The Turks attacked Pápa Castle after 23 October 1555

Pápa in 1597

There were no secrets on the Borderland: the plans for the Ottoman attack were made known to the Hungarian captains in September. The Turkish troops began to assemble on 22 September. Ormányi Józsa, the captain of Sümeg Castle, noticed this and informed Nádasdy Tamás, the palatine, that the Turkish garrison of Veszprém Castle had been reinforced with 60 horsemen.

Nádasdy Tamás

Arszlán, Bey of (Székes)Fehérvár, ordered the peasants of the region to come to Fehérvár with tools, horses and oxen. They were to build the trenches for the siege of Pápa Castle. Nádasdy gave the same order to the peasants around Pápa to reinforce the walls, but his call was ignored. 

a Hungarian nobleman in the 16th century

At that time there were very few soldiers of the king guarding Pápa Castle: 40 infantrymen from Győr, 10 from Veszprém, and 50 Bohemian guards. Fortunately, there were the soldiers of Lord Török of Enying, who were paid by their liege lord. As for the local nobility, they took up arms and moved into the castle, but returned home after the 6 days of compulsory service.

The warriors of the Borderland were alarmed on 22 October 1555. The Turks attacked Pápa on 23 October. At midnight they shouted a terrible battle cry and attacked the gate called Borosgyőri or Szent László. When they heard it, the guards of the gate got scared and fled.

Ottoman soldiers

It was the scribe Martonfalvy Imre who was in charge of the defense, appointed by his lord Török Bálint. He galloped to the marketplace of the town and shouted his order to the soldiers standing there, they were the reserve. He sent them to the gate that was under attack. He shouted: “Nobody must leave his place, or he will lose his head and his reputation, fear nothing!” At that age, among the soldiers of the Valiant Order, losing one’s reputation was worse than losing one’s head.

Ottoman soldiers

Meanwhile, the attackers had pulled down the timbers of the palisade around the gate. Martonfalvy, the scribe, was the first to rush in and grab an infantryman named Borosgyőri Péter by the collar of his coat. He ordered him to fire at the Turks who were pushing through the breach. The Ottomans returned fire and shot through Borosgyőri’s hand. Then Martonfalvy rushed to the Landsknechts gathered in Saint László Street and ordered them to run to defend the gate.

A Katzbalger (1515) was a side-arm, often used by Landsknecht

By this time, the Turks had even planted their flag on the wall above the gate. The mercenaries heard the scribe’s order but didn’t move. It was the son of Török Bálint, the young Török Ferenc, who made them move. The Landsknechts obeyed him and used their long lances. They quickly cleared the area around the palisade.

A Landsknecht with a lance

The scribe Martonfalvy was very pleased with the mercenaries in his report. He wrote: “They came with us into the battle and threw the Turks out with their lances, both from the palisade and from the trenches. It was the first time that I had seen the Landsknechts use their lances so effectively”.

The Ottomans made another attempt on the other side of the palisade, but they were met by the dense rifle fire of the defenders. “They left many dead bodies and ladders in the moat”, and then retreated. On their way back, the Ottomans destroyed the mansion and 25 houses in the village of Zsemlér.

A German soldier

Learning from this incident, the king sent 100 infantrymen to Pápa the following year, along with cannons, gunpowder, and bullets. Tools were also provided and all the peasants of three counties (Veszprém, Vas, and Sopron) were ordered to work on the castle. The king must have realized how close Pápa was to Vienna, because from now on he hired a total of 200 Hungarian warriors and 100 hussars to guard the castle.

a Hungarian Hussar

(Source: Szibler Gábor)

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Pápa, 1597