Selected Passages from Hungarian-Ottoman Wars


Érsekújvár in 1940 (Source: Pogany Peter)

Érsekújvár (Nove Zamky, Neuhäus(e)l) is located in the Upper lands/Horná Zem/Felvidék, it is in Slovakia. A fortress was built, against the Ottoman Turks, on the site of an older settlement in the years 1545-46 and between 1573–81. It was the Archbishop of Esztergom, Oláh Miklós, who had the palisade fort rebuilt. Archbishop means “Érsek” in Hungarian while “újvár” stands for “new castle”.

The Franciscan Monastery (Photo: Pogany Peter)

You can read more about Oláh Miklós here:

Érsekújvár in 1605

In the beginning, it was also called “Oláhújvár”, after its builder. The town developed around the fortress. The huge new fortress was one of the most modern fortresses in Europe when it was built, a prime example of the star fortress which was considered to be adapted to the advance in artillery in the preceding centuries.

A Plaque commemorating Bercsényi Miklós (Photo: Pogany Peter)

It was Cardinal Pázmány Péter who had the archbishop’s palace built here in 1620 in order to fight Protestantism. He consecrated there the Franciscan church and monastery. Érsekújvár had a well-fortified and modern castle and thus was considered a strategic place near the Bohemian border.

A plaque commemorating Forgách Ádám, captain of Érsekújvár (Photo: Bojars)

 The Ottomans failed to conquer it six times. However, they occupied it for shorter periods: between 1566–1595 and 1605–1606). They were able to take it in 1663, too. Let us see how it happened:

On 6 August 1663 the defeat of Köbölkút
The Ottoman army built a bridge over the Danube river at Esztergom. Having crossed the river, they were heading toward Érsekújvár. Captain Count Forgách Ádám, the commander of Érsekújvár received the news and we do not know the reason why but he rode out with his troops to ambush the enemy. According to a source, it was a Turkish renegade who informed him, making him believe that only weak troops crossed the river. Others say he received the fake news that the bridge on the Danube was damaged and only 2,500 of the enemy warriors stayed on the other side of the Danube at Párkány. 
Reenactors at Érsekújvár
Forgách took most of the garrison out, Hungarians and Germans alike, and he also summoned the troops of the local noblemen to join him. He had altogether 8,000 men, and they arrived at Köbölkút (Gblece) on the night of 6 August where the Ottoman army was waiting for them. However, they realized the next morning that there were 12,000 Ottoman warriors in full battle readiness.
Yet, they launched the attack, and most of the soldiers of the garrison died in the following fierce fight, and the insurgent noblemen were chased away.
Érsekújvár in 1663
 In Érsekújvár castle, the surviving soldiers brought home fright and terror. The fallen soldiers would have been needed very badly when Grand Vizier Köprülü Ahmed arrived 10 days later with his huge army. General Raimondo Montecuccoli and his 15,000 men were idly watching the fall of the important fort because the general was afraid to engage in battle. When Zrínyi Miklós, Ban of Croatia, and his army could arrive in the Upper Lands at the end of September, he could not save the castle because Forgách Ádám had already surrendered Érsekújvár castle on 25 August.

It was made the center of an Ottoman vilayet in Upper Hungary. The saying “Strong as a Turk in front of Érsekújvár”, which means working with determination and stability, reflects the memory of the conquest determination of the Turks. In 1685 it was reconquered by the imperial troops of Charles V, Duke of Lorraine.

The retaking of Érsekújvár on 19 August 1685

The Habsburg Military Council made a decision of occupying Érsekújvár in the first part of 1685. Soon, the army of General Donat Heissler besieged it and tried to starve the defenders. Indeed, there was great starvation in the castle but the garrison did not surrender it.

The siege of Érsekújvár in 1685

The besiegers received reinforcement on 7 July, led by Duke Charles of Lorraine, and the systematic siege began. Yet, they could not go on with it undisturbed because the army of Grand Vizier Sejtán Ibrahim arrived at Esztergom castle three weeks later. Prince Charles left behind a strong besieging army at Érsekújvár and took the other part of his army to beat the Grand Vizier. You can read more about his victory here:


 While Duke Charles was away, General Caprara was in charge of the besiegers. He continued creating trenches and got closer and closer to the walls. The defenders were fighting desperately back, causing some losses to the Imperials but they could not hinder Caprara. The cannons were bombarding the walls from up close. The artillery fire destroyed the defenders’ cannons on 15 August. Two days later Caprara was able to send cavalrymen against the demolished walls. They decided on the final and general assault and assigned 3,000 picked men but due to the heavy rain, they had to postpone it to 19 August. The attack was so powerful that almost all the defenders perished in the struggle while the Imperials had a lot fewer casualties. 

The site where Ocskay was beheaded in 1710 (Photo: Pogány Péter)

Six years later, it received town privileges from the archbishop of Esztergom. The town also played an important role in many anti-Habsburg uprisings in the northern parts of Royal Hungary in the 17th century. Emperor Charles VI had it razed in 1724–1725, to prevent potential further insurrections which would use the fortress as their base.

Érsekújvár in 1685

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The statue of Archbishop Széchényi György (Photo: Pogány Péter)