Bey Csonka: the Ottoman hero of Buda, 1686

The hero of the Ottoman defenders of Buda: Bey Csonka…

Mehmet Colak (1641-1705) was born in Bosnia and he became the legendary Bey Csonka („a lord with a missing hand”) who was another hero of the Siege of Buda in 1686 – just on the Ottoman side. He was the vice-of the last Pasha of Buda, the (Albanian) Abdur-Rahmán who died at the end of the siege with a sword in his hand?  How was Bey Csonka captured and how did he become a Christian, and how did he gain reputation in the service of Emperor Leopold, under the new name of Joseph Balthazar Freiherr von Czungenberg?

He began his career in the court of the Pasha of Buda and gained a timar-land near Vác, with a vinery. He was a militarily talented sipahi soldier but he lost his left hand in a battle before he was appointed as the Sanjak Bey of Nógrád Castle. He had a silver hand adjusted on it and went on fighting, all the same. His son was born in 1677.

He spoke in Hungarian and took part in many negotiations with the Hungarians. It was how he befriended Lord Thököly Imre who had been alienated by the Habsburgs. Thököly and Bey Csonka became good friends and the Bey supported the Hungarian rebels of Thököly with his own troops. They were convinced that the Ottomans and the Hungarians could liberate Hungary from the yoke of the tyrannic Habsburgs. Their fate was connected. Thököly called him the „eye of the Grand Vizier”.

Of course, Thököly had some second thoughts about helping the Turks: it is thought that he wanted to get rid of the Ottomans after defeating the Habsburgs, though.

 

As for Thököly, he is a very dividing person: without his aid, the Sultan’s army could not have been able to get near to Vienna in 1683. On the other hand, his troops were mercilessly putting down the Bulgarians who were rebelling against the Ottoman rule. He must be quite hated by the Bulgarians, I presume.

He was very close to his goal and was gaining ground against the Habsburgs but Vienna was not taken by the mighty Sultan and King Sobieski shattered his dreams. If Vienna had fallen to the Turks, he could have enjoyed greater independence in the Principality of Hungary than the Transylvanian princes ever enjoyed from the Sultan. But the Habsburgs realized that there would be no more Polish help coming and it is the last time to liberate Hungary – for themselves. So they set out and the Holy League besieged Buda in 1686. Many of Thököly’s best soldiers decided to side with the „liberators” and joined the Christian forces. Thököly was doomed.

The allied Christian forces – despite the usual arguments between the generals that lengthened the siege with an additional bloody month – finally were able to retake Buda Castle after 77 hard days.


 

Bey Csonka took his share from the fight and got wounded while doing so.

He was leading the defense of the southern part of the castle where the old Hungarian royal palace had been. He was attacked by the Bavarian troops from the direction of the Gellért Hill. He was bravely defending the palace until the last man and he was one of the survivors who were captured by the German soldiers, along with his 9-year-old son. After he was led to Prince Charles of Lotharingia, he proudly told him: „Have me guarded well! Or have my head cut off right away. Because Fortune is changing: once me, tomorrow you…”

The Germans very quickly learned how valuable he can be and carried him to Vienna. Soon, he was taken to the home of Major Eyersperg where he was reunited with his family. (His 21-year-younger wife was reputed as a real beauty.) His entire family got converted to the Christian faith in 1696 and his Godfather was Emperor Leopold himself. He also was ennobled and the monarch made him a baron.

Then, he was leading two thousand Hungarian Hussars to West Europe and was fighting against the French until 1705 when he died. The Hungarian Hussars adored his valiance.

His given name „Czungenberg” is a Germanized version of his Hungarian nickname, Csonka bég.

His son, Ferenc died without an heir: according to his last will, a church was built in Bécsújhely (Wiener Neustadt). Masses are still being told in this church for the members of the Czungenberg family.