Tinódi Lantos Sebestyén (cc1510-1556)

Tinódi Lantos Sebestyén (c. 1510 in Tinód – January 30, 1556 in Sárvár) was a 16th-century Hungarian lyricist, epic poet, political historian, and minstrel, an important representative of Hungarian epic poetry. Tinódi was born into a burgher family. His birthplace is controversial: either in Tinód in Fejér County (today part of the town of Sárbogárd) or in the now vanished village of Tinód near Rózsafa in Baranya County. Most people claim the village in Fejér County as his birthplace.

Tinódi (18th century painting)

He finished his schooling in Pécs, he knew Latin and he also knew music. Probably, he was first a soldier in the service of Török Bálint. His first preserved work is the Historia of Jáson, written in Dombóvár between 1535 and 1539. From this work, we can deduce that he was wounded in a battle and became unfit for further military service. During his stay in the former castle of the Dombó family in 1537, he wrote his story of Jáson and Medea (‘Written by the student Tinódi Sebestyén, when his left hand was badly wounded in Dombóvár’, according to the verse notes).

Tinódi’s statue in Dombóvár (Photo: Csanády)

In 1542-43 it appeared again in the area of Dombóvár, in the castle of Dáró, which belonged to Werbőczy Imre. The place is within sight of the castle of Dombóvár, today it is on the border with the village of Jágó. Here in 1543, he wrote his historical hymn “The Battle of Werbőczi Imre with Kászon’s Army on the Field of Kozár”, describing the battle of March 25, 1542, on the field of Kozár (today Egyházaskozár, Baranya County). The work was printed in 1554 in Kolozsvár under the title “Cronica, written by Tinódi Sebestyén”.

Tinódi’s Cronica

Until 1541 he lived at the court of Török Bálint in Szigetvár, who was highly esteemed according to his works. The fall of Buda and the imprisonment of his liege-lord Török Bálint marked a turning point in his life. He became a political poet, and his works expressed the need to resist the Turks. He then began to put his poems to music and performed them to the accompaniment of a lute, which led to his nickname, “Lantos” – the lute player. From then on he sang of unity and the need for a determined fight against the Turks. He lived in this region for several years, and when the Turks occupied more and more of the Transdanubian region, he settled in Kassa.

Kassa (Kosice, Kaschau)

Here he started a family, and from here he traveled to the scenes of national parliaments and battles and then wrote about his experiences in verse. He also composed melodies for his songs, accompanied by a lute, and performed them whenever he could. Often it was only through his songs that soldiers could learn of a remarkable event in a distant part of the country. Palatine Nádasdy Tamás, recognized the importance of Tinódi’s work when he met him at the Diet of Nagyszombat in 1545 and took the lutist under his wing.

Nádasdy Tamás (1498-1562)

During the period of relative peace between 1546 and 1551, he worked on older Hungarian stories or foreign themes. The Turkish campaign of 1552 again provided a wealth of events worth writing about. The battle of Palást was also recorded in fiction by Tinódi Lantos Sebestyén under the title Ördög Mátyás veszödelme (The Troubles of Mátyás Ördög), it can be found in the Chronicle.

The siege of Eger in 1552 (by Vízkelety Béla)

Tinódi visited the sites of each siege and collected the details of the events. Many interesting facts can only be found in his songs. Immediately after the triumphant defense of Eger, he went to the castle. It was then that he wrote his songs about the battle of Eger Castle and the summary of the history of Eger. Tinódi’s fame reached the court of King Ferdinand, who on August 23, 1553, on Nádasdy’s recommendation, raised him to the rank of a nobleman and gave him a coat of arms in recognition of his merits in the art of singing and the eloquent setting of Hungarian stories to rhythm.

The tombstone of Dobó István (photo: Thaler Tamás)

He was on good terms with Dobó István, and when the captain of the castle of Eger became the voivode of Transylvania, he followed him to Transylvania. It was here that he finished his song The History of Transylvania, in which he tells the history of Transylvania from the death of King Szapolyai János until 1551. A collected edition of his works was published in Kolozsvár in 1554 under the title Cronica. In 1555 he returned from Transylvania.

Tinódi’s statue in Sárvár

Tinódi Sebestyén, the country’s lute chronicler, must have arrived at the court of the nobleman Nádasdy Tamás at the end of 1555. According to the latest research, he was looking for a patron in the person of the lord, perhaps to obtain a state position. Earlier it was believed that they met at the Diet of Nagyszombat in 1544 and that Tinódi spent a few years in Sárvár after that, but there is no proof of this.

Nádasdy and Tinódi (the painting of Orlai-Petrich Soma)

Zoltán Imre, a citizen of Kassa, would not have asked for the patronage of his former dominus for Tinódi if the Palatine and the lutist had been on good terms before. Sebestyén came to Sárvár at the end of 1555 on Zoltán’s recommendation. He could not have known that he would be buried far away from his family in the cemetery of this small market town in Vas County.

Tinódi in Sárvár castle
Photo: Imre Lánczi

Tinódi fell ill after he arrived in Sárvár and died at the end of January 1556 (around the 28th and 30th).

“Tinódi Sebestyén, tired of this earthly music, went to heaven to learn much better things among the angels; on the penultimate day of this month, I laid him next to the ashes of the fathers of Sár. And as he was dying, he told me not to stay here for long, but to follow him, so that I too could learn heavenly music” – wrote Perneszith György, the officer of Sárvár, to his master Nádasdy Tamás the next day.
Sárvár castle (Source: www.varlexikon.hu)
Tinódi might have been buried in the parish church or in the cemetery of the village of Sárvár, which today belongs to the parish of Sárvár, but neither the excavations of the 1930s nor any other researches have found his grave. The cult of Tinódi Sebestyén began to develop in the town in the 1930s when the first memorial column was erected in the castle park. Today, in a unique move in the country, a grammar school bears his name, and on the day of his death, the townspeople hold a memorial service at the relief that replaced the former memorial column.
Tinódi’s statue in Nyírbátor (Photo: Szilas)

The works of Tinódi

The poetic quality of Tinódi’s life’s work of about twelve thousand lines of verse does not reach the average of the output of 16th-century Hungarian literature. His poems are sober in content, lacking in creative imagination, clumsy in execution, and artless in versification. The striving for detail is so overwhelming that his songs are sometimes monotonous, rivaling those of a file or a payroll list. Even in his own time, his works were of greater publicistic than poetic importance. As a result, scholars have long been puzzled by his work.

Tinódi’s statue in Szigetvár

In the preface to the Cronica, Tinódi himself explains his purpose:

“I have not thought of writing this book for any other reason than that the Hungarian soldiers who are fighting, who are in battle, who are destroying castles and fortresses, and who are in castles, may have a teaching for their salutary and honorable survival, so that they may be able to stand and fight against the heathen enemy in a manner worthy of salvation”.

Tinódi must therefore be seen as a chronicler who recorded the historical events of his time in verse, primarily for the sake of authenticity and not to convey artistic values. This “poetic creed” also explains why Tinódi chose to write in verse and song. It was the only way he could hope to reach the soldiers of the Borderland, the people he wanted to address first and foremost. In Tinódi’s time, the majority of people were illiterate, but they were happy to listen to singing.

The COA of Tinódi

Tinodi’s place in Hungarian literature is much more prominent as a historian than as a poet. He essentially wrote the complete history of Hungary between 1541 and 1552. What he wrote proved to be accurate in every verifiable case.

In the footsteps of Tinódi: you can see my “lute”: a Jornada 720 and my longsword…

The Hungarian history of the 16th century was full of events, and more and more people took on the task of recording the ordeals of their neighborhood or the whole country. Bishop Verancsics Antal of Eger was a man who collected and carefully preserved these historical works. However, the works in the bishop’s estate are mainly personal, subjective memoirs, which cannot compete with Tinódi’s works in terms of authenticity and objectivity. Since the works in the Verancsics legacy were written in Latin, Tinódi was the first significant representative of historiography in the Hungarian language.

Tinódi’s statue in Budapest

His works:

  • Jázon and Medea (1537–38)
  • The history of  Lady Judit (1539–40?)
  • The loss of Buda and the imprisonment of Török Bálint (1541)
  • The imprisonment of Prini Péter, Majlát István and Terek Bálint (1542)
  • The fight of Verbőczi Imre (1543)
  • The fight on the field of Szalka (1544)
  • The fight of Sultan Suleiman and Pasha Kazul (1546)
  • Battles from Eger from the time of Varkucs Tamás (1548)
  • About many kinds of drunkards (1548)
  • King David (1549)
  • The taking of the castles of Szitnya, Léva, Csábrág and Murán (1549)
  • The duel of Kapitány György (1550)
  • Testimony for Lieutenants (1550)
  • The army of Emperor Charles in Saxonia (1550)
  • Chronicle of King and Emperor Zsigmond (1552)
  • The Peril of Szeged (1552)
  • The death of Losonczi István in the Borderland castle of Temesvár (1552)
  • A song about the valor of Enyingi Török János
  • The history of Pasha Ali of Buda (1553)
  • A song of the fight for Eger Castle (1553) 
  • About Magistrates and Chambarlains (1553)
  • About Prophet Jónás (390.) (a fragment) (1553) 
  • History of the captivity of Emperor Zsigmond (155?)
  • Transylvanian history (1553)
  • In the first volume of the Chronica, from the death of King János to this year (1554)
  • A fine chronicle of the son of King János (1554) 

Source: Hungarian Wikipedia and Szibler Gábor

Tinódi lantos Sebestyén

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