1660 The Battle of Szászfenes, the death of Prince Rákóczi György II

Szászfenes (Florești) Photo: Andrei Kokelburg
After the unsuccessful Polish campaign in 1657, Prince Rákóczi György II of Transylvania decided not to resign, just for a very short time. It is quite likely that the Ottoman Turkish-Crimean Tatar and Moldavian punishing campaigns and raids in Transylvania could have been prevented if he had done so. You can read more about this disastrous war here:
The Transylvanian army perished in Poland
Rákóczi tried to keep the power in his hands but almost the entire Transylvanian army, 27,000 men were either captured or killed. He had to rise a second army and it was not very simple. For example, he needed all able-body Székely Border guards under his flag so large parts of the Székely Land became undefended. The intruding Crimean-Moldovan troops broke into Székely Land but they were seriously defeated by the local Székely women, children, and old men at the Battle of Szárhegy in 1658. Here is the story of this heroic deed:
You can read about how Prince Rákóczi managed to defeat an Ottoman army at Lippa castle in 1658:


However, the Ottoman Turks didn’t accept his rule and they appointed Barcsay Ákos as a prince. Hearing this, Rákóczi attacked him and defeated his troops. Barcsay had to flee to Szeben (Sibiu) where he was safe: Rákóczi could not take the strong German Saxon city by siege.

Barcsay Ákos, Prince of Transylvania 1658-61
At this point, Grand Vizier Köprülü Mehmed was so angry that he decided that there is no mercy for Transylvania. He ordered Pasha Szejdi Ahmed of Buda and Pasha Ali of Temesvár to lead his army into Transylvania. At the same time, he let the Crimean Tatars loose on Transylvania.

Rákóczi marched his army from Szeben to Várad (Oradea) because the Pasha of Buda was raiding the Trans-Tisza Area. The prince was afraid that he might besiege Várad but instead of this, Ahmed appeared at Kolozsvár (Cluj, Klausenburg) all of a sudden. At that time, the camp of Rákóczi’s army was near Kolozsvár, too. Rákóczi didn’t want to hold a battle so he decided to move on towards Gyalu castle and Várad. Hearing his orders, his troops disobeyed and demanded to fight the enemy, they had had enough of running away, they said.
Rákóczi had no choice but to hold a battle. Including the Wallachian soldiers, his army was no larger than 8,000 men while Ahmed had about 20-21,000 warriors. The prince had even the wagoneers deployed in the third line of his army just to appear more numerous. The troops were leaning on the marshlands of the Fenes Stream but this gave him only a temporary advantage. The left wing of his army was led by Kováts Gergely and they were able to stop the Ottoman cavalry but the right wing consisted of Székely soldiers, mercenaries, and armed Wallachian peasants, collapsed after a while.
The Battle of Szászfenes, 1660
Rákóczi wanted to save the situation by taking command in person. When he was riding there, his helmet fell off while his horse jumped over the Fenes Stream. The Ottomans recognized him at once and several cavalry units set out to catch him. He was fighting bravely, cutting down many Turks but finally, he received two severe head wounds and two more injuries on his body. The Hussars of Ónod castle somehow managed to free him from the enemy’s throng, and they carried the prince to Várad. In the meantime, Rákóczi’s army dissolved and everyone fled where they could. As for the infantrymen of the left wing, they made a last stand but they were all slain by the outnumbering enemy. Pasha Ahmed could take Rákóczi’s tent and cannons, too.
Prince Rákóczi György II (by Somogyi Győző)
Rákóczi György II lived two more weeks in Várad castle and died on 7 June 1660. Most sadly, his death brought about the fall of Várad castle and the destruction of the famous Gothic bronze statue of Saint László as most of the guards left Várad because they attended the prince’s burial. Pasha Ahmed took the opportunity and attacked Várad.  You can read about it here:


Várad castle

The final overall position and situation of Transylvania have become worse than before: the Principality has lost its independent foreign policy. Not to mention the huge destruction of the Ottoman Turk-Crimean Tatar armies…

The legacy of the battle

The sad event is commemorated by a monument in Kolozsmonostor, called the Rákóczi Monument. There is no information about its creator or the date of its erection. According to sources, it was already there at the beginning of the 1850s. Its inscription proclaims:

“Rákóczi György II was wounded here in the battle against the Turks on May 20, 1660.”

The monument at Kolozsmonostor

The monument was erroneously placed in Kolozsmonostor / Cluj-Mănăștur, near Kolozsvár / Cluj / Klausenburg, because at the time of its erection, the place of the battle was mistakenly identified as being a few kilometers to the west, near Szászfenes. The monument was renovated and rebuilt in 1891. In the 1920s it was damaged and the inscription was removed, in the mid-1970s it was demolished during the widening of the Kolozsvár road, and parts of it were incorporated into the embankment.

The monument (Picture: Simon László)
Source: Szibler Gábor

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