Second Defenstration of Prague

The Second Defenestration of Prague was central to the start of the Thirty Years' War in 1618.

Some members of the Bohemian aristocracy rebelled following the 1617 election of Ferdinand (Duke of Styria and a Catholic) as King of Bohemia to succeed the aging Emperor Matthias. In 1617, Roman Catholic officials ordered the cessation of construction of some Protestant chapels on land of which the Catholic clergy claimed ownership. Protestants contended the land in question was royal, rather than owned by the Catholic Church, and was thus available for their own use. Protestants interpreted the cessation order as a violation of the right to freedom of religious expression granted in the Letter of Majesty issued by Emperor Rudolf II in 1609. They also feared that the fiercely Catholic Ferdinand would revoke the Protestant rights altogether once he came to the throne.

At Prague Castle on May 23, 1618, an assembly of Protestants, led by Count Thurn, tried two Imperial governors, Vilem Slavata of Chlum (1572–1652) and Jaroslav Borzita of Martinice (1582–1649), for violating the Letter of Majesty (Right of Freedom of Religion), found them guilty, and threw them, together with their scribe Philip Fabricius, out of the 30 metre high windows of the Bohemian Chancellery. They landed on a large pile of manure in a dry moat and survived. Philip Fabricius was later ennobled by the emperor and granted the title von Hohenfall (lit. meaning "of Highfall").

Roman Catholic Imperial officials claimed that the three men survived due to the mercy of angels assisting the righteousness of the Catholic cause. Protestant pamphleteers asserted that their survival had more to do with the horse excrement in which they landed than the benevolent acts of the angels.

The religious situation in Bohemia was complex: the Habsburg rulers were staunch defenders of the Roman church. The Bohemian population was divided among a Catholic minority (many of them associated with the Habsburg court) and various species of Protestant. Among these were the Utraquists, followers of Jan Hus. These were technically a species of Catholic, their worship differing in that laymen were permitted to receive the Holy Communion in both kinds; bread and wine. There were also true Protestants: Lutherans and Calvinists both. The intellectual influence of the latter was such that the Hussites had gradually imbibed their doctrines and has become so further estranged from the Roman church that they could be considered as true Protestants.