The history of Europe has been documented with utmost precision and detail for at least the last 1000 years. While it is well understood that it was the birth place of many great inventions, political ideologies and world trade centers, it is sure known for the violence with which it propagated through history. The most famous examples are the crusades, the war against the Ottomans, Napoleon’s conquest and last but definitely not least: both the World Wars. However, to ignite a revolution or push a political change one must not necessarily collect a huge army to fight the system (Heard that, Marx?) . History has shown that it suffices to just throw that “stubborn lil’ motherfucker” out of the most nearby window, provided it’s high enough. Let’s get into it!
I remember when I was a kid and I went to visit an old castle with my parents, I was always terrified by the windows or the tops of the tower. It seemed like it was a matter of a second before a) I would randomly lose my balance and fall out, b) The wind would suck me out all of a sudden or c) someone would feel evil enough to actually push me out. It suffices to say that I always happily stayed in my mother’s vicinity (obviously she wouldn’t do that, right? Or would she?).
Unfortunately, for many people it was hard reality. Defenestration was already mentioned as a punishment in the Bible and later also triggered huge revolutions. The most famous example are the renowned Prague defenestrations.
A long time ago, in a kingdom far far away or close close by depending on where you live in this digitally interconnected world, named Bohemia, a certain Jan Želivský decided that he wasn’t very happy with the corrupt state of the Church. He marched to the town square together with a huge delegation in order to pressure the patricians to release several Hussite* prisoners. When they refused and threw a stone at Jan out of the Town Hall window, there was no way the crowd could be held in place. Now, as we all say “Oh, you can throw a stone out of the window? Guess what I can throw out.” (Hint: It’s not “your mom”) and so thirteen Patricians found the end of their lives, face first.
Needless to say that soon the Hussite Wars broke out, which lasted for sixteen years.
As if it was an inspiration, Prague soon came back to this practice, which had proven to be very effective indeed. In the early 17th century, protestants had freedom of religion in (by now ruled by Habsburgers) Bohemia. This changed when Ferdinand II, the Habsburg ruler of Bohemia at the time, ordered to demolish some protestant churches on Royal Grounds. According to Protestants, this was in violation with the Letter of the Majesty, which stated religious freedom for all in Bohemia. A few protestants came together to travel to Prague and convicted two Lord regents there of violating the Letter. These two were then casually thrown out the window of the famous Prague Castle and so begins the story of the 30-years war. (Note: Both survived the fall and up until this day some Catholics see this as a ‘sign’ that they were saved by angels or by the Virgin Mary)
When we talk about the history of Europe, it is almost impossible to not mention the Medici family. Few people know that they were not the only rich and important family in Firenze, but it’s impossible to state that they didn’t stand out.
One of their rival families, the Pazzi, planned a big assassination on two Medici brothers: Lorenzo and Giuliano. This plan is better known as the Pazzi conspiracy and it shaped the lives of all their descendants and definitely ended the life of some others. If you were to kill one of the most respected and feared figures in a metropole, where would you do it? En plein publique, of course. In the Duomo of the Santa Maria del Fiore, during the mass.
Long story short: Giuliano got killed and Lorenzo escaped. Shortly after, the Pazzi were hunted down and Jacopo, the head of the family, was defenestrated from a window of the Palazzo della Signoria. The entire family was sent into exile and could only return after, in 1494, Piero de Medici was overthrown (and with him, the entire Medici family)
Throughout the years, Europe had experienced many more of these defenestrations and later it also ‘gained popularity’ outside the continent (for example, during the Cultural revolution in China, where defenestration was classified under ‘suicide’ after interrogation by the Red Guards ). For a complete list of defenestrations, go here.
*Hussite: The Hussites (Czech: Husité or Kališníci; “Chalice People”) were a Christian movement following the teachings of Czech reformer Jan Hus (c. 1369–1415), who became the best-known representative of the Bohemian Reformation and one of the forerunners of the Protestant Reformation. This predominantly religious movement was propelled by social issues and strengthened Czech national awareness. (WikiPedia)