Old Town Square execution (Czech: Staroměstská exekuce) was the execution of 27 Czech leaders (three noblemen, seven knights and 17 burghers) of the Bohemian Revolt by the Austrian House of Habsburg that took place on June 21, 1621 at the Old Town Square in Prague.
After the Prague Defenestration in 1618 and subsequent Protestant uprising of the Bohemian estates against the Catholic Habsburgs resulted in Thirty Years' War and a final defeat in the Battle of White Mountain, Habsburgs took their revenge and executed some of the key leaders of the uprising, although with some others the punishment was reduced and some were pardoned.
The execution of the 27 leaders of the Bohemian Estates Uprising began on 21 June 1621 in Prague on the Old Town Square. The executioner was an utraquist, so they could pray before the execution. Joachim Andreas von Schlick was beheaded first. This was followed by the execution of Jan Jesenius, whose tongue was first cut out, then was beheaded, his body was quartered and his body parts were impaled on stakes. Jan Jesenius was punished the most for several reasons, firstly, he persuaded Hungary to break up with the emperor and secondly, he wrote a political-philosophical treatise Pro vindiciis contra tyrannos (en: Can a tyrant be overthrown by people?). Others were beheaded by the sword and to some of them their right hand were first cut off. The members of the Unity of the Brethren were hanged, which was the most disgraceful death for them.
Headless bodies were handed over to the families, who buried them. Twelve heads were put into iron baskets and attached by the executioner to the Old Town Bridge Tower. The heads hung there until the invasion of Saxon army took place here in 1631.
City clerk Mikuláš Diviš was nailed to the gallows by the tongue for one hour for welcoming Frederick V of the Palatinate on his arrival to Prague. Some nobles involved in the uprising escaped into exile, such as Jindřich Matyáš Thurn. Martin Fruwein z Podolí (cs, de) was also expected to be executed, but he was found dead before the execution.
List of the executed
Execution was only one of the consequences of the Bohemian Revolt, which failed. Other consequences were the possession of the Czech royal crown in the hands of the Habsburgs (now hereditary), which meant another nearly 300 years of their domination. Another major consequence was the subsequent recatholization, and since 75-90% of Czechs were Protestant, it meant a great emigrant wave (which was the majority of Czech intelligence). The German language was made fully equal to the Czech language, so Germanization of the entire population (not only the nobility) was also carried out.
The executioner's sword, on whose blade the names of eleven executed are engraved, is in the collections of Hus House (Husův dům) in Prague. However, it is likely that it is a fake sword, as in the list on the blade is engraved the name of Jan Kutnauer, who was actually hanged.
At that time there was a struggle for balance in Europe, Europe was divided into Catholic and Protestant, absolutist and estates monarchy. The uprising itself triggered a conflict to which the powers had already heading. Execution in the Old Town Square celebrated Spanish-Catholic party the triumph of victory. Eventually, in the Thirty Years' War, there were no winners or losers, leaving only a ruined Europe.
- Josef Svátek: Paměti katovské rodiny Mydlářů - rozličné příběhy katovské Volume 2, Publisher: XYZ, Prague 2005, ISBN 80-86864-25-1 (in Czech)
- "Old Town Square Executions in 1621". veritas.evangnet.cz.