pope martin v

The battle of Vitkov Hill - stand of the 100

The Battle of Vítkov Hill was a part of the Hussite Wars, where the Holy Roman Empire and various Papal forces sought to crush the proto-Protestant followers of reformer Jan Hus. The battle pitted four thousand knights commanded by Sigismund, Holy Roman Emperor against just a hundred Hussites under command of Jan Žižka. Vítkov Hill was located on the edge of the city of Prague and the battle occurred in a vineyard established by Sigismund’s father, Charles IV. The battle ended with a decisive Hussite victory.

On 1 March 1420, Pope Martin V published a papal bull in which he ordered that Sigismund and all Eastern princes had to organize a crusade against the Hussite followers of the reformers John Hus, John Wycliffe and other “heretics.” A crusader force moved to recapture Hussite-controlled Prague.

The siege began on 12 June. The crusaders’ forces, in the opinions of the chroniclers, consisted of 100-200 thousand soldiers. In the opinions of modern historians they probably had 3-4 thousand. One of the most important points in the fortifications of Prague was Vítkov Hill. The fortifications on this hill secured roads on the crusaders’ supply lines. The fortifications themselves were made from timber but they were consolidated with a stone and clay wall and with moats. On the southern part of the hill there was a standing tower, the northern part was secured by a steep cliff. The fortifications were said to be defended by 26 men and three women, though in the opinion of J. Durdik, it was probably about 60 soldiers. On 13 July, the Crusader’s cavalry crossed the river Vltava and began to mount repeated attacks, all of which were resisted. On 14 July, Hussite relief troops surprised the knights through the vineyards on the southern side of the hill on which the battle was fought. The violent attack forced the crusaders down the steep northern cliff. Panic spread among the crusaders, which made them rout the field. During the retreat, many knights drowned in the Vltava. 

In honour of this battle, Vítkov Hill was renamed Žižkov after Jan Žižka, the commander of its defenders. As a consequence of the Hussite victory on Vítkov, the crusaders lost any hope of starving the city into submission and their army disintegrated. The National Monument exists today on the hill and as of 2003 local officials have been attempting to replant the vineyard. Ultimately the Hussites were victorious, and the Hussite church became free from Papal control.