Bells on display in front of the Matthias Church, Budapest


It was 1456, May. A huge power threatened Europe. After taking Byzantium, the Ottomans were on the march to swallow Vienna and the Western world. Only the Kingdom of Hungary was left on its way.

The “Pulsatio Meridiana”, the tolling of the bells at noon was declared by Pope Callixtus III on 29 June 1456, saying that “a sign should be given to the Christians to pray for those who are fighting against the Turks”. The believers were called upon to pray for Hunyadi János, Regent–Governor of the Kingdom of Hungary and Voivode of Transylvania, and his troops to be able to stop the Islamic Turkish invasion and expansion into Europe. The text of the prayer was the next: ‘Almighty, ever-lasting God, to whom all power belongs, and in whose hands are the rights of all nations, protect Thy Christian people and crush by Thy power the pagans who trust in their fierceness.’

Hunyadi János in the Chronicle of Thuróczi

Kapisztrán (John Capistran) set out from Buda on 15 April 1456 and recruited 20,000 men to help Hunyadi. Capistran, the helper of Hunyadi in defeating the Ottomans in 1456, was canonized as a saint. At Nándorfehérvár (Belgrad) on 22 July 1456, the Ottomans received a stunning defeat. Sultan Mehmed II, the taker of Byzantium had to flee. After this, Hunyadi János was considered an “Athleta Christi” and church bells still ringing in memory of his decisive victory over the Ottomans.

Saint Capistran leads the Crusaders

The news of the Pope’s “Pulsatio Meridiana” and of the victory of Hunyadi arrived in Vienna at the same time. The Hungarians, quite naturally, connect the two things together as they can be indeed connected. Later the Pope himself claimed that the victory was caused because the prayer had been issued before it. Who knows? It must have helped the soldiers, likewise, the legendary motivation had been given by Capistran. You can read more about the Siege of Nándorfehérvár (Belgrad) here:

Pope Callixtus III issues the Papal Bull (mural, in the Church of Boldogasszony, Buda castle)

When the Pope got the news of the victory on 6 August, he turned the day into a great holiday of the Catholic Church and this is why we, Catholics celebrate Jesus’ Transfiguration on 6 August each year. The Pope gave a new interpretation to his earlier bull: ‘As God has helped the arms of the Christians to victory, the prayers said at the noon bell should also be prayers of thanksgiving.’ Also, this is why we say the prayer called Angelus at noon…

This bell is from Kassa: it was so loud that it was heard even in Eger castle in clear weather. Photo: Kocsis Kadosa

There are two interesting things about bells: the inhabitants of Kőszeg city are tolling the bells every day at 11 AM to commemorate the heroic siege of the castle in 1532. As for the bells in the Ottoman Occupied Lands of Hungary, in large, they were not allowed to be tolled during the Ottoman occupation but there were places where they were allowed. The attitude towards the local Christians was varied by Sanjaks: there were places where there was no tolerance at all and new churches were banned from being built and old ones were prohibited to be restored, but there were places where the Ottomans allowed the building of churches. Lest we forget, it would have been the future way of life in Europe in case of an Ottoman invasion.

The tombstone of Hunyadi in Gyulafehérvár / Alba Iulia (Transylvania, Romania)

The Ottoman Occupied Lands of Hungary was a rather different place from the rest of the Ottoman-occupied lands in the Balkan because the old laws, customs, and habits of the medieval Kingdom of Hungary made it quite impossible for the Ottomans to handle the Hungarians; a parallel society was built out as a result of this. Finally, Christian feudalism proved to be stronger than the Ottoman way of feudalism, as Várkonyi Ágnes, a famous researcher of the age once said.

The Turks’ 8-meter-long bronze cannon called “Emperor” was effective at Byzentinum but not at Nándorfehérvár (Belgrad)

Yet, let us not forget that Hungary fought against the world’s greatest superpower of that time and in 1456 managed to secure almost a whole century for Europe to develop its culture undisturbed. However, after this fight, the Hungarian-Ottoman wars had been going on until 1699. Europe was safe to develop.

Glory to the heroes! They’ll never be forgotten as long as we hear the bells at noon!

Source: partly from:  

The Siege of Nándorfehérvár in 1456

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