Selected Passages from Hungarian-Ottoman Wars

Just a scene from the last days of Kőszeg’s siege in 1532:

The Siege of Kőszeg (Güns) in 1532

Imagine: the defenders, led by Nikola Jurišić (Jurisics Miklós) at the beginning of the siege, had only 46 soldiers and 700 armed peasants, not counting the German burghers and the 1,800 women and 2,300 children/adolescents, faced Sultan Suleiman’s army of minimum 80,000 men. After repelling 18 full-scale assaults between 5 August and 27 August, the Turks launched their last attack against the surviving Hungarian, German and Croatian defenders. We are sure, that many women and teenagers joined the fighting men, just like at the siege of Eger Castle in 1552 or at other places. Armed Hungarian women on the ramparts were not an unusual sight to the Ottomans attackers on the Borderland.

Jurisics Miklós aka Nikola Jurisic

There are two legends about beating back this last assault. According to Paolo Giovio, the Turks saw St. Marton with a fiery sword in his hand riding from the sky and he frightened the victorious Ottomans. He said he had heard this story in Vienna, right after the siege. On the other hand, a historian called Bariska István says that Captain Jurisics wrote to Ferdinand on 30 August 1532 that when the Turks got into the castle,  “they heard the wailing of our women and children and from this, they thought that we had hidden armed soldiers into the houses so they got frightened”.

Saint Jakab Church, Kőszeg (Photo: Pan Peter)

As it was, the Turks had been storming the walls mightily ever since dawn and were pushing back the defenders, even Captain Jurisics received a wound. Everything was hopeless, the enemy was in the castle already. Legend says that the folks in Kőszeg held a Holy Mass at 5 o’clock in the morning in the Saint Jakab church. They wanted to get prepared for certain death, and at the same time, they wanted to witness the wedding of Markó Bálint and his bride, Margit. The bride was dressed in her best dress and the people took on their brightest clothes, too. In the meantime, the defenders could not stop the Turks and were forced back until the church’s wall.

The castle of Kőszeg (Photo: PhilippHuet99)

Seeing this, Markó Bálint took his sword and joined the soldiers but his bride followed him with a drawn sword. The people poured out of the church and rushed to the help of the yelling, screaming bride who attacked the enemy like an avenging angel. Margit wanted to defend her love by all means and she was slaughtering the enemy. On her heels, the folks were so loud that the foe got frightened by this unexpected sight, and turning their back, they fled. What a surreal scene.

Later, the shocked Janissaries told their officers that they were not able to fight against heavenly creatures who took the shape of humans. The siege was lifted and the army of Sultan Suleiman returned home. However, to save face, the Ottomans were allowed to put their flag on the ruins of the small castle that blocked their way toward Vienna against all the odds. Without the miracle of St. Martin or Lady Margit, it would also have been a remarkable deed. Ever since, the burghers of Kőszeg have been tolling their bells every day at 11 AM, commemorating the time when the Turks left for home.

Facts behind the legend:

It is true, that Margit and Bálint got married on that day. We know, that Markó Bálint used to be one of the 12 members of the City Council who helped Captain Jurisich during the siege. He was a very wealthy burgher of the city, he lived in such houses of Kőszeg:

Photo: Pan Peter

There is a very sad event that is connected to this event. In 1539, Margit (she was German, presumably, too) was cursing a German burgher, scolding him that he might end up like an impaled frog. The problem was that her curse was taken seriously. She was charged with witchcraft, got arrested, tortured, and was made to admit that she was a witch, or at least she was using magic. Finally, she was pardoned and her punishment “was suspended”. We have all the documents, written by her persecutors. We also know that her daughter was the wife of Forintos Mátyás, the artilleryman of Jurisich. Allegedly, poor Fotintos was also charged with witchcraft when he was 81 in the year 1561. Sadly, these witch cases were actually triggered by power fights between the richest German burghers of Kőszeg.

However, the white dress of the bride in 1532 must be a later addition to the story. Wearing white on the wedding day was not considered a lucky thing in this age so Margit must have been wearing her finest dress for the occasion that took place on the most perilous day of the siege. Even the whole story may have been true, though the torturer didn’t mention it in his report in 1539.

As for whether German burghers (and their women) could use the swords, we have facts. We know, that longsword fencing was a very popular sport activity among the German burghers, and we know about several fencing guilds where they could obtain knowledge of the sword.

Reenactors of our days practice HEMA

You can read more about Kőszeg castle here:

Kőszeg in 1532 (by Fodor Zsolt)

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