White Mountain: Place Where One Day Determined 300 Years Era

Bílá Hora (White Mountain) is situated in the north-western part of Prague (Prague 6). The first thing you’ll notice is that it is not a mountain at all. On the northern side, it descends some 50 meters down, but on the other sides it is rather plain.

Hvězda, photo: Adam Zivner, CC BY-SA 3.0

Hvězda, photo: Adam Zivner, CC BY-SA 3.0

White Mountain is a place where you can visit some historical monuments. You can take a pleasant trip with your children to Hvězda (“star”), which houses a star-shaped folly with six tips. For those not familiar with a folly, it’s a form of architecture with a whimsical or extravagant design intentionally built to be a conversation piece, and to commemorate a person or event. The folly is surrounded by a park with several playgrounds for the kids. And there are many trails so you’ll meet lots of runners and cyclists. If there is snow in the winter some people use the park for cross-country skiing. In autumn, the field at Vypich along the boundary wall of the park is where many people go to fly kites.

The folly itself is an example of the Czech Renaissance period. Son of Emperor Ferdinand I – archduke Ferdinand of Tirol, long-time governor of Bohemia – had the folly built for Philippine Welser, daughter of a rich merchant whom he secretly married. Ferdinand of Tirol himself drew the blueprints for the folly. The park was originally a game preserve used by the royal family for hunting.

Nowadays, the folly has a permanent exhibition dedicated to its history, including a model of the battle on White Mountain which took place outside the park in November, 1620.

White Mountain Memorial, photo: Adam Zivner, CC BY-SA 3.0

White Mountain Memorial, photo: Adam Zivner, CC BY-SA 3.0

Here, the forces of Emperor Ferdinand II defeated the army of the rebelling Czech estates. The numbers were roughly even, slightly lower numbers of the estates were compensated by good positioning. However, the morale of rebels was low and it is probable that a large part of the army did not leave the pubs and inns in Prague. The battle itself lasted little more than one hour. The estates lost around 5000 men (out of 20-25000), the Emperor less than half of this number. At the wall encircling the game preserve, a Moravian regiment was allegedly killed to the last man. Preserved records of soldiers of the regiment claiming their overdue salaries cast some doubts on this claim, however.

The defeat effectively crushed the resistance of the estates and sealed Emperor Ferdinand’s victory. It also ended the autonomous position of the Czech Kingdom in the Hapsburg Empire for almost 300 hundred years – until the independence of Czechoslovakia in 1918. Twenty seven leaders of the estates were executed at Old Town Square in 1621; others were imprisoned and had their property confiscated. Protestant nobles, preachers and members of the bourgeoisie were expelled (including Jan Amos Komenský and Václav Hollar), or had to convert to Catholicism. The Emperor abolished the autonomy of Czech lands and curbed the powers of the Bohemians. Thanks to that and also the sufferings brought about by the Thirty Years’ War, “White Mountain” became a symbol of a national disaster.

The victors had to commemorate the place where the fortunes of war gave them such great favor. As Catholics, they had a chapel built and consecrated to Holy Virgin Victorious. The chapel was replaced in 1730 by a large Baroque church which still stands and today serves as a monastery of Benedictine nuns. The church is open only during mass. Near the church a mound was erected in 1920 (300 hundred after the battle) as a memorial of the battle. In this case the builders sympathized more with the defeated.

How to get there:

Tram and bus stations: Vypich, Obora Hvězda, Malý Břevnov, Bílá Hora, Petřiny

Author: Pavel Janecek

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