«Quand les Suédois se dirigeaient sur Brno...".
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LA DÉFENSE DE BRNO 1645
SWEDISH SIEGE OF BRNO 1645
The siege of Brno by the Swedish army in 1645, one of the most famous events in the history of the city, belongs to the last stage of the Thirty Years' War (1635-1648). This first all-European war (and at the same time last religion war) started with the uprising of Czech non- Catholic nobility against Catholic Habsburg dynasty, and spread across Moravia and Silesia to other parts of Europe. The belligerents were two coalitions of feudal states: Catholic League on one side and Protestant Union on the other side. But the interests of power prevailed over the religion-and with entry of France into the war this conflict definitely lost its religious nature.
The presence of Swedish Protestant army on the Moravian territory is related to one of the ablest military leaders of the whole Thirty Years' War-general Lennart Torstenson, who moved military operations (since 1642) to the territory of the enemy, i.e. Habsburg Monarchy and thus also to the territory of Bohemia and Moravia. During 1645 the Swedish army seized control over almost the whole Moravia - with the aim to capture the capital of the Austrian Empire. Vienna. In their way was Brno with its unconquerable fortress Spielberk The Swedish armed forces threatened Brno three times, but only in spring 1645 the besieging was serious and heavy, involving many Austrian and Swedish troops. Colonel Jean-Lou is Baduit de Souches was appointed the military leader of the city. This vigorous and able Frenchman prepared the defence of the city, with the help of all inhabitants, within 6 weeks. The whole siege lasted for unbelievable 112 days, from 3 May to 23 August 1645. The Swedish troops had vast majority, with 28 thousand soldiers at the Brno's city walls, later supported by another 12 thousand men. On the side of defenders were less than 1 500 armed men. In spite of this fact they resisted and managed to defend themselves.
The crucial moment was Tuesday 15 August 1645: Swedish general Torstenson undertook a frontal attack on six places or spots at the same time. But he faded at all of those places. General Torstenson couple of days later after this event withdrew with his army away from Brno-and later even abandoned the position of main military leader of the Swedish army.
Route Nr. 1 "When went to Brno Swedes ...".
The route explains history of a siege of Brno in 1645 and traces the important places associated with the siege, including places, where a general onslaught on Aug. 15 was held. It clarifies the meaning and consequences defend enriched with key information about Raduit and his comrades, outlining his future career.
Time: 2-2,5 hod.
For guided tours look at: www.brnoguide.net
During Swedish siege was fortress Spielberk (later considered unconquerable} in rather pitiable conditions. The commander of the fortress was lieutenant colonel of Scottish origin George Jacob Ogilvy (originally spelling was probably O'Gilvy), who had only about 40 armed men at his command. Ogilvy's feelings were somewhat hurt by appointing of a Frenchman, who was three years younger, as the main military leader of Brno's defence, nevertheless their military cooperation was exemplary. Raduit de Souches had the walls of the castle as well as of the city repaired and ordered to dig deep ditches around them. He also ordered to supply Spielberk and the city with food, with fodder for horses and cattle, and also with weapons.
The fortress or castle Spielberk was one of the strategic points, which were under heavy attacks during the whole siege- especially the new bastion, remains of which you can see today near the small lake on the southwest side of the fortress.
The general attack on 15 August 1645 was led simultaneously on the castle Itself and also on the covered road leading to fortress. Qgilvy's musketeers nevertheless defended themselves and significantly contributed to successful defence of Brno.
Permanent exhibition "Bmo in Spielberk" is dedicated to the topic of Brno's siege. You can see pictures of protagonists, weapons, model of that time Brno and other interesting displays in two rooms. Today you can find the coats of arms (both Raduit de Souches and Ogilvy), including promoted coat of arms of Brno (with Habsburg dynasty insignia), in the big courtyard of Spielberk.
One of the five town gates existed near today's Silinger Square since medieval times-so called Brno's gate-leading aut of the city towards Old Brno and Vienna. Commander Raduit de Sotiches had the covered corridor (I:strada cooperta") between castle and town build right from this spot.
The fortress Spielberk suffered in hot summer days from shortage of water, and the covered corridor served for water supplying (water was transported by means of wagons). Through this very spot came the first promised help to Brno-on 26 July lieutenant colonel count Stepan of Vrbno with his 300 cavalrymen made their way into the town here. They brought even so needed gunpowder that day with them. On 15 August the attack of Swedes towards Spielberk was deflected here by soldiers led by lieutenant Piimayer.
The Brno's citizens were ready to defend their town at any price, they would prefer to die rather than to surrender. Lennart Torstenson claimed, that he wanted Brno also at any price and that "the mouse hole" will fall in his hands within three days and Spielberk within one week. All attempts for negotiations proposed by Swedes were unequivocally rejected, Brno's citizens refused to surrender. The commander of the city one day even ordered to blow the trumpets on the city walls and to raise the flags and targets on the towers, allegedly to ..help the Swedes to aim better".
And one legend says that in Spielberk crew were really excellent gunmen: Sad-tempered general Torstenson was sitting one day in front of his tent and was just about to drink wine from large tankard. That moment flew a cannon ball from Spielberk and knock out the tankard from his hand. That must have been really masterful shot. It is said that scared Torstenson then ordered smaller cup of wine, so that the gunman would have ..smaller target".
The military headquarters of Brno was in 1645 in today's Bishop's residence opposite to cathedral of St. Peter and St. Paul. It was the seat of commander Raduit de Souches, who personally organized the defence of the town during the general attack from here. The church was already damaged during short Swedish siege in September 1643 (the building lost its tower), and Swedish attacks two years later damaged it much more. Iwo current typical towers of Petrov were built only in the beginning of 20-th century.
The house no, 8 boasts promoted family coat of arms of Raduit de Souches and the house no. 6 has on its facade baroque plaque from the year 1650 as a tribute to his brilliant commanding.
On 15 August 1645 Swedes started their attack here at five a.m., after one hour break they launched another try at five p.m., as well as on other five points of Brno's city wails. The fights continued to late evening hours. This fact contradicts popular legend about Brno's noon.
This legend has it that Torstenson called a meeting of his officers to
the pub Blue Lion in Old Brno. He decided there that if the town is not in
Swedish hands on 15 August before the bells ring the noon, he would withdraw
with his army. The innkeeper overheard that plan, at night crept into the town,
and revealed Swedish plans to the defenders. On the day of final attack, in the
moment when the Swedes almost managed to break the city walls, the old bell
ringer was ordered to climb the tower of Petrov and ring the noon one hour
earlier. Torstenson thought it is really noon, and commanded to withdraw away
from Brno. Since then, as a tradition, the bells of Petrov ring noon at eleven
Former Jewish Gate
The area in front of former Jewish Gate was very frequented point of Swedish attacks-today you can see the model of the gate on the corner of Nadrazni Street and Masaryk Street, The real fragments of this gate are displayed in the museum in Spielberk castle. The most decorated town's gate used to stand in front of today's main railway station.
Raduit de Souches cleverly ordered to burn down and level with terrain all the buildings, trees etc. to the distance of 600 steps from the city walls-to make hiding of the enemy impossible and deprive the Swedes of this advantage.
he second reinforcement helping the tired defenders came through this area at night on 8 August-thanks to general Gallas-the troop of 250 dragoons under command of lieutenants Hennemann and Unger. They brought also very needed sulphur for manufacturing of the gunpowder.
Raduit de Souches fought here personally on 15 August, the day of final attack; the area was defended by burghers under command of Maxmi- lian of Hof. Rakoczi's troops managed to reach even the space right under the fortifications, but by means of grenades also this area was successfully defended. The usage of hand grenades started to be common just during the Thirty Years' War. That time grenades were simple small iron or glass balls with gunpowder filling. It was effective and dangerous weapon-but for both sides!
One curious legend has it that Raduit de Souches was very proud of his hair- and during one of the counter-attacks the cannon bail scorched a wisp of his hair right here.
Schwanz's house, incorrectly called House of Lords of Lipa, stands until these days in the Freedom Square. This house served after the successful defence of the city as a residence of commander Raduit de Souches. He bought it in 1649 for 6000 gold coins-even a garden outside the city walls belonged to this house. One of his sons-Charles Luis [also successful commander) lived here later, both lines ot the family died out, but distant relatives are probahly still living in southern Italy.
Raduit de Souches was bom on 15 August 1608 in one Huguenot family in La Rochelle, western France. When he was twenty years old, he joined the Protestant Swedish army (in Germany). He ascended in ranks and became famous also for his bravery. Because of conflicts with his superiors he later left the army of Christina, Queen of Sweden, and in 1642 he entered the service of Emperor Ferdinand III, where his star was shining again. That's why the Emperor appointed him on 14 March as a commander-in-chief of the city of Brno.
The city ol Brno was and still is proud and steadfast city. Modern chronometer made of black granite in the eastern part of the square (near to the ground plan of former church of St. Nikolas) reminds this fact. The clock refers to a legend, which says that general Torstenson could be killed only by means of a magical glass bullet. So every day at 11 a.m. a glass bullet (with Brno'scoat of arms) falls out from this chronometer in the shape of a cartridge or missile, and one happy ..catcher" can boast with a highly-valued souvenir. The clock was ceremonially introduced in September 2010.
Today this palace in Koblizna Street houses a public institution - Jan Mahen Library. In medieval times there used to be three houses here, one of them bought, after successful defence of Brno, the commander of Spielberk fortress George Jacob Ogilvy (1605-1661]. Ogiivy was a member of one old Scottish noble family. He tost one hand in a battle, thus his nickname "0ne-armed." Ogilvy bought the house in I6b3 for 2000 gold coins and lived there with his wife and seven children.
When he died in 1661, he was
buried-according to his last will-in a tomb of monastery church in Rajhrad This
man stands rather in the shade of his superior-commander Raduit de Souches,
which is not quite fair. Both of these men were of quarrelsome nature, moreover
Ogilvy felt aggrieved by de Souches appointment to the post of
commander-in-chief, but as military professionals" they cooperated
exemptarily and formed one of the piiiars for successful defence of the city
The Swedes never reached these premises within the city walls. But the citizens-defenders started to feel tired and exhausted. There was a shortage of food, ammunition and fodder for horses and cattle. In the end of June the count of Vrbno cavalrymen arrived, so the number of horses even increased. About 400 horses were later saved by a secret escape to Pernstejn.
On the other hand, because of hunger and starvation, people started to consume horse meat. But no one of butchers in Brno wanted to slaughter the horses, such act was considered as dishonourable that time. So de Souches ordered to two military butchers to slaughter the horses, and at the same time he issued a certificate of honour and honesty for them.
The Jesuit Church was built in 1578, that time incorporated also the Jesuit College. During the siege the Jesuit priest and teacher Martin Streda -known also as Stredonius (1587-1649)-was a rector of this college. He is considered to play a ro!e of spiritual and moral pillar of the city.
Martin Streda was barn in Gliwice, Silesia. This holy man, as he was called later, organized students of the college and encouraged citizens of Brno as well as commander de Souches, supplying moral support to them. He was said to plead the victory for Brno's defenders by means of prayers and penitent deeds. The city council even testified this in written form in 1671. After his death there was an effort to beatify hinrt-and this issue is still under discussion. His mummified body lies in the church crypt in the glass coffin.
The Jesuit Church was heavily damaged, together with other buildings, on 25 July 1645 That day the city was bombarded by heavy cannons brought by Zikmund Rakoczi - son of the Duke of Transylvania. The nicknames of those guns were Cat and Mouse. Such heavy cannons were usually transported dismantled.
The Jesuit College was another strategic point which was on 15 August under heavy Swedish attack from five a.m., together with above mentioned Petrov. But both this morning attack and subsequent afternoon attack at 5 p.m. were repulsed by students and burghers encouraged by priest Martin Streda. It is said that the very last Swedish cannon ball shot towards the college stopped right in front of Martin Streda - and this moment was the end of the siege of Brno.
St. James's Church
Raduit de Souches died at his castle in Jevisovice on 12 August 1682. According to his last will, his body was ceremonially transported to Brno and buried alongside his first wife in St. James's Church. Decorated copper coffin with his body remains lies in the crypt-which is not open to the public. The entrance to the crypt is covered by a marble slab inserted in the church floor.
The bronze kneeling statue of Raduit de Souches behind the altar is placed on the coffin made of dark grey marble. There is a whitish marble plaque on the front side of the coffin, with the text in Old German, describing the life, heroic deeds and military success of this colonel, who was after Brno's defence promoted into the rank of field marshal for the whole Moravia.
On the occasion of anniversary of defending against Swedish siege a wreath laying ceremony takes place here, similarly like at Martin Streda's coffin in Jesuit Church. Quite worthily-in his days he was called "the Greatest Brno Citizen" and successful delence of the city in 1645 was not the end of his military career.
There is an entrance into Ossuary right next to St. James's Church. Here you can see skeleton remains of plague and cholera epidemics victims, as well as remains of the dead from Thirty Years' War and Swedish siege. These forgotten premises were discovered in 2001, during archaelogical research before St. James's Square reconstruction. Renovated Ossuary was then open to the public in 2012. Just after catacombs in Paris this is said to be the second largest ossuary in the whole Europe. It is open all year round.
St. Thomas's Church
This area (near today's Moravian Square! was considered the weakest link of defence. St. Thomas's Church used to stand outside the city walls those days, that's why it had its own fortifications. The heaviest fights took place here, nevertheless the Swedes did not manage to get over the fortifications. On 15 August this spot, defended by musketeers, dragoons, as well as Brno burghers, was attacked by lorstenson's deputy colonel de Mortaigne and the elite regiment called ..Altblau". The attackers managed to climb the fortifications, but with the help of fifty dragoons from St, Thomas's Church even this attack was successfuly repulsed.
The valuable painting of so called "Black Madonna" was inside the St, Thomas's Church during the siege of Brno. This painting is considered to be Palladium of Moravia i.e. protecting picture of Moravia. The painting is made with oil colours on wood, and it is so dark that depicted Mother Mary started to be called "8lack Madonna", Legend says that this icon was painted by Saint Luke the Evangelist. During the siege the venerated picture was the object of worship of Brno's citizens.
Another legend has it that Brno was saved by Mother Mary, who appeared on 15 August, in the time of the fiercest Swedish attack, with her cloak above the town-and with this gesture she saved the city of Brno. Today this picture serves as an altarpiece in the Basilica of the Assumption of Virgin Mary in Mendel Square, Old Brno. A copy of this painting hangs almost In every church in Brno.
Since 2010 a faithful bronze model of Brno (how it looked in the year 1645) is placed in the Moravian Square.
The Fight is Over
In the year 1645 the enemy did not manage to conquer the city walls of Brno and the city was the only capital which defended itself. The death toll was: 250 killed men on defenders' side and 8000 killed Swedish soldiers. Brno was heavily damaged by bombardment and fires, villages in vicinity were burnt down and depopulated. But by defending of Brno, the Habsburg capital Vienna was saved-and the emperor Ferdinand III appreciated this fact. The city of Brio, its inhabitants as well as main protagonists were rewarded, besides other things with new coat of arms for the city.
Raduit de Souches was promoted to the rank of general and rewarded with 30000 gold coins. His career was on the rise: three years later he was appointed a field marshal and commander-in-chief of Moravia and Silesia, in 1650 he gained all the rights of local nobility. George Jacob Ogilvy was promoted to the rank of colonel and appointed "life commander of Spielberk". The Jesuit priest Martin Stfeda was appointed a Provincial Superior of the order, but he died in 1649. On 3 February 1646 the emperor issued so called ..Swedish privilege", the city of Brno was rewarded with 30000 gold coins from land taxes and freed from all financial obligations and accommodation duties for 5 years.
The victory over the Swedes in Brno influenced even the negotiations concerning the Peace of Westphalia in favour of the Habsburg Monarchy. This victory was an unprecedented deed-and the name Brno was soon famous all around the Europe. The reputation of ..invincible" Swedish army and its commander-in-chief was gone. The courage, bravery, and concordance of Brno's citizens, regardless their age, social or national differences-in such a great scale-were that time quite unique and fascinates us even today.
Historical landmarks of the year 1645
6.3. • Army of Ferdinand 111 was crushed in the battle of Jankov,
Swedish army gave their attention to Vienna and Brno
14.3. • Jean-Louis Raduit de Souches appointed commander-in-chief of Brno
15.3. • Raduit de Souches arrived to Brno and started preparation for the defence of the city
3. 5. • Lennart Torstenson's troops arrived to Brno, they pitched camps in Old Brno, Zabrdovice and Kralovo Pole
15. 5. • Spielberk commander Ogilvv subordinated to de Souches
4. 6. * The clay of big Swedish disaster-because of heavy storm- the Swedish ditches were flooded with water
26. 6. • The defenders supported by 300 men of Stepan of Vrbno
19. 7. • Swedes reinforced by 10 000 men of Zikmund Rakoczi
25. 7. • City was damaged by Rakoczi's cannons bombardment (the two biggest cannons were nicknamed Cat and Mouse)
8, 8. * Dragoons led by lieutenants Hennemann and Unger broke into the city, they brought sulphur for manufacturing of the gunpowder
15.8, • At 5 a.m. started the final attack, performed on six spots
20.8. • Swedish infantry withdrew from ditches to camps in Zabrdovice and Komarov
23.8. • Swedish army marched towards Zidlochovice