Fráter György (Utišinović / Martinuzzi György) 1482-1551
Fráter György (Utišinović / Martinuzzi György) 1482-1551
Brother Martinuzzi György or “Fráter György” came from a Croatian family, his Croatian name is Juraj Utješenović but he was often nicknamed the “White Monk” because of his white robe that was worn by the Pauline monks. He, a nobleman, a statesman, a Pauline monk, later Bishop of Várad, Archbishop of Esztergom, and finally Cardinal, is still a quite dividing person and many Hungarian historians have mixed feelings about him. Let us not forget how perilous times he lived: it was an age of religious wars and people were executed because of their faith all over Europe. We consider him as the statesman who lay down the foundation of the semi-independent Principality of Transylvania. Not talking about him would be like omitting Cardinal Richelieu or his agent, François Leclerc du Tremblay, the Greyfriar from French history.
Let me recall his life: he was born in Kamicsác castle on 18 June 1482 in a Croatian / Hungarian / Venetian noble family. His father was Grgur Utiešenić or Utiešenović (Hungarians called him Utyeszenics, Utyeszenovics Gergely). His mother was Martinušević Anna, a descendant of a Venetian noble family. Later, her name was used for her son in a rather Italian fashion, it was why we also call him “Martinuzzi”. On the father’s side, he is originating from a Hungarian noble family (from the Dobra genus). His grandfather was Mátyok-Kézi András. György was still a child when his father and Miklós and Mátyás, his two oldest brothers died and the Ottomans occupied the family estates. His third brother, Jakab died as a soldier during the siege of Nándorfehérvár (Belgrad) castle in 1521. He had a sister called Anna who later was married to Draskovich Bertalan.
Later on, György went to the court of Prince Corvin János, King Matthias’ natural son who sent him to Hunyad castle to serve. György spent 13 years next to the prince and he became a soldier. He was 20 when he went to the Szepesség Region, more exactly to Szepesvár (Spis) castle where he joined the court of Princess Hedvig von Teschen, the widow of late Palatine Szapolyai István. György distinguished himself as a soldier and all his fellow warriors looked up to him because of his morals. It is thought that he could not read or write at this time, though. After the Battle of Mohács (1526), György was in the service of King Szapolyai, the son of Princess Hedvig. He was fighting in Transylvania in Szapolyai’s army, gaining a good reputation, he was called a fearless warrior.
Then, he began his church career as a Pauline monk at the age of 24 and soon became a Pauline monk in the monastery of Budaszentlőrinc. The Pauline Order is the only monastic order that was established in Hungary, their monks can be distinguished by their white robes. He learned to read and write, then was sent to Poland to continue his education. There, he soon became the Prior of the monastery of Jasna Gora in Częstochowa. When he came home in 1527, he was elected as the Prior of the monastery of Sajólád. It is why we sometimes call him Prior György as well.
The Dual Kingship tore the Kingdom of Hungary into two as King Habsburg Ferdinand attacked Szapolyai. When King Szapolyai was defeated in the Battle of Szina in the spring of 1528, he had to flee to Poland. On his way there he met Prior György again who decided to join him to travel to Poland. There, Prior György helped to gain soldiers, supporters, and money for his king, and he was the one who organized the king`s homecoming. Soon, he became King Szapolyai`s inner advisor. It was Lodovico Gritti, Sultan Suleiman’s man in Hungary who appointed him as the court judge of Buda castle in 1532.
Gritti, the natural son of the Venetian Doge, wanted to seize the power of Transylvania for himself and made the mistake of assassinating Bishop Czibak Imre of Transylvania. It finally cost him his life because the angered Hungarian noblemen slaughtered him. As for King Szapolyai, he was glad to have gotten rid of the Sultan’s man. Soon, the king gave the Bishopry of Várad (Oradea) to Prior György in 1534. However, the Pope affirmed his title just in 1539. Also, he became the king’s Treasurer and the Advisor of the king. As a Treasurer, he made an excellent job and managed to fill up the treasury. He united and centralized all the chambers and was strict with his men. It was why he was often accused of being greedy and hungry for power.
György conducted important diplomatic assignments on behalf of his king, and he had a great role in making the Truce of 1538 between Habsburg Ferdinand and Szapolyai. The Treaty of Várad in 1538 ended the war, and Ferdinand accepted Szapolyai’s rule, for the time being, thinking that he would outlive him. According to the Treaty, Ferdinand would get Szapolyai’s throne after his death. Ferdinand did his best to remove Szapolyai, he even sent an assassin to kill him but Szapolyai disarmed his attacker by himself. Not much later, Szapolyai wed the Polish / Italian Prince Jagelló Isabella in 1539. We know that Prior György was actively taking part in organizing the royal marriage. Ferdinand got upset and betrayed the secret treaty to Sultan Suleiman.
János Zsigmond, the son of King Szapolyai was born in 1540. Hearing the news of his birth, Szapolyai hurried home but got mortally sick. (Gossip said he was poisoned.) On his death bed, he appointed Martinuzzi as the Guardian of his son. At the same time, he made the monk break the Treaty of Várad and commanded him to have the baby crowned as king of Hungary. Fráter György obeyed, and first thing first, he organized the defense of Buda castle against the assault of Habsburg Ferdinand in 1540.
Then, he saw that he would not have enough military power to defend Buda against Habsburg Ferdinand so he called upon Sultan Suleiman’s aid the next year. Suleiman set out with his army in 1541 and joined forces with Martinuzzi, together they defeated the German troops. Then, the suéltan took Buda castle with a trick. However, there is more to the story because Queen Isabella had a hand in the story. You can read my dramatized short historical story about it here:
At this time, the contemporary Hungarians accused Martinuzzi of losing Buda and of “becoming the vassal of the Turks”. His hunger for power and unmeasurable political ambitions were criticized. It is true, that Martinuzzi never forgave himself for the loss of Buda. Of course, it is always easier to judge the situation long after the events.
Sultan Suleiman sent Queen Isabella and the baby king to Transylvania to reign. Originally, it was Sultan Suleiman who gave power to Martinuzzi in 1541 over the Trans Tisza River Region, appointing Petrovics Péter as the leader of the Temesköz Region, in exchange for paying an annual tax to him. However, he had to get disappointed in the loyalty of his new „vassals” at least as far as Martinuzzi, the Guardian of the child King János Zsigmond II was concerned.
The White Monk, as it was befitting to a politician, was balancing the power and began working on the unification of Hungary under the Habsburgs.
He made a treaty with Ferdinand in Gyalu in 1541 and began to organize Eastern Hungary in 1542. Pretty soon, Martinuzzi was able to seize most of the power, and Queen Isabella began to hate him from her full heart. According to the Treaty of Gyalu, Ferdinand would get Eastern Hungary if he could take Buda back from the Turks. Unfortunately, the Imperial army suffered a defeat at Pest in 1542 so the Treaty of Gyalu was dumped. On top of this, the angered Ottomans sent the army of Voivode Petru Rareş of Wallachia to invade Transylvania. Fortunately, Martinuzzi was also an excellent military leader and could defeat them. You can read more about the fights at Pest in 1542 here:
Against all the odds, Martinuzzi tried to maintain a connection with Habsburg Ferdinand. though. He sent him the secret information about the Ottomans’ plans who wanted to attack Székesfehérvár and Esztergom castles in 1543. At the same time, the White Monk sent his envoys with his annual tax to the Sublime Porte as well. Because of this, Ferdinand was not trusting him unconditionally.
Transylvania seemed to be the island of tolerance, compared to the cruelty going on in the western countries when it came to religion. The White Monk tried to tolerate others` faith just because of the fragile inner peace of Transylvania but once he sent a man to the stake because he had slapped a woman who was praying before a carved statue of the Virgin Mary. To me, it was a crime he committed. Yet, without the stubborn work of the White Monk, the Principality of Transylvania would have never been born.
The talented statesman was making tremendous efforts to raise an army and strengthen the Frontier against the Ottoman Turks as well as against the Habsburgs. Queen Isabella hated him deeply and tried to cross him wherever she could, though. Nominally, it was Queen Isabella who held the power on behalf of her son but in fact, it was Martinuzzi who was running the country. His rule was legitimized by the Last Will of King Szapolyai, and he enjoyed the official approval of the sultan, too. Additionally, he had firm concepts, and the ability to keep the reins of power in his hands. Soon, he became the Bishop of Csanád, and after the death of Bishop Statileo János of Gyulafehérvár (Alba Iulia) in 1542, he took his position as well. It was the year when the Estates elected him as the Chief Captain of Transylvania but he desired more, he wanted to get the title of Governor.
Everybody remembered Governor Gritti and this title was quite baleful sounding so Martinuzzi was finally appointed as a “Potentate” (locumtenens). He took care of the royal income as well because he was the Treasurer, too. At the same time, Queen Isabella liked festivities and luxury, and she had a reputation for quick anger and hysterical outbursts. The White Monk often remarked upon her behavior, he did not regard her as an adult. The hostility and tension were growing between them. In 1544, Martinuzzi gained the title of Chief Judge, too.
Ferdinand and Martinuzzi signed the next treaty in 1549 in Nyírbátor, in the eagle nest of the Báthory Clan. It was almost the same as the Treaty of Gyalu. According to it, in exchange for Ferdinand’s military help, Queen Isabella and King János Zsigmond would resign from their titles and the Habsburgs would receive Transylvania. Of course, Isabella did not agree with it and betrayed the secret treaty to the Sublime Porte. Now, it was Sultan Suleiman who began to doubt the sincerity of the White Monk.
In the summer of 1550, civil war broke out in Transylvania. So far, the monk had brilliantly balanced between the two powers, the Ottomans and the Habsburgs but finally, it led to his fall. In the meantime, the Turks were watching with dismay how Eastern Hungary was getting stronger and the next war with the Ottomans broke out also in 1550 when they came in force to widen further their occupied territories. Martinuzzi had to fight against multiple foes at the same time. The Ottomans, angered by Queen Isabella made Ilie II Rareș, Voivode of Moldavia, and the Wallachian Voivode attack Transylvania to punish him but the White Monk led an army against them and defeated the attackers. His troops also defeated the army of Comes Petrovics Péter of Temes who was supporting Queen Isabella.
It was when the (not very numerous) army sent by Habsburg Ferdinand began to occupy the distant Transylvania. They were led by Gianbattista Castaldo. The new royal commissioners, Nádasdy Tamás, Judge of the Country, and Báthory András, Chamberlain also arrived in Transylvania to settle the taking over of Transylvania on behalf of Ferdinand. It was how Prior György made Queen Isabella and János Zsigmond resign in 1551 and how Pope Iulius III appointed him a Cardinal. Izabella had to leave Transylvania for Poland in the summer of 1551. Martinuzzi was appointed as the Voivode of Transylvania and kept the office of the Treasurer.
Naturally, Sultan Suleiman could not allow losing the influence over this territory so easily. The troops of Pasha Szokollu Mehmed besieged Becse, Becskerek, Csanád and Lippa castles. After a short time, they took them but they were not able to take Temesvár castle, though. Martinuzzi’s men were joined by the 9,000-strong army of the Italian mercenary commander, Count Giovanni Battista Castaldo. The Habsburg emperor`s army consisted of German-Bohemian-Spanish-Italian-Hungarian troops who joined forces with the Hungarian noble estates and the units of Báthory and Nádasdy. Together, they succeeded to make the Turks withdraw.
When their troops withdrew from there, the army of the White Monk, joined by the soldiers of Nádasdy, Castaldo, and Pallavichi Sforza hurried to Lippa and besieged it. Soon, they forced Bey Ulema to surrender but the Prior promised the Turkish garrison of Lippa Castle safe conduct. Actually, the events of this siege led to the fall of Martinuzzi. King Ferdinand betrayed him and ordered his assassination. When Castaldo saw the Turks march away undisturbed on 28 November, he got very surprised and began to accuse the Prior of treason. He wrote a letter to King Ferdinand and to Emperor Charles V and reported Martinuzzi as a traitor. Brother György was indeed negotiating with several Ottoman Pashas of Southern Hungary because he wanted to gain some time. Due to this, Castaldo was able to convince Ferdinand who gave the order to have the monk (by this time he was a cardinal) assassinated. However, the mercenary leaders had to have Ferdinand’s approval sooner than that.
Castaldo hired the secretariat of the monk, Marco Aurelio Ferrari for the crime. The White Monk was killed in his palace in Alvinc on the night of 16- 17 December 1551. Martinuzzi had his bodyguards removed because he thought it was a sign of peace and he was waiting for the men of Ferdinand like this, guessing nothing. The assassins of General Sforza-Pallavicini came to help Marco Aurelio Ferrari. They, Lorenzo Campeggi, Giovanni Munino, Mercada, Scramuccia, and two Spanish soldiers killed the 69 years old priest with two shots of musket and with 75 stabs. After dishonoring his corpse, the body was left unburied there for 70 days. The mercenaries cut off his hairy ear and sent it to Ferdinand as proof. When Queen Isabella heard of the murder, first she rejoiced, then she allegedly mourned him. The Pope had to conduct an investigation but it was resultless. Then, the Pope forgave King Ferdinand and nobody received any punishment for the crime.
Later, General Pallavicini Sforza was captured by the Turks in the Battle of Palást in 1552 and he was herded on foot to Istanbul, being beaten by a stick all the way there where he got ransomed in exchange for 16,000 gold ducats. Marco Aurelio Ferrari was hanged for a crime somewhere in Italy.
Mercada`s hand was cut off in a brawl and later a boar tore him apart during a hunt.
Scramuccia was slaughtered by his own soldiers.
Giovanni Munino was beheaded in Piemont.
As for the White Monk, Fráter György, Martinuzzi, or Prior György, we can conclude that he balanced masterfully between two superpowers and managed to save the remaining land of his country. He realized that he could not side permanently with either power but these political games cost him his life. He had bad consciousness until his death because of Buda but obviously, it was not just him alone who had played a role in losing it. Yet, he was the one who lay down the foundations of the Transylvanian Principality which he was governing with a firm hand. Unification of the Hungarian Kingdom was not timely at that time but the contemporary people had no chance of realizing it. For many, Martinuzzio is an evil traitor, a tyrant, and a greedy person who was ever hungry for power while others say he was an excellent and clever politician and a brave warrior with remarkable intelligence and broad-minded thinking who loved his Homeland, Hungary with passion.
Source: partly from Szibler Gábor
If you like my writings, please feel free to support me with a coffee here:
This article contains Amazon ads. By purchasing through these links, you can help my work at no added cost to you. Thank you!