Important personalities

26. 4. 2010

George of Podebrady

George of Podebrady was born on 23 April 1420; his political activities fell into a complicated period of the Bohemian history, into the period when the country was exhausted by the Hussite wars and when there was interregnum after the short reign of Sigismund of Luxemburg and Albrecht Habsburg.


Georges's father, Viktorin Bocek, was a significant commander of Calixtin troops; he died when George was not still seven years old. When George was thirteen, the negotiation between clerical dignitaries and Hussite representatives headed by Jan Rokycan in Basel began. Jan of Rokycany ( Balzer's "Abbildungen böhmischer un mährischer Gelehrten und Künstler" 1773Then the Rokycana's Praguers allied with moderate Hussites and Bohemian Catholics against the radical Calixtin wing of so-called "Taborites" and "Orphans"; on 30 May 1434 both troops engaged in the Battle of Lipany. On the side of the moderate wing fought also fourteen-year-old George of Podebrady. The result of the long negotiation in Basel was the announcement of so-called "Compacta" (which were never recognized by the Pope) that allowed communion in both kinds. Thus Bohemian Lands became a region of two kinds of people and each inhabitant had to decide to which religion they wanted to belong to. The proclamation of Compacta was an important milestone on the European way to religious tolerance and freedom. Immediately afterwards, the Hussites recognized the validity of the coronation of Sigismund of Luxemburg and Sigismund acceded to the Bohemian throne. He confirmed the confiscation of the clerical property made during the Hussite wars but immediately afterwards he died in December 1437.

After the Sigismund's deatht his son-in-law Albrecht Habsburg acceded to the throne. But his reign did not lasted very long either and the king died of dysentery in 1439 during the military campaign against Turks. The Albrecht's son had been born several moths after his father's death and therefore he was called Ladislaus the Posthumous. The country was then administered by Landfrieds - military-political associations operating on the regional principle. The most powerful ones were in the East Bohemia with the Calixtin majority. In spite of his early age as he was twenty-four then, it was just George of Podebrady who became its commander in 1444; it was especially because of his military and diplomatic skills. He conquered Prague in 1448 which had been controlled by Catholic aristocracy and stacked there the Calixtin archbishop Rokycana who had left the capital before due to the discord with Sigismund. The objective of the policy of George of Podebrady was the restoration of the political unity of the country and termination of interregnum; in his efforts he found support especially among lower calixtin aristocracy and towns of East Bohemia.

He continued this policy after he was elected the regional governor in 1452. His activities were based on smart diplomacy and marriage policy (for example – he nominated the Catholic lord Zdenek of Stemberk as the highest burgrave), and also on the power (he conquered the town of Tabor as a centre of the radical Calixtin wing and he interned the representative of the Taborite church – Nicholas of Pelhrimov and Wenceslas Koranda). In 1453 assumed the reign of government thirteen-year-old Ladislaus the Posthumous who died four years later of leukaemia. George of Podebrady (Schedel, Liber chronicarum 1493)On 2 March 1458 George of Podebrady was elected the King of Bohemia at the Old Town Hall by votes of the Bohemian Estates (representatives of the Catholic aristocracy agreed with the nomination either). The election meant the breakthrough into the traditional medieval customs and became a significant event in the Bohemian history. The fact that the Bohemian throne became freely elected was the evidence of the growth of political power of the Estates and changes which had been brought by the Hussite revolution. The anonymous Calixtin chronicler commented the election of George of Podebrady by the following words: "And it was a great joy of all the faithful Bohemians and many of them were weeping for joy that the God freed them of the power of German kings who had intended to do evil to Bohemian people and in particular those who adhered to the Bible".

The position of George of Podebrady in Bohemian Lands and in Europe was quite complicated first; for many people he was a heretic who had not come from a high noble stock; votes for his election were of the Bohemian representatives of the Estates while Moravian Catholics voted against him. However George of Podebrady was a smart diplomat and he gradually succeeded to gain recognition in the entire territory of the Bohemian Crown. He acted as the king of the both people (Catholic and Calixtin one) he enforced the art of a compromise and the marriage policy, he insisted on observing the regulations which guaranteed the stability in the clerical sphere. Both his wives were of the Catholic origin and his advisors were mostly Catholics either. However he did not want to allow formation of new churches; that is why he intervened against the "Unity of Brethren", which was forming those days.

In 1462 the Pope Pius II declared the Compacta allowing to communion in both kinds, nulland void. George of Podebrady responded to this act by wide-ranging projects the objective of which was to prevent the Bohemian state from isolation and to weaken the international influence of the Papal court. George of Podebrady developed the concept of the peace union of European rulers, the main organs of which were the permanent congress with the legislative power and the legal court. We can say that this project envisaged the supranational organizations which were established as later as in the twentieth century. With the pushing ahead of this plan , it is also connected the well-known journey to the West-European courts which was undertaken by the legation consisting of the Catholic aristocracy headed by the king's brother-in-law Lev of Rozmital ( the daily of a participant of the journey became a basis of the book of the Bohemian writer Alois Jirásek "From Bohemia to the End of the World".) Nevertheless, plans of George of Podebrady did non meet with a good response and failed in the end.

George of Podebrady (From the  Kuthen's "Chronicle on Foundation of Bohemian Land" 1539)

The situation was still dramatizing; the Confederation of Zelena Hora headed by Zdenek of Stemberk was established against him, Catholic towns Vratislav and Pilsen rebelled. In 1466 the Pope Paul II anathematized him, George of Podebrady was uncrowned and the Pope declared the crusade against Bohemia. This crusade was headed by the Hungarian King and the former son-in-law of George of Podebrady – Matthew Corvinius; however after the Battle of Vilemov he found himself in the siege and he was captured. George of Podebrady set the captive free as Matthew had promised to cease further war and to plead for the king's reconciliation with the Pope. However Matthew did not meet his promises; he let himself elected the Bohemian King by the Catholic estates in Olomouc – his title was acknowledged in Moravia, Lusatia and Silesia and thus George of Podebrady had the power only in Calixtin Bohemia, in fact. In such a situation George of Podebrady understood that he could not hold the Bohemian Crown for his sons any longer and he concluded an agreement on the succession with the Polish King Casimir IV from the Jagiellon dynasty. The Bohemian Assembly refused Matthew and recognized the succession right to Ladislaus Jagiello, the son of Casimir IV. The Both sides, the Matthew's and George of Podebrady's ones, were exhausted by the war; there was a chance for peace in early 1471, however George of Podebrady unexpectedly died on 22 March . He was buried in the royal tomb in the St. Vitus´s Cathedral.

Kunhuta of Sterberk

George of Podebrady was married for two times, he had seven children with Kunhuta of Stemberk and five children with Johanna of Rozmital. Perhaps the most important child was Hynek of Stenberk, translator of Boccaccio, writer and poet who brought a renaissance spirit into the Bohemian literature.

George of Podebrady was the only one Bohemian ruler who did not come from a ruler dynasty and who was elected by the Estates. Nowadays we appreciate his religious tolerance, reasonable policy and the ability to reach a compromise and in particular his dream of institutionally based peaceful unity in Europe.

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