Battle of Bilá Hora taking place again

The key event in Czech history has its 398th anniversary this year

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. 22 and 23 at part of the original battlefield the field in front of the Hvězda summer palace in Prague 6.

While a lot of Czech history is having important anniversaries this year, the Battle of White Mountain, as it is also called, is an exception. It is the 398th anniversary, two years from a big number.

Nonetheless the annual re-enactment is worth seeing and is also family fun.

The program is the same each day, with gates opening at noon each day and the battle at 3 pm.

As with previous years, re-enactors in period uniforms with black-powder guns and other weapons will participate. 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.

New this year is that the Raven brewery is among the festival’s supporters and will be making a special batch of beer just for the battle weekend. Raven is one of the small Czech breweries making craft beer that has sprung up in recent years.

The battle itself has Czech narration, but the events are very visual and self-explanatory. A quick look at an online history site should get you up to speed.

The bulk of the action usually takes part in the center of the field but does move about a bit, so there are no truly bad spots to watch from.

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

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 battle choreography is different each year, with different interactions 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. (The defenestration has its 400th anniversary this year, along with the 100th anniversary of Czechoslovakia and the 50th anniversary of the Warsaw Pact invasion.)

The defenstration 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. History remembers him as the Winter King because his reign was so short.

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.

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