January 1422: The Hussites led by Jan Žižka defeat the Second Crusade at Německý Brod

Jan Žižka

The failure of the Second Crusade led to the consolidation of the Hussite movement in the Czech lands. Until 1427, no army dared to invade Bohemia.

At the start of the 14th century, religious and power disputes over the role of the Church in society in Bohemia moved to the battlefield. The fateful turning point was the burning of the popular preacher Master Jan Hus in Constance on 6 July 1415.

Hus, who had criticised the usurpation of secular power by the church and denounced the selling of indulgences, began to be venerated as a martyr. His teachings spread rapidly across Bohemia.

First Defenestration of Prague by Adolf Liebscher | Photo: Wikimedia Commons,  public domain

The symbol of the Hussite movement became the chalice, which referred to the freedom of the people to receive both bread and wine at communion as a sign of the equality of clergy and laity.

King Wenceslas IV tried to calm the situation down and appointed new governors to the New Town Hall, who radically cracked down on the Hussites, arrested several of them and executed them as a warning.

The ensuing fierce retaliation against the governors, known as the First Prague Defenestration, sparked the Hussite Revolution, which grew into years of war.

After the death of King Wenceslas, his brother Sigismund became heir to the land and crown. The nobility was willing to accept him, but set conditions according to the customs of the time.

However, the emperor refused, as he wanted to rule without regard to the nobility’s interests. From Wrocław he started to prepare an army to conquer the rebellious Bohemia.

Hugo Schüllinger - Zapálení Kutné Hory a útěk vojáků Zikmundových | Photo: Franciszek Tegazzo,  Polona.pl,  Wikimedia Commons,  public domain

At his request, Pope Martin V declared the First Crusade in March 1420. King Sigismund of Luxembourg, King of Hungary and Rome himself, took the lead. Despite outnumbering their enemy, the Crusaders were unable to destroy the Hussite troops composed of volunteers without military training. Above all, they were unable to beat Jan Žižka, who has gone down in history as a military leader who never suffered a loss in battle.

The first and then the second crusade ended in the defeat of the imperial army. After the crushing defeat at Vítkov and a year later at Žatec, the Crusaders suffered further defeats at Kutná Hora and Německý Brod. The Hussites struck their last blow on their escape to Hungary on 10 January 1422.

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