Battle of Bilá Hora being staged at original site

Hundreds of costumed soldiers will re-create a crucial moment in Czech history

The Battle of Bilá Hora in 1620 was one of the turning points in Czech history, determining the fate of the nation for the next three centuries. The battle will be re-enacted Sept. 23 and 24 at part of the original battlefield the field in front of the Hvězda summer palace in Prague 6.

Events begin at noon each day and the battle is at 2 pm. The program is the same each day.

As with previous years, hundreds of participants in authentic uniforms and dozens of horses will participate. Groups of history enthusiasts come from across the country and also from other countries including Germany and Slovakia. The units represent the actual participants in the brief battle.

“The Bohemian plain will once again be filled with stalls with traditional crafts, taverns and other attractions. The reconstruction of the battle will be performed by hundreds of participants from all over Europe. Infantry, horsemen and gunners will all approach this dramatic episode of Czech history,” the event's Facebook page states.

There are things to see before and after the battle such as a market with Renaissance items and toy weapons, the battle camp and weapons demonstrations. There is also fencing and music.

The battle has Czech narration, but the events are very visual and self explanatory. The main action usually takes part in the center of the field, but does move about a bit.

For people who want a good view, seating in stands is available.

The main organizer is the Czech group Rytíři Koruny České (Knights of the Bohemian Crown), and the event is put on with financial support of Prague 6.

The organizers point out that they are not celebrating war and militarism, but trying to remind people of historical events and their impact. Specifically, they want people to understand the role of Bohemia in the broader context of European history. At the same time, they want to support tourism with interesting events.

The outcome of the battle and the broad outline of troop movements is determined by history, but the choreography is different each year, with new bits of interaction between characters added to create some drama.

If you are not familiar with the battle and want the outcome to be a surprise, the rest of this article contains spoilers.

The battle is tied to another famous event in Prague history, the Second Defenestration, when a meeting at Prague Castle ended with representatives of Emperor Ferdinand II being thrown out of a window in 1618. This was followed by the election of Frederick V, a Protestant, as king of Bohemia in 1619. The move further antagonized the Catholic emperor, who decided to put down the rebellious faction in Prague by sending an army consisting of his imperial troops and soldiers from the German Catholic League.

The battle was so short that by the time King Frederick V arrived, it was already over.

Historically, the battle was the beginning of the end for Czech nobility. The loss at White Mountain was followed a year later by the execution of 27 Protestant rebellion leaders in Old Town Square at the hands of the Catholic Hapsburgs. Protestants were forced to either convert or leave the country. Czechs would not be free of foreign rule again until 1918 when the First Republic was established.

The organizers said previously that from the distance of almost 400 years, this historical episode, although primarily disastrous, should not be seen in black and white. For instance, the specific form of Czech Radical Baroque would have never developed without the subsequent re-Catholicization of the Czech lands. The re-enactment also celebrates the courage of the Czechs and the fact that despite of all the adversities the Czech nation is still here.

The actual battle took place Nov. 8, 1620, but the re-enactment is in September because the weather is better. A short way from the site of re-enactment, there is a small stone monument marking the event in the middle of a field.

Feelings about the Hapsburg occupation of Bohemia still run deep. An effort to restore a victory column to Old Town Square has been going on for almost two decades, but recently a petition to stop it got 1,500 signatures. A similar effort to restore a statue of Field Marshall Radecký to Malostranské náměstí has also faced opposition.

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