Saint Borbála and the cannons
The day of Saint Borbála is 4 December in the Roman Catholic calendar. She is said to be the patron saint of artillerymen so let us greet the brave masters of cannons on this day.
Here is a story about a cannon called „Margit” and the „smaller” (but successful) siege of Szigetvár Castle from 1556, how the Serbian Pribék Lázár died a heroic death while defending the castle against the Ottomans…
According to the Chronicle of Istvánffy Miklós, Lord Török Bálint had a cannon called „Margit” made and this particular cannon did a great service during the siege of 1556. Yet, it caused a great fright and havoc as well.
The Ottomans were led by Pasha Khádim Ali of Buda whose artillery was a lot superior to the defenders. It was the reason why the defenders were deeply saddened when two of the artillerymen, „Dalmatian” Tobolics Jakab and Erdélyi Bálint were heavily wounded…
„…moreover, that unusually big cannon called Margit which had been cast by Master Antal Szentiványi as Bálint Török of Enying had ordered it, was hit in the barrel by the enemy`s ball, broke and became useless. It was all the more threatening and perilous situation because Captain Markó (the castle`s commander, Márk Horváth) could not find anyone who was a trained artilleryman, in the stead of the injured ones.”
Yet, he was lucky to have a captive among his prisoners of war, one called Pribék Lázár who claimed he was a learned artilleryman. The captain had his doubts but promised him that he could get his freedom back if he could prove it. Soon it has become obvious that Pribék Lázár had told the truth because his very first shot destroyed the biggest siege-breaching cannon of the Turks. Sadly, Pribék could not survive until the end of the siege. His death happened during the last days of the fight.
When the new siege-cannons have arrived from Pécs Castle, led by Bey Dervis on 29 July, the Ottomans put four of them into use immediately. They positioned them on a place called Gonász, north-west from the castle and began a very intensive bombardment. It must be mentioned, that by this time the Ottoman soldiers, waiting in the trenches, have had no mood to attack the fort, their morale has been decreased. The fight was rather going on between the cannons and the riflemen. It was when Pribék Lázár, one who had contributed to the saving of the castle very much with his artillery knowledge, was shot.
He was one of the last casualties of the defenders but also the most bitter loss, as the chronicler said: „it was to the great sorrow of Captain Markó”.
(Source: Szerecz Miklós and the pictures of cannons below are also coming from him.)