place for walkers.

A stroll around the boulevards uncovers one brilliant building after another. Each little side street opens onto a stunning square. Every square has at least one great monument with its own fascinating story.