Prague executed 27 noblemen

Like all medieval cities, Prague had its fair share of brutality and executions. One particular execution of 27 noblemen is faithfully recorded in the paving of the Old Town Square.

In 1618, several members of the Bohemian nobility rebelled against the Habsburg monarchy. They opposed the decision to impose Catholicism throughout the Empire. They defenestrated two governors from Prague Castle in their rage.[2] [5] This was the beginning of the revolt that led to the Thirty Years’ War [3] which decimated most of Europe. (The nearby city of Brno foiled one battle in this war and changed history, see my article about this for further reading.) One famous battle between the Protestant Bohemians and the Imperial army took place on White Mountain in 1620. The Habsburg’s won the battle and 47 nobles were put on trial. [2]

The Old Town Hall - Prague, CzechiaIn 1621, as a result of this trial, the city executed 27 Czechs in Prague’s Old Town Square for their participation in the revolt. Local executioner Jan Mydlář started the executions  at 5:00 am on 21 June. Contemporary drawings show that three were hanged from beams protruding from one of the Town Hall’s windows. [2] The rest were beheaded. Mydlář sympathised with the nobles but was forced to do his job. He sharpened his sword to such an extent that an English spectator remarked it seemed like the heads were blown off the bodies of the condemned. [2] Mydlář’s sympathy did not go too far though; the city paid him the equivalent of a middle-class house for these four hours’ work. [6]

Some of the condemned had their tongues cut out before beheading. Some bodies were quartered and left on the roads leading out of Prague as a warning sign to others. [1]

The Church of Our Lady of Tyn - Prague, CzechiaAt 9:00 am, twelve heads were collected and placed in two baskets. These baskets were hung on the towers of the Charles Bridge as a warning to others. [2] They hung there for two decades. The city then buried them in the foundation of the famous Tyn Cathedral that now dominates the skyline in the Old Town Square. [1] [2]

The crosses on the Old Town Square - Prague, CzechiaOn the pavement, right on the location where the scaffold was built, there are 27 crosses marked in the ground nxt to the date of the execution. The names of the executed are engraved on a plaque nearby on the Old Town Hall. [2]

According to local lore, the ghosts of these noblemen rise at twilight on 21 June and return to the Old Town Square. [1] [4] They keep an eye on the astronomical clock to ensure that all is well with Prague. If not, the story goes, these noblemen are ready to rise up and defend Prague once more. [1]

The date of execution - Prague, Czechia

Have you visited any sites of executions? Leave a comment and let us know what you thought!


[1], Prague Ghost Stories, (Retrieved 2017)
[2] Private Prague Guide, 27 Noblemen Executed (Retrieved 2017)
[3] Wikipedia, The Old Town Square Execution, 2017
[4], The Old Town Square, (Retrieved 2017)
[5], Prague’s Day of Blood, (Retrieved 2017)
[6] Wikipedia, Jan Mydlář, (German), 2010


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