1550 Brother György defeats his enemies in Transylvania

Brother György Martinuzzi (1482-1551)
After the death of King Szapolyai János in 1540, it was Brother György, one of the deceased king’s most trusted men, who practically ran the kingdom of (eastern) Hungary. He was one of the authorized guardians of the baby János Zsigmond, the son of Queen Isabella. On behalf of the baby king, it was Brother György who had to balance the power between the Habsburgs and Sultan Suleiman.
Brother Martinuzzi György, the White Monk
This was made all the more difficult by the fact that after Szapolyai’s death, Ferdinand of Habsburg immediately sent his troops to take Buda Castle. The imperials failed because Sultan Suleiman had ‘saved’ it for the baby king: Buda fell to the Ottomans in 1541, and Brother György never forgave himself. After all, he invited Suleiman to Buda to save it from the Habsburgs. However, it is believed that Suleiman would not have decided to occupy Buda Castle if Queen Isabella hadn’t secretly tried to cede Buda to the besieging Habsburg forces.
If you want to read more about the fall of Buda, here is my dramatized writing about it:
Suleiman received Isabella and her son at Buda in 1541
Needless to say, the relationship between the Queen and Brother György (the White Monk) was not very good. The priest was a talented politician and a good soldier. In fact, he was the statesman who laid the foundations of the Principality of Transylvania. As it turned out, in 1549 he signed a secret treaty with Ferdinand of Habsburg in Nyírbátor.
It was agreed that the White Monk would cede Transylvania to Ferdinand if the king would help him against the Ottomans. The Queen was unaware of the treaty as she was enjoying herself at Déva Castle.
Nyírbátor, the Báthory palace (Picture: Kocsis Kadosa)
We will see that the civil war broke out because Queen Isabella belittled the terms of the Treaty of Nyírbátor, wanting more in exchange for her resignation. When she heard the details of the treaty, she acted immediately: she betrayed the secret treaty to the Sultan. She slipped the information to the Sultan in the hope that Suleiman might get rid of Brother György, her governor and treasurer.
The signatures of Isabella and her son, 1558
She didn’t know that the Turks had been informed by their spies. Suleiman sent a csausz (official envoy) who demanded that the Hungarian nobles attending the Diet be loyal to the Queen’s son, János Zsigmond, and disobey Brother György. This demand encouraged the supporters of Queen Isabella, who began to organize a plot against the White Monk.
The Gold Forint of János Zsigmond and Isabella (1559)
The Queen relied on the support of the most powerful Hungarian lord of the Trans-Tisza region, Petrovics Péter. She offered to cede the Transylvanian castles of Becse and Becskerek (outside Transylvania) to the Sultan, and to pay him a higher tax than Vienna was already paying if the Sultan would remove Brother György. She does not seem to have been bothered by the danger that in this case Transylvania’s status and independence would have been reduced to the level of the vassal states of Wallachia and Moldavia.
Gyulafehérvár Photo: Dan Suciu
The rebels were led by Petrovics Péter. The Hungarian Székely border guards also joined them. Queen Isabella hired soldiers and took refuge in the castle of Gyulafehérvár (Alba Iulia), the capital of Transylvania. Sultan Suleiman tended to listen to them and sent his Chaus Mahmud to Transylvania`s capital, Gyulafehérvár (Alba Iulia). The Chaus brought a „pherman” that said, „The traitor Brother György should not be obeyed by anyone in the future, rather, he has to be wrought in chain be sent to the Sublime Port, or at least his head if he cannot be taken alive.”
Sultan Suleiman I
Suleiman even sent Isabella a gift. At the same time, the Transylvanian estates were warned to remain loyal to Queen Isabella, the Polish widow of the late King Szapolyai. She began to gather soldiers and in June 1550, she locked herself in the capital in front of Brother György.
The silver of Sultan Suleiman I
The Hungarian-Serbian army recruited by Lord Petrovics arrived at the Queen’s shortly afterward. They camped in Gyulafehérvár under the leadership of Losonci Antal and Patóchy Ferenc. Then their horsemen marched along the valley of the Maros River. The Székely border guards also rebelled, and the Queen waited for Turkish and Walachian-Moldavian reinforcements to arrive.
Traditional light Székely cavalry
The army led by Petrovics took the castle of Alvinc (Vintu de Jos), and then he sent his Serbian captain, Miklós Cserepovics, to take the castle of Csanád. The smaller forts and castles were easily taken by the Serbian troops. Vízakna (Ocna Sibiului), an important salt-mining town, fell, as did the proud castle of Déva.
Csanád castle (by the Italian engineer, Marsigli)
The same happened to Branyicska (Branisca), Óbesenyő (Dudestii Vechi), Perjamos (Periam), Makó, Nagylak (Nadlac), Csálya, Egres castles. Petrovics was successful outside of Transylvania, too. He took Oroszlámos Castle (Banatsko Arandelovo) which is now in Serbia-Montenegro, 27 kilometers from Szeged to the south.
The Bánát region (before the fall of Serbia)
He took the castle of Tömpös, then they concentrated on attacking the key fortress of Csanád (Cenad). The besiegers, more than 4,000 men, were led by Captain Miklós Cserepovics, and the castle was bravely defended by the mercenaries of the Croatian Perussith Gáspár (a relative of the White Monk). The town fell quickly, and the inhabitants took refuge in the inner castle. There was not enough food or supplies. However, the defenders repulsed an attack on 25 September.
Captain Perrusith wrote a letter to Losonci István on 4 October, saying that although the castle had burned down and they had run out of food, they would have to give up the castle in ten days. Six days later we could already see Turkish troops helping the Serbian besiegers.
Queen Isabella (1519-1559)
What did Brother György do in the meantime? Let us not forget that he governed the remnants of the East Hungarian Kingdom and that he was also in charge of large territories outside Transylvania. Brother György was also quick to react. He still hoped that King Habsburg Ferdinand’s army would come and occupy the Maros River valley in Transylvania and take over the government. But Ferdinand was distracted by the campaign of Pasha Kászim. All the king’s men gathered around the strategic castle of Szolnok to protect its construction.
Szolnok in 1552 (By Pazirik Ltd.)
Seeing this, the Monk ordered the captain of Várad, Varkoch Tamás, to raise an army in the Kingdom of Hungary and to hurry to relieve Csanád Castle. Brother György had the Székely leaders executed, some of them bribed, and thus put down their rebellion at Székelyvásárhely. Meanwhile, Petrovics and his men marched from the Temesköz area into Transylvania. The troops of the Wallachian and Moldavian voivods and the soldiers of the Pasha of Buda set out. The White Monk was surrounded by the enemy.

The war’s turning point

The Monk had to make do with what he had. We had seen how one of his armies dealt with the rebellious lord of the Trans-Tisza region, Petrovics Péter. Now the Monk led his army and took the Saxon town of Szászsebes, then moved on to Medgyes. He was able to gather a strong army and in September 1550 he surrounded Gyulafehérvár, where the Queen had taken refuge. He asked the Queen to release Petrovics Péter, but Isabella refused. She hoped for the help of the Turks, she was informed that Pasha Kászim was almost at the castle of Lippa.
The medieval Medwisch / Medgyes
At the same time, the Monk organized a Diet in Medgyes, summoned the estates there, and paid huge sums of money to the Székelys’ leaders. He also sent an envoy to Sultan Suleiman “with empty words to deceive him”.
Déva castle about 1856-63, painting by Ludwig Rohbock (Source: Szöllösi Gábor)
However, the castle of Déva was desperately defended for six weeks, until Queen Isabella finally surrendered on 12 October and “forgave” the White Monk. The Monk humiliated himself before her and begged for her mercy on his knees, shedding many tears. Peace was restored, or so it seemed. The Monk sent his soldiers away, but he had his terms with the Queen. Isabella had to write a letter to the Pasha of Buda telling him that she no longer needed his services.
Déva castle
It can be assumed that the Begler Bey and the voivods did not really care about her letter. Against all odds, the Queen went back on her words the moment Brother György sent away his soldiers. She and Petrovics immediately began to ask the Turks and the Moldavian and Wallachian voivods for help.
A Wallachian rider
In fact, Sultan Suleiman ordered the Pasha of Buda and the Romanian (Wallachian and Moldavian) voivodes to enter Transylvania immediately and remove the Monk from his position. The Sultan felt “obliged” to help the son of the late King Szapolyai… The invasion was imminent.
It was 22 October and the army of Pasha Kászim of Buda was already at Lippa Castle. No wonder that on 23 October the Monk urged Ferdinand’s commanders to move into Transylvania. The Moldavians entered the Székely land on 2 November, while the Wallachians were at the Vöröstorony pass of the Carpathians.
Moldavian soldiers (by Somogyi Győző)

The monk realized how foolish it was of him to send his troops away, so he called an “armed” Diet to Torda on 29 October. “The bloody sword was carried around”, and according to the old Hungarian law, anyone who saw it had to take up arms. It was a general mobilization of everyone who could wield a sword.

The fortified church of Torda (Source: Csetri Elek, https://muvelodes.net)

Cserepovics’ army had grown to 8,000 men, and he was plundering and burning the Csanád region when the Monk’s man, Captain Varkoch Tamás of Várad Castle, suddenly appeared there and defeated his army in an early morning ambush, scattering the enemy in a fierce battle. Varkoch then quickly retook all the castles that Cserepovics had recently taken. He took a large booty from the Temes region, where Petrovics had his lands. By early November, he had retaken the castles along the Maros River and defeated Petrovics’ entire army.

a Hungarian nobleman from the 16th century

The country was terrified by the threats coming from all sides, so the Monk was able to mobilize the Székelys, the Saxons, the peasants, and all the able-bodied men living in Transylvania who could brandish a sword. Soon he had around 35-40,000 soldiers under his banner.

A Saxon infantryman (Drawing: Somogyi Győző)

The first enemy came from the Carpathians, crossing the Ojtoz Pass. It was István, the younger brother of Voivode Illés (Ilie) of Moldavia, whose troops attacked the Székely land, destroying and plundering it. The Monk’s army had to take up positions in the mountains around Brassó (Brasov, Kronstadt) in order to block the Tömös Pass. Kemény János was in charge of these troops.

Brassó Photo: Lánczi Imre

The Monk sent Kendy János and 5,000 soldiers against Voivode Radu of Wallachia to Nagyszeben (Sibiu) and to the Saxon lands near Hátszeg (Hacak). Kemény defeated the voivode at Nagyszeben and the Monk’s soldiers moved on to the valley of the Maros River. The chronicler Forgách Ferenc wrote the following about this battle:

Cardinal Forgách Ferenc (1560-1615)

„In those days, the Voivode of Wallachia, with Turkish and Wallachian troops in his army, moved through the Vereskapu Pass to Hátszeg. Török János sent Vas Benedek against them, together with some of the chiefs of the local villages, who called all the nobles and peasants of the area to arms.

Ottoman soldiers (by Somogyi Győző)

They managed to hold off the enemy until the troops of Kendeffy János arrived in a forced march. There were 4,500 Turks and Wallachians lined up against them. Our soldiers, desperate and ready to fight, could hardly wait for the sound of the battle drums and trumpets, they rushed at the enemy, scattering their first line at the first attack. Seeing this, the enemy’s second line became discouraged and fled.”

Ottoman Deli riders

Thus, Brother György’s army defeated the troops of Voivode Ilie of Moldova on 13 November. In these fights, the priest was mightily helped by the common Székely people. Here is more about the Székelys:

The deed of Török János

In October 1550, an angry young man of barely twenty-one, Török János, son of Török Bálint of Enying, took revenge on the Turks for the death of his father. The attack on Déva Castle was so successful that the Pasha of Buda decided to return from his Transylvanian campaign…

In 1550 Török Bálint, a Hungarian nobleman, the Bán (Duke) of Nándorfehérvár (Belgrade), died in Turkish captivity. He was captured by the Turks in 1541, just as they had taken Buda Castle. Understandably, his son Török János was not very fond of the Turks after that.

The COA of the Enyingi Török family

So far we know that the Turkish plan was to unite their troops in Gyulafehérvár with the troops of the Wallachian and Moldavian voivods and the Queen’s army. Let us learn how Pasha Ali’s vanguard was crushed at Déva Castle by the men of Chief Comes Török János of Hunyad County. At that time Déva was in the hands of the Queen, who was allied with the Turks and was happy to see the Turkish advance troops.

Déva castle Photo: Dragan Gabriel

The Pasha managed to get as far as the castle of Lippa, then he set off for the castle of Déva, a fortress loyal to the Queen, which was 97 kilometers away. He never got there because his vanguard, led by Agha Feru, was defeated. As it happened, first Agha Feru and his 200 horsemen went to the outskirts of Déva Castle, and then 500 of them arrived. Says Forgách:

an Ottoman horseman

„Török János, a young man with a thirst for honor, who remembered that his father, Bálint, who had been taken prisoner in Buda in 1541, was suffering in captivity in Istanbul, decided to honor his father’s name by killing the enemy in a bloody battle. He also owned the mighty castle of Hunyad (Hunedoara) and had many followers around Déva. Thinking that it was not the time to hesitate, he first got the information about the loyalty of the magistrate and the citizens (of Déva) and set out with only 113 horsemen and 67 infantrymen.

A mounted Hungarian Hussar from Transylvania, from the second part of the 16th century (Picture: Somogyi Győző)

At dawn, he ordered his infantry to break through the town’s hedge fence, while his horsemen broke the locks of the main gate (as the settlement had no other walls). He moved in and forced the half-sleeping enemy to flee, unable to arm themselves quickly.

He had the other enemy slaughtered in the houses and those who were in front of them on the road. As Török’s men guarded all the roads and paths, the slaughter was all the greater; they waited for the fleeing enemy and cut them down. János himself also fought a dangerous duel with one of Agha Feru’s bodyguards (…). In the end, after risking his life, he won after a long struggle. He pierced his opponent on both sides with his dagger.

A 3-edged dagger

Agha Feru died with almost all his men. But the victory and revenge were greater than the spoils. Obviously, he wanted to avenge his father by killing so many enemies. When Pasha Kászon received the few fugitives, he received exaggerated information about the size of the Hungarian army. Fearing that he would be surrounded, he was forced to return to Buda without completing his mission.”

Vajdahunyad castle was in Török’s hands (Photo: Lovas Andrea)

The Turks left Transylvania, but they took Arad Castle on their way home. They burned and looted it, then left it behind. When Pasha Kászim heard of the White Monk’s victories, Queen Isabella persuaded him to return to Buda, where she cried and begged for the mercy of Brother György and accepted the terms of the Treaty of Nyírbátor on 30 November. However, the seeds of enmity remained between them, and the White Monk had to defeat the Queen’s army the following year. Soon after, he forced her to resign her rule. During the summer of 1551, Brother György seemed to be the sole leader of Transylvania.

The assassination of Brother György on 17 December 1551

At that time, nobody would have thought that the Monk would be assassinated in 1551 by King Ferdinand…

Source: Szibler Gábor and Bánkaky József

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