1551 “Virtus vulnere viret” – a bloody fight at Lippa castle

Let us take a look at the perilous struggles of Török János and Forgách Simon along the Maros River in Transylvania during the Dual Kingship of Hungary. Török János was the son of the famous-infamous high lord Török Bálint who had been tricked and arrested by the Turks in 1541 and was taken to the dungeons of the Jedikul in Istanbul. (Please, note, that I use the Oriental name order for Hungarians where family names come first.)

It was during the late autumn of 1551 when he and Forgách Simon (along with other famous Hungarian warriors) fought a great fight next to the Maros River at Lippa Castle. The background of the story is as follows: during this particular year of the Dual Kingship period of Hungary, the rivaling parties, namely the pro-Habsburg party and the Szapolyai party had made an agreement about the unification of the entire Hungarian Kingdom. It was mainly wrought together by Brother György aka Martinuzzi, the “White Monk”. You can read about the life of this statesman here:
As a result of the truce, the troops of the Habsburg king arrived in Transylvania, led by Count Castaldo. At the same time, the fighting against the Turks and their vassal states intensified. It was during October of 1551 that Pasha Szokollu Mohamed (aka Sokolovich), the Begler Bey of the Rumelians, was laying siege to Temesvár (Timisoara) castle. The defender of the fort used to be Losonczy István who repelled the attacks and succeeded in keeping the castle, unlike a year later when the Turks took it and finished his life.
The siege of Temesvár in 1552
For now, the “combined” royal and Transylvanian armies focused their attack on Lippa castle which was an important fort on the bank of the Maros River. This important fort was under the Ottomans’ control. We can well see the significance of Lippa from the fact that even King Szapolyai had found it the strongest place to hold his court there for a time.
Lippa castle
How was Lippa taken by the enemy, in the first place? We have to know this fact about Lippa: it was its Serb residents who had ceded the city to the Ottomans. The “betrayal of Lippa” was a scandal at that time and it has spread over the country. It made such a “big splash” that Nádasdy Tamás, Chief Judge of the Kingdom (later Palatine), one of the most important high lords of Hungary was hurrying to Transylvania to act on behalf of the king. You can read more about Nádasdy Tamás here:
Nádasdy Tamás (1498-1562)
He was accompanied by numerous renowned warriors, not lesser than Gyulaffy László, Magyar Bálint, and Forgách Simon. King Ferdinand sent many German, Italian and Spanish mercenaries, too. The “combined” forces had to be split but they planned to assault Lippa Castle to distract the attention of Pasha Szokollu Mohamed, thus relieving the burden from Captain Losonczy of Temesvár. In fact, the Rumelian Begler Bey had already moved from Temesvár by 27 October. Yet, the Christian army’s assault against Lippa hasn’t been canceled.
Magyar Bálint’s statue in Szigliget castle
According to the Chronicle of Forgách Ferenc, the Christian cannons have broken a sizeable breach on the wall of Lippa’s city by 5 November. Seeing this, a few of the daredevil Spanish mercenaries climbed the gap to get into the city. But the soldiers of Pasha Ulema slaughtered them. Having seen this, the comrades of the Spanish got mightily angry and to gain the glory of taking the town as Forgách had written it, rushed onto the gap in large numbers, without receiving any orders. A very hard and fierce close combat developed but the Turks could beat the Germans and the Spanish with bloody heads. It was about lunchtime when the army leaders were informed about the fight. Read more about our source, Forgách Ferenc here:
Baron Forgách Ferenc, the historian
„…then, the Hungarians became aware of the clamor and reported the fight to Nádasdy Tamás and the running and destruction of our troops. He was sitting at the table and about to have lunch…” He had the alarm sounded at once and reported the clash to Brother György and Castaldo. Nádasdy immediately sent a message to the fleeing mercenaries that he was going to hurry to their aid.
Nádasdy and all the officers with him took up their arms. The most fierce of them was Forgách Simon „who was leading his own cavalry unit and who collected those warriors also around him who were the most valiant and desired for the glory the most, so they set out to turn the military luck backward and scatter the enemy”.
”The quick counter-attack of the Hungarians of Forgách was so successful that they drew almost the entire besieging army after them because they had got ready by then. (…) Yet, they placed one part of the army in reserve, but the rest took up rope ladders and climbed the walls, there was a great fight raging all along the walls and the breaches, it was like a storm, the cloud of the gunpowder covered the sky and the ground, the rattle of the bright weapons was heard from long distance, the clamor of the fallen and the victors were mixed and showed us the scene of a particularly bloody and wonderous battle. Forgách Simon was among the first line of the attackers and he was falling all who resisted him, he was chasing them and threw himself into the densest throng of the enemy. Finally, he was weakened by eleven wounds and fell to the ground but the Turks were put down and chased back into the inner castle where the killing has started anew.”
Ottoman rifle, 17th century
The fleeing Turks got thronged into the gate of the castle and were mercilessly slaughtered by the besiegers while others were pushed into the moat from the bridge. Seeing the severe peril of his men, the Ottoman leader ordered his men to charge out through the other gate to distract the attention of the Christians. These 700 riders threw themselves on the reserve force of the Christians whose commander was Török János, the son of Török Bálint. He was the one who valiantly had scattered the troops of the Pasha of Buda at Déva in the previous year. Now, Török János took up the fight and according to Forgách’s Chronicle, he beat the attack as quickly back as they sallied out.
Hungarian sabers in the Museum of Debrecen
By the time Báthory András has led his soldiers there to help him, he was already pushing back the Turk riders amid “making a great slaughter” into the castle. Many of the Turks fled to the Maros River and drowned there. Plenty of them perished and only a few of them could get back into the inner castle of Lippa. In the meanwhile, Török János “began a duel with a decent Turk warrior”. His horse had seven wounds and because of this it was all painted red but Török János also received wounds although he wore armor. The thrusts injured him on his leg, piercing through the body of his horse, and even the stirrup got broken because of a shot or a strike even though it was made of strong iron but Török managed to kill his Turk opponent. The body of Forgách Simon was found only when the city was robbed after the victory. He had eleven wounds but was still alive.
“The Duel” (painting by Zichy Mihály) – though it was another duel
„Forgách Simon had lost too much blood by the time he was found among the dead bodies of his opponents; his lost helmet and gilded sword led the soldiers to him. It was possible because the slain and chased enemy could not get hold of his weapons. He was carried into his tent with eleven wounds and it was the mastery and skill of the doctors that he could overcome them later on. One could see only a scar on his forehead which went towards his right eye.”
The fact of his getting healed was indeed considered a divine miracle if we suppose that he had fainted because of the loss of blood and not because of a shock he received.

The next step was to force Pasha Ulema out of the inner castle of Lippa and it has been achieved through talks. Unfortunately, the result was the death of Brother György. Let me remark: Brother György respected the valiant resistance of Pasha Ulema and offered him safe conduct if he ceded the castle which he accepted. Ulema and his men left Lippa unhurt and Count Castaldo, the enemy of Father György, reported him to King Ferdinand I, saying that the Cardinal (!) was a traitor. Ferdinand ordered the assassination of the priest and later the Pope absolved him.
The assassination of Brother György on 17 December 1551
Source: Szerecz Miklós 

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