The Thirty Years War, unceasing from 1618 - 1648, stands as the longest war in modern day history and significantly altered Western Europe in religious, political and social ways. "The post-war period caused the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire and the subsequent fall of the Hapsburg powers." (Smith) The war also led to division in religion, moving the Lutherans further north and the Catholics to the south but more importantly it took the central power from the Catholic Church. Although most of the fighting happened in Germany, a majority of the powers in Europe was involved including: Bohemia, Spain, France, Denmark, Germany, and Sweden. The devastation of the Thirty Years War began in Bohemia as a religious dispute between the Catholics and the Protestants. If it were not for the Bohemian Rebellion and the Defenestration of Prague thirty years of suffering may have been avoided. The Habsburg family has ruled over Bohemia since 1526 when Ferdinand was elected king by the Bohemian estates. The Habsburg's holding Catholic beliefs added to the tension between Protestants and Catholics. The battle for religious freedom continued past Ferdinand death until his first-born son, Maximilian agreed to a more flexible religious policy created by the Bohemian Confession. The doctrine gave the Protestants protection in their faith and worship. Although Maximilian approved this confession, he did so orally with no guarantee his future successors would abide. Rudolf II was named emperor of the Holy Roman Empire in 1576, and moved the Court from Vienna to Prague by 1583. Prague had not been an imperial residence since the reign of the beloved Charles IV in the early 1300's. Rudolf also brought to Prague the passion for arts and science retuning the capital to the cultural centre of the empire. He invited various well-known artist and scientist of the era, including astronomers: Tycho de Brahe and Johannes Kepler Rudolf, however, were more concerned about his artistry than his political affairs. The rest of the Habsburgs were against Rudolf lack of involvement in their war against the Turks for the Hungary territory. They forced him to allow his younger brother, Matthias to take control of Hungarian affairs. Matthias managed to settle peace between the revolting Hungarians and the Turks through the Treaty of Vienna in 1606. Rudolf upset with Matthias concessions believed it was his brother's attempt to position himself to steal his kingship. Thus, Rudolf boycotted the Treaty of Vienna creating uproar. Matthias gained support from the Hungarians and began a rebellion against the King of Bohemia. The Bohemian Estates came to the aid of the king and halted the advancements of Matthias and his newfound allies. The battle nicknamed the Brother's War of 1609, resulted in Matthias gaining control of Moravia, Austria, and Hungary dividing the Bohemian Crown. Rudolf rewarded the bohemian's loyalty by granting them the Letter of Majesty. The doctrine guaranteed
Their rights of religious freedom with the right of a committee of nobles, named the Defensores, to ensure those privileges remained respected.
The Letter however was ambiguous on one point: whether lands of the Catholic Church were held from the King. If so, then Protestants could build churches and worship freely on these crown lands; if not, then the Catholic landholder could prohibit Protestantism within their estate. Two years after the signing of the Letter of Majesty Matthias took control of Prague Castle and the Bohemian Crown. Matthias ignored complaints from protestant estates arguing that their rights given in the Letter of Majesty were being denied when the noblemen destroyed two churches in Braunau and Klostergrab. On his own estates, Matthius found ways around the charter by appointing Catholic priests to the Protestant Churches. For the time being the Protestants kept quiet because Matthias was old and weakening