6 February 1573: Attack on Szentgyörgyvár castle

Szentgyörgyvár castle (G. Turco, 1569)

The Ottoman Turks ambushed the castle of Szentgyörgyvár castle on 6 February 1573, it was the day when Lord Gyulaffy Mihály died while defending it. Let us learn more about this event because the Gyulaffy family was famous for the brave warriors who were among its members. (Please, note that I use the Oriental name order for Hungarians where family names come first.) The most famous of them was Gyulaffy László (cc. 1520-1579), he was almost as good a duelist as Thury György, the “El Cid of Hungary”. Here is more about the deeds of Gyulaffy László:


The COA of the Gyulaffy family

Szentgyörgyvár castle used to be between Sármellék and Zalacsány, on the island of the Zala River. It was also called “Békavár” (Frog-castle). The place had belonged to the Báthory family in the 15th and 16th centuries, then Nádasdy Ferenc obtained it by a marriage. Nádasdy Ferenc, the famous black Bey wed Lady Báthory Erzsébet in 1575. You can read more about Báthory Erzsébet here:


Later, in the second part of the 17th century, the Széchenyi family acquired it. The small fortification was part of the Hungarian Capticiancy that was facing the Turk-owned Kanizsa castle. Now, one can see only the moats of the castle next to the Zala River near the village of Szentgyörgyvár. 

Thury György and Gyulaffy László (drawing by Somogyi Győző)
Our story was recorded by Gyulaffy Lestár, the brother of Gyulaffy Mihály. Both of them were cousins of the famous Gyulaffy László, and at this time, Lestár was living in Transylvania, next to his uncle László. As for Mihály, we know that he was the Captain of Pápa castle in Royal Hungary. He was one of the sons of Gyulaffy János (Lord László’s elder brother), and Choron Dorottya (the daughter of Devecseri Choron János). We also know that Mihály took part in the battle of Alsóörs in October 1570 where the Hungarian Borderland warriors defeated the Turks. Mihály’s commander was Captain Török Ferenc at that time.  
Pápa castle in 1597
Gyulaffy Lestár wrote the following in the first part of February 1573:
“My beloved brother, Captain Gyulaffy Mihály of Pápa castle, and I have the same mother and father. It is needless to talk much about it because everybody knows that if there was one renowned and chosen warrior in Hungary who despised peril {periculum contemptor}, then he was the second such manHe came to Zala County to Szentgyörgy castle to visit my mother. {He must have arrived there to greet his mother on her name’s day, on Dorottya’s day.} In the meantime, the Turks from the Borderland came to the castle in the night, there were six hundred horsemen. They set the villages in the area on fire, and Mihály rode out to face them, while they were chasing each other with the enemy, the horse fell with him. It was how they captured him. However, he cut off four of them on foot, while he was trying to get out from under the horse.”
“When he fell, the helmet was torn from his head, and he received a lethal wound and fell. {letali vulnere accepto in capite} The Turks took him to Kálmáncseh where they spent the night. The next day, they were taking him to Szigetvár castle, and he died on the bridge of the castle. The Turks buried him with great honor on the field of Görösgál. My mother, Choron Dorottya had seen from the window of Szentgyörgy castle, with great bitterness, as he was taken. Báthory István, the Voivode of Transylvania received the news of his capture, he was told that Mihály was still alive and the Turks took him to the Sublime Port {Istanbul}. The voivode wanted to get him on his side because Mihály was a renowned warrior, so he sent his envoy, Grujó Péter to the Port to ransom him from the sultan. But the voivode came to know that Mihály was dead already. And then, his severed head was soon brought to Constantinapolis {Istanbul}. He was captured on 7 February.”
A duel between a Turk and a Hungarian warrior
Lady Choron Dorottya told the story a few days later (on 13 or 16 February) when she wrote a letter to his brother-in-law. Perhaps this letter and other sources were used by Gyulaffy Lestár, too. Lady Dorottya wrote:
“I know that your Lordship must have received the news of my beloved son’s capture. The Turks came to Szentgyörgyvár castle on the night of Saint Dorottya’s Day, my beloved son rode out against them and there he was taken. Some of his servants were slain, some of them were captured, and my beloved son has been wounded, too. My beloved Lord, as far as I know, my son is still in Sziget castle, and he is injured, but they want to take him to the Pasha of Buda.”
Szigetvár castle, 1625
In fact, Gyulaffy Mihály (and his handful of men) did not have a chance against the 600 Turk cavalrymen: yet, he entered the unbalanced fight. The severely wounded warrior was dragged away by the Turks, and his relatives did not know that he died the other day. So they left no stone unturned to free him. Lady Choron Dorottya was on very bad terms with Gyulaffy László, her brother-in-law who already lived in Transylvania.
Yet, she was able to put aside all the anger and asked for his help. In her letter, she was pleading lengthily to László, trying to get his help. She even offered all her domains and properties to him, in exchange for it. Lord László was also able to ignore the hostility between them and sought the help of Voivode (Prince) Báthory István in person. Báthory did try to ransom Mihály, of course not only out of charity: the Transylvanian ruler (later Polish king) hoped that Gyulaffy Mihály would serve him in the future.
King Báthory István of Poland, Prince of Transylvania (1533-1586)
 However, Grujó Péter, his envoy to Istanbul came to know that Mihály was not alive, his severed head was displayed in front of the sultan just at that time. After Mihály’s death was known at home, András, the brother of Mihály and Lestár wanted to take his office in Pápa castle. He even handed in his application to the king. His application to the captaincy was supported by Báthory Miklós, Judge of the Country because he knew András. We do not know whether he could become captain of Pápa castle or not in earnest. Most likely he could not. 
“The Duel” (painting by Zichy Mihály) 
Source: Szibler Gábor, Kiss Csaba

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