Note to reader: This document complements an essay published on the blog Martial Culture in Medieval town, available here:

This document offers transcriptions and a translation of some useful sources on martial incidents, mostly within towns in Poland and Bohemia (roughly equivalent to Czechia today) in the mid-15th Century. Incidents covered below include events in Gdansk / Danzig, Krakow, Königsberg (now Kalliningrad Oblast, Russia), Malbork / Marienburg, Wrocław / Breslau, and Prague.

Excerpts from the Annals of Jan Długosz

The following are excerpts from the Annales[1] of Jan Długosz, a magisterial history of Poland from the tenth Century through the authors death in 1480. Though a man of the Church and definitely a Polish patriot, Długosz was a diplomat and a man of the world, during his career, and personally knew such interesting figures as the King of Poland, the Grand Duke of Lithuania, several different Masters of the Teutonic Order, the King of Hungary, at least three Kings of Bohemia including the Knight-King George Poděbrad, at least two Khans of the Mongol Golden Horde and one from the Krim Tartars, and several Condottieri captains such as Bernard von Zinnenberg and Jan Jiskra, as well as the political leaders of such towns as Gdańsk, Wrocław, Nuremberg and Kraków.

His histories have a bias, general being pro-Polish, but he does not hesitate to show the mistakes of his countrymen and he was sufficiently erudite to be able to speak on many matters competently and knowledgeably on many subjects, including military matters. The following excerpts were selected as primary source examples of “Martial Culture in urban spaces”, and were meant partially in support of the new article “Urban Political Violence in late Medieval Central Europe in the 15th Century”, but also as a resource for researchers, historical fencers, and other scholars with an interest in the context of martial culture and martial arts of this era. Whenever you wish to determine the realities of another era, it is always helpful to read the words of the people who lived in that time and place, and this is one of the best sources available for Central Europe in the Late Medieval period.

All of the below was transcribed from the excellent 1997 “abridged” (but 612 page long) translation from the Latin by Maurice Michael, published by IM Publication of West Sussex, UK.

The Czechs are on their own

Jan Długosz, page 485, entry for 1440

“Learning of King Albert’s death and of Prince Casmir’s rejection of Bohemia in favor of Lithuania, the Czechs call an assembly at which they fix a day on which to elect a king. Rokiczano[2], originally an exile from Greece, returns to Prague and, as is his custom, rages against the pope and the Church, insisting that the sacred truth is only to be found among the Czechs. He administers the sacrament in both kinds to tiny children and those whose minds are disordered, and expels any priests who opposes his crazy behavior. He refuses church burial to those who reuse to take communion in both kinds. Queen Elizabeth sends emissaries to attend the election of a new king, demanding that the electors remember King Sigismund and King Albert and should not discard their progeny, but have pity on her fatherless boy.

Some greet the emissaries delightedly, yet no one proposes that they should elect a helpless child as their king. So, rejecting the child Laszlo, posthumous son of King Albert, they elect Albert, Duke of Bavaria, as the new king of Bohemia. A delegation of eminent persons is sent to him, an unusually modest man, whom the Emperor Fredrick instructs not to accept the throne of Bohemia, which the Duke rightly refuses. The Czechs summon a new assembly which sends to the King of the Romans asking him to accept the crown on behalf of the infant Laszlo. Frederick, realizing that the Czechs will refuse loyalty unless they are richly rewarded, and knowing that the countries revenues and silver mines are exhausted, rejects the proposal and suggests that the Czechs rule themselves until the child, Laszlo, grows up. Fearing similar rejection from any other prince, the Czechs appoint two administrators for the country: Plachek and Meinart.”

Slovak Burghers refuse a new governor, go over to the Hussites

Page 486, Entry for 1441

“Wladislaw sends Jan Czepek to replace the governor of Kezmarok, who has been altogether too lax, and be more vigorous in resisting the Czechs; however, before he reaches Kezmarok, thanks to the treachery of one of its burghers, the Czechs are able to take possession of the town. Many of the Poles and Hungarians there crowd into the tower, while the governor and a number of Hungarians escape. At this juncture, the barons of Wielkopolska, realizing that to their shame they have never sent their King the military help for which he has repeatedly asked, collect tribute from the people and send the King in Hungary a considerable force under the Castellan of Sieradz. By chance, this reaches Kezmarok while the Poles and Hungarians are still defending the tower against the Czechs and could easily have turned the tables on the Czechs, had not its command insisted that it had not been sent to capture or recapture towns, but to help King Wladislaw[3]. Learning of this, the defenders in the tower come to an agreement with the Czechs and surrender the tower. The army from Wielkopolska marches from Kezmarok to Buda.”

The Prussian Uprising

Page 516, Entry for 1453

[this is the last entry for the year] “Hostilities have broken out between the Master of the Teutonic Knights, Ludwig, his captains and Order, and the knights, nobles and townspeople of Prussia, as fierce as they are unexpected, and conducted with such ferocity that the Knights are driven out of their castles, towns and fortresses, bereft of their goods, and find themselves shut up in one castle, Malbork.”

Page 517, entry for 1454

“A delegation of Prussian subjects arrives in Cracow and, after giving the King a long recital of the wrongs and injuries the Prussians have suffered at the hands of the Order, and told him how they, the Prussians, have captured twenty-five of the Knights’ fortresses, they ask him to accept them as his loyal subjects and to allow their lands to return to the Kingdom of Poland, from which they were detached in the past. With their help, they insist, the King can recover the rest of Poland’s former territories, giving him an empire that would stretch from the Baltic to the Black Sea.

Opinions are divided: Cardinal Zbigniew earnestly advises against accepting the Prussians’ offer, as to do so would be a breach of the King’s pact with the Knights and of the oaths sworn; however, the Castellan of Cracow and others think this too good an opportunity to be missed. Discussions continue for a whole fortnight, and even younger men are consulted. Some want to defer a decision until the Lithuanians have been consulted, but, when they learn of this, the Prussians, who are already on their way home, return and beg that there be no delay, otherwise they may have to seek another prince to accept their allegiance. Indeed, it almost looked as if they were about to set out for Bohemia, for it had already been hinted that King Lazlo[4] might be prepared to accept them. This very suggestion induces immediate acceptance of the Prussians’ offer. Further news comes, showing that Fortune is still favoring the Prussians, for all the towns and castles remaining in the Knights’ hands have either been captured or have surrendered voluntarily; so that the Master and his knights have only Frombork and Sztum. Nevertheless, some of the King’s councilors still consider the whole thing suspect.”

Battlefield dueling during a siege

Page 518, entry for 1454

“On their return the Prussian envoys are greeted with delight: before they even reach home four of the Knight’s castles: the new one at Torun, the ones at Gdańsk, Elblag, and Königsberg are demolished by the local townspeople, much to the displeasure of the King and the Prussian nobles[5]. An [Polish] army is immediately sent to Malbork to lay siege to the castle there. Meanwhile Chojnice, which has not submitted, is reinforced with a thousand cavalry sent to help the Master [of the Teutonic Order]. The [Polish] Voivode of Inowroclaw then arrives with 1200 horse and 700 foot and occupies Tuhola and Sluchovia. In a series of duels, his champions repeatedly defeat those of the Chojnice garrison and this prevents the crops there being destroyed. At Easter, all the nobles of Prussia pay homage in Torun to the Bishop of Poznan and the Chancellor, representing the King, after which the bulk of the army and its guns are sent to continue the siege of Malbork.”

Image from the Balthasar Behem codex, Kraków 1505

A Fire in Kraków, while apprentices shoot the popinjay

Page 523, from the entry on 1555.

“Two disasters now strike the city of Cracow. On the day the new bishop, Thomas Strzepinski, is elected, a fine bell with a very pleasant ring, a gift of the late Cardinal-bishop Olesnicki, is dislodged and falls and breaks the upper part of one ear, thus making it useless, until it can be recast. Then, on the following day, fire breaks out in the house of Thomas the Armourer, which is close to the church. The attempts to put it out are only half-hearted, for almost all the apprentices are outside the city shooting at a popinjay or watching others do it; then the wind goes round to the north and the flames break out again, and the fire spreads rapidly. Some of the houses affected have gunpowder stored in them and this only increases the blaze. People are more concerned to rescue the contents of their houses than to put out the fire, which, in the end, consumes over a hundred houses and four churches, as well as the college of the students of canon law, only two of the canons’ houses being saved, one that of the cantor and the other that of Canon Jan Długosz [i.e. the author]. The fire spreads as far as the castle, killing many, especially those who take refuge in their cellars. Many attribute the outbreak to the hurt done to God’s name, when the Jews, who used to deposit most of their possessions with Thomas the Armourer, were granted their liberty[6].”

Battle of Kniephof (Königsberg)

From page 523, in the entry for 1455.

“Even the remoter parts of Prussia are not free from the clash of arms. Two towns near Königsberg open their gates to the Master; while a third, Knipow, gets reinforcements from Gdańsk and remains loyal to the King. Two other towns are bombarded by the Knights’ cannon, which demolish so many houses and so terrorize the inhabitants, that they too, go over to the Master. Elsewhere, one Jan Kolda, pretending to be the Commander of Elbing, gains admission to Dzialdowo, where he kills several of the Knights’ mercenaries, seizes seventy of the more eminent townspeople and sets fire to the town itself. In the course of one fortnight four battles are fought in each of which the Poles defeat the Knights, many of whom are killed with their mercenaries and 200 others taken Prisoner. The booty is divided among the troops.”

[after discussing other matters, the account resumes]

“The besieged in Knipow are now feeling the pangs of starvation. Its two neighbors, which have already gone over to the Master, are so eager to prevent supplies from getting through to Knipow, that they have diverted the river that flows through town by damming it with baulks of timber. The king orders help to be sent to Knipow, but this involves first finding several thousand florins to pay some mercenaries; but the people in Knipow cannot be told of this and, despairing of receiving help, the surrender. Their example is followed by other towns in the lower [Northern] part of the country, news that depresses the King and makes Margrave Frederick of Brandenburg believe that Fortune has deserted his ally, so he cancels of a meeting with [King of Poland] Casimir and, instead of going to Poland, goes to Gniew and makes a treaty with the Master, he says, at the request of the Emperor.

Afraid of his further misfortune, although the summer is already over, the King sends out a general call to arms and receives reassurances of their loyalty from his towns in Prussia. The Knights, meanwhile, have been advancing on Friedland[7], held by one of the King’s mercenary knights, a Czech called Skubela, who, pretending to be afraid of them, allows some of the enemy to reach the walls and even to climb the outer wall; then, with the enemy crowded into the narrow space between the two walls, he fires on them with handguns, cannon, bows and arrows, and hurls stones on them from above. In a short time, there are 500 dead between the walls and a hundred others have been taken prisoner. Those outside panic and run to their camp, but the defense of this are poor, so that when the King’s men sally out and attack it from the rear, it is captured.”

The King of Poland randomly runs across a destitute Swedish King, and they enjoy a fencing tournament in Danzig

Page 527, entry for 1457.

“The King [Casimir IV of Poland / Lithuania], who has spent the last three weeks in Bydgoszcz arranging a supply of provisions for starving Sluchow, sets out for Gdańsk. He spends the Saturday night in a village a mile from Stargard, intending to go to Gdańsk the next morning; but then the King of Sweden [this was apparently Karl Knudson Bonde], recently expelled by his people, suddenly arrives on foot, and he is followed by processions of all the churches and estates, in all their best clothes, come to see their king, who is clad in armour as if going into battle. As the King of Sweden approaches, Casimir dismounts and receives him not as an exile, but as an equal, whom he then mounts on a regally caparisoned horse, prepared in readiness, and the two ride together through the crowded streets to the Church of the Blessed Virgin [the giant St. Mary’s Church in Gdańsk]. The next few days are given over to displays of swordsmanship and jousting, which everyone watches, forgetful of their work. It was estimated that the King had with him 6000 foot and horse.”

Polish troops + Burghers from Gdańsk and Elbing besiege the Teutonic citadel at Malbork

Pages 530-531, entry for 1458.

“Casimir now lays siege to Malbork, the capture of which many expect to be quick and easy. Reinforcements arrive from Gdańsk and Elblag bringing cannon, cannon balls and other equipment necessary for capturing towns[8]. Guns are brought from the castle and the walls and towers of the town bombarded. Meanwhile, Giskra [Formidable Moravian mercenary captain Jan Jiskra, who is usually active in Northern Hungary / Slovakia] is having talks with the Master [of the Teutonic Order] and this induces the King to hold his hand, so that no positive action is taken for several weeks. When nothing comes of the talks, the King has the town ringed with towers, shelters and fences; then leaving the troops from Gdańsk and Elbing to continue the siege, he moves his huge army inland, ravaging and accepting the surrender of other towns.

News now comes of how, when the mercenaries got to Nowe, which the Order has occupied and which they were sent to capture, they were told that the garrison was holding the castle for the King and thus that their presence was unnecessary. The mercenaries have now exhausted what provisions the countryside can supply and there is no pasture left. In the Kings own camp, more and more horses are dying[9]. The men throng round the King’s tent begging him not to allow procrastination to destroy so excellent an army. The troops are ready to attack Malbork town and beg the King not to allow the summer and fine weather to be wasted. Even the king’s commanders are divided: some wish to attack, others to avoid bloodshed.

All this encourages the besieged, who can see how sentries are not being set and how even the guards on the guns sometimes wander away. On one occasion the impatient troops mount their own attack, but the King orders an immediate withdrawal. The Governor of Prussia, an energetic and clever man, keeps reminding the kings that it costs 100,000 florins to maintain an army of the present size in the field and that he should not allow so much to be wasted. However, all such good advice is received with contempt[10].

The length of the siege and the ban on any assault are making the troops suspicious, and when people are found visiting the besieged and these tell who sent them and why, these suspicious are strengthened. In the King’s camp they hear people shouting from the walls that they have bought off an assault. Again the troops draw the King’s attention to their plight and that of their horses, not always mincing their words and insisting that they prefer to die fighting than to starve or die of disease. This results in the decision to attack, which is cancelled the very next day, destroying the men’s spirits. In this way nine weeks are wasted, during which almost the whole of Chelm [district in Poland just south of Prussia] is being ravaged by the four hundred Tatars [Mongols] fighting with the King[11]. Eventually Jan Giskra negotiates a truce to last until St. Margaret’s Day, the conditions being that until that date Malbork is to be handed over to Jan Giskra and, in the meantime, seventeen arbitrators chosen by both sides are to meet in Chelm to put an end to the war.“

Royal Standoff with the citizens of Kraków

Page 534, from the entry for 1459.

When the time comes for the next assembly in Piotrkow, the delegates from Cracow halt some distance away and refuse to enter the town without the King’s assurance of their immunity, for the King has ordered the members of his Court, more numerous now than usual, to arm themselves, for there are rumors of an attempt being made to remove him. The Cracovians are themselves armed, so that both sides feel they are meeting not as brothers and friends, but rather as strangers of enemies.”

George of Poděbrady vs. Breslau / Wrocław

Pages 534 and 535, from the entry for 1459.

“While the King is in Leczyca, officials from Wroclaw[12], who are also acting for Nammyslow, come with the request that, since the death of the King of Hungary and Bohemia they belong to neither kingdom and cannot accept the heretic George Poděbrady, who is illegally occupying the throne, Casimir as their sovereign, should come in person, or send a deputy, and take possession of the two towns and rule them. They are told that the King is so involved in war with Prussia that he cannot accept their offer, and they must go back and look after their towns as best they can[13].”

[Provoked by Wrocław and the other Silesian towns, George of Poděbrady invades Silesia with a small army]

“When George Poděbrady and his army arrive in Silesia, which is a breach of the agreement [non-aggression pact with King Casimir of Poland], he is welcomed by all the dukes, except the Duke of Zagan. The only town to refuse to admit him is Wroclaw, which dislikes the idea of being ruled by a man tainted with the Wycliffean heresy [i.e. Hussite][14]. Poděbrady plunders and burns many of the towns, manors and villages belonging to Wroclaw[15], installs garrisons in a number of places and returns to Bohemia[16]. These garrisons have the support of the Czech army and the Silesian dukes, and these make various attempts to capture Wroclaw, which repulses every attack. The Czechs then assault the monastery of St. Vincent, which is near Wroclaw and is a good base for attacking it. The people of Wroclaw prepare a number of ambushes and then sally out to attack the Czechs[17]. As battle is engaged, the people of Wroclaw emerge from their hiding places to attack the Czechs in the rear and the flanks and have no difficulty in routing them. The Czechs then return to Bohemia. The people of Wroclaw refuse to conclude a truce with their neighbors, the Silesian dukes, on the grounds that they are not to be trusted; but, in the end, the persistence of the dukes compels them to do so.

Now, two papal legates arrive, sent to persuade the people of Wroclaw is obedient to the Pope and is intending to unite Bohemia and discard the false doctrine, so they should show him obedience as a king at one with the Catholic Church[18]. The townspeople of Wroclaw, eager for peace, agree on the condition that their rebellion is not held against them, that they should not have a governor of whom they may not have approved imposed on them, and that, after a truce of three years, they will give Poděbrady their obedience, should he have shown himself a loyal Catholic[19].

Part 2: The Second Defenestration of Prague

The following are excerpts covering pages 31-52 from Dějepis města Prahy (History of Prague city) published from 1855-1905 by the Czech scholar, knight and parliamentarian, Vaclav Vlaqdivoj Tomek. This passage was translated from the Czech by Petra Kleinhamplová in 2020. Special thanks to Ondřej Vodička for introducing me to this source and to Pedro Maal for facilitating Petra’s translation and introducing me to her. The page numbers are given below.

Mediation and attempts at compromise[20]

Page 31

“A meeting of the Utraquists and Catholics  –  10 from each party ( names listed on p.31)-  took place in Prague on Monday January 13th, 1483. They asked the king to mediate, which he was not very eager to but agreed in the end and asked a counsel of four other noblemen” [only one of them was an Utraquist]

Page 32

“Both sides expressed their desire to end the conflict because of the damage it inflicted upon the king, inhabitants, and the land but only the Utraquists were willing to sign a treaty to settle the matter for good. The Catholics just kept saying they wanted peace but them being defendants of the papal power in Bohemia, they were not willing to yield partially because they were afraid of the Pope and partially because they were hoping to establish Catholicism as the only religion when times are more favorable.

The king, seeing both sides are nowhere near agreement, decided to talk to each side separately and did so three times to each on January 14th, 1483.”

Page 33

“In the end it was suggested (as said by Lord Beneš from Weitmile) that both sides let their disputes aside for 8 years in order to stabilize the situation and meanwhile negotiations should held with the Pope in Rome and hopefully if they (the Utraquists) ask nicely, they will get a confirmation of the Basel compact or whatever they need to practice their religion. The Utraquists felt 8 years are a mere truce that would only benefit the Catholics as they would get more power and possibly if the Pope decided about another crusade against the Utraquists, there would be no real guarantee of safety and when it comes to confirmation of compact they do not need any confirmation/validation as they had received it earlier from the Basel council and from the emperor Sigmund, whom they considered a higher power.

As there was no agreement, the king closed the talks on January 17th and asked everyone to keep peace and remove to act upon the results of the council that took place on St. Jacob day 1480 and promised to send messengers to the Pope as well.”

Hussites growing alarmed

Page 34

“The Utraquists felt rather insecure and went on to hold an internal Utraquist council in Nimburk on March 6th 1483 and hoped to be more successful when having discussions with individual Catholics separately, to no avail though and ended up holding another council June 29th (St. Peter and Paul day). Despite Prague inhabitants generally siding with the Utraquists, the Prague councilmen – both from New town and the Old) did not participate as they favored Catholics.”

Page 35

“The Councilmen had wanted to renew the old order during the parish fair 1482 but because of bishop Augustin (an important Utraquist bishop) they did not really press the matter then. However now (1483) seeing the negotiations got torn, they felt stronger and called all the parish priests to the Old Town townhall and pushed them to stop celebrating for both factions (Catholics and Utraquists) at the same time and instead at designated times each as it used to be. Priests and masters did not agree. The Catholic Councilmen and their allies barged into St. Jilji church, removed a priest and took over the ceremony. The other side complained to the king but he did not do anything.”

A conspiracy by the town council

Page 36

“1476 – Several town councilmen were replaced by the king due to their lack of proper behavior, but the new ones were even worse and generally siding with Catholics and favoring them during legal processes. They took bribes to steer trials and court cases the “right way” (often from both parties involved), falsified last testaments and thus stole from widows and orphans and imposed unfair fees.”

Page 37

“While the Utraquists were having a council in Nimburk, the New and Old Town[21] Councilmen secretly met with some Catholic noblemen and agreed to help each other, even signed a secret treaty. Individual parishes were not aware of this agreement. There was a plague in Prague from the second half of June until the autumn, 30 000 or more died[22].

The King kept fleeing the plague, nevertheless some of his noblemen died including a prominent Utraquist Mikuláš called Welblaud from Kamberk.”

Page 38

“With the king gone out of the city, the inhabitants got more and more angry as they preferred the Utraquist way while the councilmen and their various allies were against it and treated their adversaries more and more violently. Catholic preachers preached against the Utraquist clergymen with increasing audacity and those responded in the similar spirit as they fought for their existence as such. Common meetings of New Town and Old Town councils discussed mainly exiling four of the most ardent ones.

Many townsmen, who had already been exiled earlier by the king who acted upon the councilmen’s advice, were not able to access their property. And many others were to be exiled as well. As the councilmen were well aware of the general dislike towards them due to their religion and unjust deeds they prosecuted every display of discontent was followed by imprisonment, torture and other severe punishments. They even sent out provocateurs to start chats with people in pubs against the councilmen and if people joined in, they got reported. Since the king was out of his residence they were trying to secure protection from Catholic noblemen and once when there was a rumor about the king being sick they asked the noblemen to be ready to seize the Prague New Town by force.”

The Conspiracy is discovered

Page 39

“Councilmen were getting ready to fight and tried to mask this by false excuses, which stirred matters even more. The word of the street said that on Thursday before the Feast of St. Wenceslas [Sept 28 1483] there was going to be a bloodbath for the Utraquists. One of the councilmen, on a deathbed, could not bear it and warned the Utraquists.”

Pages 40 – 41

“Later on, when investigated by the court, it was found out that 70-80 townsmen were supposed to be executed that night when the town hall bells would ring.”

The counter-coup is sprung

“However, those that were supposed to be the target had learned about it and decided to surprise the councilmen by an attack. They agreed to do it one day before the Catholic attack, on Wednesday. They also used church bells as a signal for gathering with weapons. Once the bells sounded, many showed up with Bohuslav Kraupa, the draper, later known as Bohuslav Legat from Paradise[23]. with a spear in his hand as their leader. They were met with Jan from Klobouky, the Catholic burgomaster, in the gates of the Townhall and when asked why they were there, they said they came in response to the bells ringing as the councilmen[24] [i].

The burgomaster tried to close the door and run upstairs to his fellow councilmen but the Utraquists broke in and captured the councilmen. Even though the primary intention was to have a court hearing, things got out of hand very fast. The burgomaster got his leg stabbed by a guisarme [probably a bill-guisarme, a polearm] and although he tried to pretend being dead, they stripped him of his clothes and threw him out of the window. He tried to cling to some ironwork but they used a hammer to make him let go and he fell, broke his leg and lay there in his blood. Another councilman, Prokop from Welewice, called Publik[25] escaped from the Town Hall but was captured by Jan the tailor from the house of the White peacock[26] in Celetna street (nr.557) with a spear. He begged not to be killed and promised to tell them „weird things“ (plans of the councilmen) while they were dragging him back to jail, where he met with other councilmen. More and more people gathered as the next bell ringing summoned the Catholic supporters, a lot of Germans among them[27], and full-on fighting has started. Some of the councilmen’s servants were captured and imprisoned, some ran away.”

The Defenestrations

People in the New Town attacked at the same time as the Old Towners but with more rage.

Page 42

“They killed a scribe, who tried to prevent them from entering the building, right on the spot and once they got in and found four councilmen, they killed those as well. [Names below]

They threw their bodies out of windows in emulation of the First Defenestration in 1419, and witnesses said that there were buckets of blood in the room. Two other elderly councilmen lost their lives falling from the balcony as they were trying to get away. A few other councilmen got away. One of those with the worst reputation due to blackmailing people and having been unjust to orphans, Wácslav Páral, the furrier, was found hiding though and while being taken to the prison, the public shot at him and cut him while shouting what he had done to them. His body was dragged to the others in front of the town hall.

A similar riot took place at Mala Strana [A municipality of Prague on the other side of the river] but there is not detailed information about that available

Once the councilmen were captured, people attacked some monasteries as their priests were hated for their fervent sermons against the Utraquists. Especially Bosáci at St. Ambrož who had only just started building their new monastery in the Old Town got struck most, their building work destroyed and were chased out of town. However, many other monasteries suffered the same.

People in fury longing for looting attacked Jews as well[28] and looted their houses – gold, silver but also things pawned to Jews by higher townsmen and noblemen.”

The new regime restores order

Page 43

“While plebs [commoners] were wreaking havoc, the leaders of the uprising formally took over and assumed power in the name of the burghers. On September 24th, a certain number of elders were elected to be keepers of the Old town and New Town seals with all the power represented in those and they should serve as substitutes of the councilmen for the time being. There were 24 in the Old town and 21 in the New Town. Among those were also some townsmen who had been evicted by the king and came back to Prague. (names below)

Concerning Malá Strana, the councilmen who were not killed or did not flee the city kept their office.

The newly elected officials started investigating crimes of the captured councilmen and some of their supporters. As dictated by custom they could not do without torture. The „primus“ councilor Wácslaw Chánický said: “You are doing to us what we wanted for you. Prokop Publík confessed that there were more than 70 townsmen of the Old Town on the list for decapitation. Jan from Klobouky even said there had been supposed to be great murdering of all who would not have lights lit in their houses to mark their support for the councilmen on Thursday night. Those three were sentenced to death and two more with them.””

Page 44

“In the New Town they interrogated the captured councilmen as well:  the highest scribe Wawřinec from Opawa and Matauš the first messenger. Both were aware of negotiations between Catholic noblemen and the councilmen, their dirty business and injustice, and both provided evidence against them. From all the councilmen Wawřines called Truhlička confessed the most information about himself and others and named many others – 7 altogether (names below)

There were a lot of cases of embezzlement, receiving and forcing into bribes and imposing unfair fees[29].”

Page 45

The old regime is punished

“Based on those confessions the following four were sentenced to death:”

Page 46

“Another four captured councilmen and two other men were released:”

“These named saved themselves by fleeing the city but maybe more townsmen who had reasonable fear of prosecution:”

The kings castle is stormed, but peacefully

“The newly elected councilors meanwhile called the Prague city militia to a stand-by in case an attack came from outside as well as because the looting plebs needed to be tamed. Town halls had their armed personnel and mercenaries[30] [vii] were guarding the streets during the night. As the king´s castle was considered dangerous due to the concentrated military power siding with the enemy, Prague inhabitants from three towns – the Old, the New and the Small one (Malá Strana) decided to attack it on September 25th (only the 2nd day after their uprising), ready for a siege. There was no fight though as the Prague burgrave Oldřich Medek from Waldek being aware of not having enough personnel decided to surrender. The Praguers took over without any blood spilt.”

Page 47

“The Praguers took over Hradčany and Wyšehrad [Castle] as well (areas behind the three towns as such).

Once the castle was seized, after 4 pm and the elders came back with the army to the city, the execution of the condemned people from the Old Town started. Master Mates, the executioner, decapitated: Prokop Publik, Wácslav Chánický (the first councilman), Jan Stodola and Tomášek from Oremusy, the burgomaster Jan from Klobuky as the last one was brought up as his leg was broken when he fell down from the Town hall. His last words were: „I never thought much of this municipality.“ The executioner bowed and went on with his work.

In the New Town, the interrogations took a bit longer, therefore the executions took place two days later, on Monday after St. Wácslav, September 29th. The executed ones were:  the burgermaster Šimůně měšečník, Wawřinec Truhlička, Ondřej Kahaun and Matauš the messenger.

At Malá Strana – Jan Piplňásek and another Tomek the tailor – we have no information about their offences.”

Page 48

Diplomatic efforts to reassure the neighbors

“Meanwhile, right after the revolt against the councilmen on September 24th, the elders of all three towns [municipalities] of Prague sent out letters to noblemen, yeomen and towns that sided with Utraquists and shared specifically information given by Prokop Publik during interrogation and said how happy they were to prevent the plot as well as asked for advice and help against their enemies. They especially wanted one man from the council of every town to come to Prague and so they could coordinate next actions together. They also addressed Lord Wok from Rosenberk[31] and other Lords from the Catholic side, explaining that they only did what they had to and asked them not to believe any other messages on the same topic. They also addressed the king Matiáš [the powerful King Mathias Corvinus of Hungary], the Saxon duke [possibly Duke of Saxony Albert III the Bold, who was related by blood to the Podeibrady family], the Nuremberg duke and other neighbouring people in power and mentioned some older wrongdoings against them and even against some of the neighbouring people in power.”

Page 49

“The leitmotiv of all those letters was to convince everyone that all they did was never against their king and only in order to be even more loyal to their king than their adversaries. They were asking the king to overlook whatever he might found unbearable as they only did that for their defense.

They also asked Jan Towačovský, the foremost chief of the Utraquists [moderate Hussites, mostly centered in Prague] in the country, to summon the party, so they could take part and coordinate actions as before they had not been able to due to obstructions made by the Catholics. Towns generally reacted favorably.

Before the convention could take place, the winning party decided to solidify their power by creating an alliance proclaiming unity of the three Prague towns on October 6th (day 12th after the revolt). Towns pledged to stick to the Holy communion under both kinds [meaning both Catholic and Hussite services would be allowed] for everyone, singing and preaching in Czech and a decision that who shall live among them should do the same” [Meaning no separate German mass].

Page 50

“Referring to the emperor Sigmund’s record and other older ones, they prohibited communion “under one” openly or in secret, preaching that communing under one gives as much grace and use as under both, nobody was to try to convince anyone to commune under one or call the ones who commune under both blasphemers or other names, all that prohibited under a fine of being chased out of the city. Along with that all monks and priests who were against communion under both as well as inhabitants who backed off from communing under both earlier and those who went for Pikartstwí [Translator couldn’t figure out what this meant]. The only exception were craftsmen and travelers provided they acted respectfully.

Receiving the bishop Augustin was a crucial part of the document as that was impossible under the ruling of former councilmen.

All three towns promised to stick together and treat their inhabitants the same way. They also stressed that no harm is meant to the king, the opposite indeed as he is their graceful ruler, however they also reserved their freedoms the king had promised to keep when he had been crowned.”

New legal guidelines for the city[32]

Page 51

“They also stipulated some specific rights related to current events: The king used to name councilmen from suggestions made by the leaving councilmen. As there were not any at the moment, they were asking the king to follow the suggestions of current elders and once the regular procedure is assumed (in the future) he was to make sure that new councilmen can only come from recommendations of the ones leaving the office and none else in order to keep the power in the hands of residents[33].

Furthermore, they discussed cases of burghers who were falsely indicted and evicted without a trial out of Prague three years ago. Those were to be brought back and defended by everyone if need be. Another article promised to watch over the rights of „učení pražského“ [“Scholars of Prague”, probably a reference to Charles University] They also agreed that no town officials should see the king on the sly as the former ones used to and if that rule were broken, such person should be sentenced to death.

This record was read publicly on the Old Town square and approved by everyone, while Týn church bells rung and Te Deum laudamus was sung. It was also decided that this record is to be read regularly once or twice a year to keep people aware of it, especially when new officials entered the office. The document was sealed by seals of all three towns, inserted into all three towns’ book of records and all „neighbours“ [prominent gentry] had to sign it.

Page 52

“Prague citizens sent for the bishop Augustin and invited him to be their bishop the same way other „stavy“[34] accepted him at earlier Utraquists conventions. He came at once accompanied by a lot of armed personnel from various cities and yeomen. He arrived on October 20th and was heartily welcomed by a huge parade of townspeople, clergy and scholars. He blessed everyone and then went on and accommodated himself in an apartment prepared for him.”


[1] The 12 volume “Annales seu cronicae incliti regni Poloniae”. These excerpts are from the 1997 English translation by Maurice Michele, published by IM Publications in West Sussex, UK. This was in turn translated from the Polish Roczniki Czyli Kroniki Slawnego Krolestwa Polskiego by Julia Mrukowna, published by the Polish Scientific publisher PWN, Warsaw

[2] This is probably Jan Rokycana, the ‘Hussite Bishop’, who was not a fire breathing radical the way Długosz describes him but rather a leader of the moderate Prague based ‘Utraquist’ faction. Rokycana was an able diplomat and an effective prelate for the Hussites, and therefore hated by the Catholic priests like Długosz.

[3] In addition to the militias of the towns, there were several powerful mercenary companies based in the mountains of Northern Hungary, much of which eventually became the nation of Slovakia. The commanders in this case probably didn’t want to get bogged down in a local war and / or embroiled in volatile local politics.

[4] Refers to the boy-king Ladislaus “Posthumous”, who was at this time 13-years old – therefore effectively this really meant his very resourceful and somewhat feared regent, George of Poděbrady, who was considered one of the most capable military commanders of the region, and definitely a credible rival to King Casimir and Poland.

[5] Destroying the town citadels or castles helped assure the future autonomy of the towns and prevented any princely or Royal authority from controlling the town internally. The ruins of the Teutonic castle in Torun were left as a ruin since this day in 1454, and remain in ruins as a testament to the autonomy of the burghers to this day.

[6] It’s unclear what ordinance or law he’s referring to here, but unfortunately Canon Długosz taking a cheap shot at the Jewish community is fairly typical for a Catholic Prelate in this time period. It does not necessarily reflect the opinions of everyone at the time, though sadly animosity toward Jewish people and even ugly incidents like pogroms were not unusual. Cracow, and particularly the municipality of Casimierz, had a substantial Jewish community at this time, in part due to the Polish religious tolerance laws. Religious tolerance became the law of the land in Poland, at least until the mid 17th Century, due to the legal negotiations over the merger with Lithuania. It was one of the requirements set forth by the Lithuanians, whose multi-ethnic state included many Ruthenians (Russians, Belarussians and Ukrainians, basically) and Tatars, as well as various people from Latin Europe including Germans, Poles and Czechs.

[7] This is possibly Debrzno, formerly Preußisch Friedland, a small town in southern Prussia.

[8] Urban militia were often the best equipped especially for siege warfare and firearms, and in many cases have substantial engineering capacity useful in sieges, as they would send master masons, blacksmiths and carpenters with their contingents.

[9] Whenever a large medieval army was gathered together, two major problems immediately began a count-down to disaster: provisioning, especially for the horses, and sanitation, especially during sieges. One way to avoid this was to keep the army moving around. No large (as in, more than a couple of thousand troops) medieval army was able to stay together in the field for more than a few months typically before logistical issues, morale and politics began to tear it apart. If they remained in the field too long, not only the horses but the troops themselves would start dying en-masse, and if the countryside was sufficiently devastated it often led to famine and then in short order, outbreaks of plague or other deadly diseases. A very good example of this in this same region was the Hunger Wars of the 1420s, between Poland and the Teutonic Order, in which scorched earth tactics by both sides triggered famine followed by a deadly outbreak of plague.

[10] Długosz is often highly critical of Casimir IV for being indecisive, and throughout his Annales, the King is routinely bombarded with often contradictory demands from a wide variety of petitioners. But history has been fairly kind to Casimir IV who saw Poland through a very tricky period and into the beginning of what became known as their Golden Age.

[11] Since the 14th Century, the Poles and Lithuanians have a small force of Mongols, known as the Lipka Tatars, who had been allowed to settle into forests on the borderlands with the Mongol Golden Horde, partly to act as a buffer against the other Mongols. These people were allied with the Polish King and Lithuanian Grand Duke, but their predatory tendencies toward Latin civilians were hard to control whenever they were on the warpath. Długosz is repeatedly critical of the tendency of friendly troops to devastate their own lands while on the move, in part due to their need for provisions, and in part due to their opportunistic predatory nature, and the Tatars seem to have been among the worst in this regard. The American actor Charles Bronson, and the Polish author Henryk Sienkiewicz were both of Lipka Tatar heritage.

[12] Wrocław at this time was a wealthy, fairly large, and militarily formidable urban republic, situated on a major trade route, with a diverse economy about evenly split between trade and manufacturing. For more on this fascinating city see Microcosm: Portrait of a Central European City (Norman Davies and Roger Moorhouse, London 2002). Their militia was known to be effective and was already protecting the Via Regia, a major regional trade route also locally called the Kings road, between Wrocław and Kraków, from bandits and robber knights, many of the latter were also the petty-dukes and barons of Silesia. Wrocław was arguably the single most powerful military entity in Silesia at this time, though there were several powerful princes and prince-prelates as well.

[13] As previously mentioned, the recently elected Knight-King George of Poděbrady, already had a reputation for being a very capable war-leader and the Bohemians were  considered among the best troops in Europe, so King Casimir had no interest in starting a war with them on behalf of one town, even a major prize like Breslau / Wrocław. Silesia is between Poland, Bohemia / Czechia and the Holy Roman Empire, so it was kind of a neutral zone. The people there were a mix of ethnic Germans and Poles, with a few Czechs and some other Slavic people (mostly Sorbs). Most of the people of every ethnicity were Catholic and had not accepted the Hussite heresy.

[14] This may have been for pragmatic as opposed to just religious / sectarian reasons. If Wrocław accepted the heretic Poděbrady as King, they could expect to be put under interdict by the Pope and subjected to all the same boycotts and hostility from the Church that the rest of Bohemia had been dealing with since the 1420s. As a major trading hub positioned on the East-West Via Regia and the Oder river, Wroclaw would be badly affected by the damage to trade.

[15] Wrocław (known as Breslau at this time to its mostly German speaking population) controlled substantial territory around the town.

[16] It is probably fortunate for the citizens of Wrocław that Poděbrady had to return to Bohemia at this time, as he rarely lost a battle.

[17] Wrocław apparently had tunnels with sally ports up to a mile from the city. It was normal in sieges of large cities of this type that the burghers would keep track of besieging armies from high vantage points within the town, in particular the largest Church or Cathedral and the town hall tower. The Wroclaw Cathedral of St. John the Baptist is 98 meters / 322 feet tall, providing a vantage point for a long distance. When the besieging army was dispersed into smaller groups for foraging etc., the defenders would sally out and attack them. This type of fighting was on a small scale but very violent, and was the type of engagement where fencing skill might play a significant role. This is incidentally a very similar strategy to that used by Strasbourg against French Armagnac mercenaries in the 1440s.

[18] This was during a brief period of détente with the Vatican, though it didn’t last. Poděbrady was popular with both Catholics and Hussites, at least initially, and eventually made alliances (and intermarried his children with) several of the most powerful German princes in the region including Albrecht ‘Achilles’ of Brandenburg. But the peace with the Pope soon broke down and the Vatican’s call for a new ‘Crusade’ was taken up by Matthias Corvinus of Hungary, beginning in 1468.

[19] This never happened, Wroclaw never accepted Hussite rule, instead allying themselves with Mathias Corvinus for a while, followed by Hungarian / Polish (and Catholic) King Vladislaus II, whose reign saw the 2nd Defenestration of Prague.

[20] Bohemia was divided between Catholics and various factions of Hussite heretics. The Church sought to have the Hussites exterminated but multiple Crusades in the 1420s-1430s failed disastrously, resulting in an uneasy regional truce. As the power of the new (foreign) monarch was unclear, but it was known that he sided with the Catholics, tensions were rising.

[21] Two separate municipalities in Prague.

[22] Apparently this is a regional death toll and not just from the town, as that is roughly the population of Prague at this time.

[23] This could refer to Český ráj (‘Bohemian Paradise’, a district in Bohemia and a giant nature reserve) or it could be a reference to the name of a house.

[24] Ordered (From the translator: “which proves the Utraquists possessed significant sense of black humor –, it is morbid but I could not resist 😊”)

[25] Probably used to be a notary [notarius publicus]

[26] Several people in this document seem to be named for their house. The last time I saw this type of naming convention was in a reference to Jewish households in Nordlingen but these people from Prague do not appear to be Jewish. It may have been in common use.

[27] There were some ethnic / sectarian elements to this conflict, with many Germans being Catholic and more Czechs being Hussite.

[28] Political uprisings unfortunately sometimes also included Pogroms against the Jewish community, and this seems to be one of those cases where Jewish families were at least robbed and possibly worse.

[29] More info about their confessions can be found in Staré letopisy české p 237 and 510-516

[30] From a discussion with the Translator: „The specific word used here was “žoldnéři” (plural). Note from the translator: žold = money soldiers got for fighting. žoldnéř = in Czech  a professional soldier fighting for whoever hired him. So I translated that as mercenaries.”

Note from Jean: This could be a reference to the special Hussite mercenary bands called “Lapkas” (literally “burglars”) many of which formed after the defeat of the radicals by the moderates during the battle of Lipany in the Hussite Wars. These Lapkas were heavily engaged in the 13 Years War in Poland (on both sides), in the Hungarian Black Army, in the armies of the Moravian Condottieri Jan Jiskra, and in the armies of Geroge of Podeibrady during the Bohemian-Hungarian Wars of 1468-1478. Such mercenaries would be more trustworthy to the Hussite leaders than foreigners would have been.

[32] These rulings boil down to amendments of the Charter, like the towns constitution.

[33] This is according to Prag-Altstädter Recht, the charter based on Magdeberg law, the basis of the town charter used by Prague.

[34] From a discussion with the Translator: “I am not sure how to translate this but it refers to feudal castes (respected town people, lesser noblemen, higher noblemen, plebs, clergy and the king) – and in this specific sentence it definitely refers only to casts that mattered – townsmen, noblemen and clergy.”