Battle of Vítkov Hill

Infobox Military Conflict
conflict=Battle of Vítkov Hill
partof=the Hussite Wars

caption=A painting by Alphonse Mucha detailing the carnage after the battle
date=June 12-July 14, 1420
place=Vítkov Hill (outside Prague, Czech Republic)
result=Decisive Hussite victory
combatant1=Holy Roman Empire
Kingdom of Hungary [Attila and Balázs Weiszhár: Lexicon of Wars (Háborúk lexikona) Atheneaum Budapest, 2004. ISBN 9789639471252]
commander1=Sigismund, Holy Roman Emperor
commander2=Jan Zizka
strength1=50,000-100,000 (100,000-200,000)
casualties1=300 knights

The Battle of Vítkov Hill was a part of the Hussite Wars. The battle pitted the forces of Emperor Sigismund, Holy Roman Emperor against Hussite forces under command of Jan Žižka (in English, John Zizka). 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.

Preliminaries to the battle

On the 1st of 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 John Hus, John Wycliffe and other heretics. On the 15th of March in Wrocław, Emperor Sigismund ordered the execution of Jan Krása who was a Hussite and leader of the Wrocław Uprising in 1418. On the 17th of March the papal legate Ferdinand de Palacios published the bull in Wrocław. After that the Utraquist faction of Hussites understood that they would not reach agreement with him. They united with Taborite Hussites and decided to defend against the emperor.

The crusaders assembled their army in Świdnica. On the 4th of April 1420, Taborite forces destroyed Catholic forces in Mladá Vožice. On the 7th of April Taborites under command of Nicholas of Hus captured Sedlice after which they captured Písek, the castle Rábí, Strakonice, and Prachatice. At the end of April, the crusading army crossed the Bohemian border. At the beginning of May they captured Hradec Králové. On the 7th May, Čeněk of Wartenberg surrounded Hradčany.

Fights on Benešov and near Kutná Hora

The Crusader force of 400 infantry and knights under the command of Peter of Sternberg attempted to defend Benešov against the Taborites. After the battle, the crusader forces were destroyed and the town was burned. Near Kutná Hora the crusader forces under the command of Janek z Chtěnic and Pippo Spano (Filippo Scolari) attacked the formations of the Taborites without success.

On 22 May Taborite forces entered Prague. Jan Žižka destroyed the crusader's relief column which had to secure supplies which were sent to Hradčany and Vyšehrad. Meanwhile the crusading army captured Slaný, Louny and Mělník.

Defence of Prague

*The siege began on the 12th of 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 50-100 thousand soldiers. 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 trees 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 steepy cliff. Fortifications were said to be defended by 26 men and 3 women. In the opinion of J. Durdik, the fortifications were probably actually defended by about 60 soldiers.
*On the 13th of July, The Crusader's cavalry crossed the river Vltava (German name: "Moldau") and began their attack.
*On the 14th of July, Hussite relief troops surprise attacked 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 route the field. During the retreat, many knights drowned in the Vltava river. Most of Žižka's forces were soldiers armed with flails and guns. After the battle, the Hussites had won. Crusaders lost about 300 knights. In honour of this battle, Vítkov Hill was renamed Žižkov after Jan Žižka. This battle was more on a political success than a military success. As a consequence of the Hussite victory on Vitkov, crusaders lost any hope in starving the city and their army disintegrated. Afterward the crusaders withdrew to Kutná Hora and began local warfare.

A monument exists today on the hill and in 2003 local officials were attempting to replant the vineyard.


*Piotr Marczak "Wojny Husyckie" (English, "Hussites Wars") pages 61-67 published 2003 by "Egros" Warsaw

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