Bila Hora, Czech Republic (1620 AD)
The Battle of White Mountain was the first great military engagement of the Thirty Years War. An important victory for the Catholic armies of the Hapsburg Empire, White Mountain ended the Bohemian Revolt and left the Protestants in Germany on the defensive for the better part of the next decade. Although it was ultimately not a conclusive end to the war, it did effectively crush the Protestant movement in what is now the Czech Republic indefinitely.
In the century since Martin Luther defiantly challenged the authority of the Roman Catholic Church in 1517, more and more countries and territories in Northern and Central Europe were abandoning the authority of the Papacy ion favor of the various Protestant movements. Religious wars had already been raging across Europe as the Church, aided by the Hapsburg kingdoms in Austria and Spain, sought desperately to stamp out the fires.
In 1618, the Thirty Years War, the greatest of the religious conflicts, broke out in Central Europe. It started in Prague on May 23, when several Catholic officials were tossed out of the castle window by a mob of Protestants. This kicked off the Bohemian Revolt, the first stage of the war. Within a year most of Bohemia was up in arms.
In 1620, the Hapsburg emperor Ferdinand II determined to crush the revolt. Raising armies in Germany and Spain, the Hapsburgs launched a campaign in Bohemia under the leadership of the empire’s best commander, Field Marshall Tilly. By the autumn most of Bohemia was back under imperial, and Catholic, control. However, in November, the main body of Protestant troops prepared to make a stand before Prague.
The two sides met at White Mountain, and the result was a disaster for the Protestants. Although they had a slight numerical advantage as well as control of the high ground, the Protestants were largely poorly trained, poorly led peasants backed by companies of underpaid mercanaries. The Catholic armies consisted mostly of professional troops. The battle was short and decisive, though there wre significant casualties on both sides. After Prague was secured, Bohemia remained solidly under imperial and papal control for the next three hundred years.
The White Mountain Battlefield is now now largely built over, but some parts are still open, including what used to be a hunting park. The large stone marker at the top of the hill commemorates the battle site. The other most popular destination related to the battle is the site where 27 leaders of the rebellion were killed after the battle.
White Mountain is located in the center of Bila Hora, a suburb approximately three miles west of the city center of Prague. The battlefield monument is an open site. The location where the leaders was executed is in Prague’s town square, and 27 white crosses are embedded in the ground where the execution took place. There is no charge for admission to either location. Web: www.praguewelcome.cz (official tourism website of Prague).