Selected Passages from Hungarian-Ottoman Wars between 1372-1699

Kőszeg

Photo: Civertan

Kőszeg Castle (Güns, Kiseg) is in West-Hungary, it is near the Austrian border, famous for its historical character and its heroic siege in 1532. The first mention of Kőszeg Castle is from 802 A.D. in the Chronicle of Einhard it was called “castellum Guntionis”. However, the lower castle was constructed only after the Mongolian invasion of 1241-42.

Photo: Szöllősi Gábor www.varlexikon.hu

The origins of the only free royal town of Vas County (Eisenburg) go back to the third quarter of the thirteenth century.  It was founded by the Kőszegi family, a branch of the Héder Clan who had settled in Hungary in 1157 A.D. For decades, the town was the seat of the lords of Kőszeg (Güns). 

Photo: Szöllősi Gábor www.varlexikon.hu

Prince Albert took the castle in 1289. According to the Truce of Hainburg in 1291, Hungarian King András III had the inner castle pulled down. It was only King Károly Róbert who could break the power of the mighty Kőszegi Clan and was able to seize Kőszeg Castle in 1327. It was a year later, in (1328), that he elevated the town to royal status. The town boundaries were fixed during the Anjou dynasty (1347–1381). The king helped the burghers with significant privileges in 1336.

Kőszeg in 1532 by Fodor Zsolt

The walls of the town were gradually built out with strong towers so as to guard the settlement against the raids from Austria. The moat was filled up by the water of the Gyöngyös stream. In 1392 the royal town became a fiefdom when the Palatinate Nicolas Garai repaid a bond paid to King Zsigmond of Luxembourg by the Ellerbach family from Monyorókerék. The Garai era ended in 1441. The place went to the Habsburgs in 1445 but King Matthias Corvinus took it back in 1482. however, the Habsburgs could retake it two years after his death in 1492.

Captain Jurisics (Photo: Szöllősi Gábor www.varlexikon.hu)

The most famous event of Kőszeg castle, Hungary, was its siege in 1532:

After the Defeat of Mohács (1526) the Turks’ next destination became Vienna. Sultan Suleiman led the Ottoman army in person and it was the third wave of the great wars against the Ottoman Turks in the sixteenth century. Kőszeg became the major flashpoint of the campaign of 1532 as it was guarding the only passable road toward Vienna. The small and old-fashioned Kőszeg castle was defended by a Croatian soldier, the brave Miklós (Nicholas) Jurisics.

Photo: Szöllősi Gábor www.varlexikon.hu

It goes without saying that they were not numerous and the contemporary world’s strongest army surrounded them. There were 130,000 Turks and 80,000 of them besieged the castle – 15,000 of them were Janissaries. Jurisics had just 46 Hussars and 700 peasant soldiers who took refuge in the castle, defending their 1800 women and 2300 children. They were holding the castle for more than twenty days during which the Turks had attacked it 19 times by Grand Vizier Ibrahim, between August 5–30. 

Photo: Kocsis Kadosa

The Ottomans undermined the walls and once they exploded a twenty-feet part of it. They built earth ramparts to three sides of the walls and kept attacking the castle from all sides. There were huge rains pouring down during the siege that was also to the defenders’ help. The castle – or its ruins – were only symbolically handed over to the enemy and only their flag was allowed to be put on the tower.

Photo: Szöllősi Gábor www.varlexikon.hu

After the unsuccessful siege, at the end of August, the Turks moved away towards Vienna with a great delay. The heroic resistance of Kőszeg bought time for the Christian armies to arrive and assemble before Vienna. You can read more about the siege here:

https://www.hungarianottomanwars.com/1490-1541/a-scene-from-the-last-days-of-koszeg-s-siege-in-1532/


According to tradition, the last contingent of withdrawing troops was meant to have left the city limits around 11 o’clock. As a memorial to this historic heroism, the church clocks in the town have read 11 o’clock since 1777. After the Ottoman wars, in 1695 the garrison and surrounding areas of Kőszeg fell into the hands of the Eszterházy dukes, where it remained until 1931.

Photo: Szöllősi Gábor www.varlexikon.hu

The town lost its strategic importance after the Rákóczi-Liberation Wars of 1703–1711. Along with Szombathely, Kőszeg was the most important fortress for the rebel “kuruc” military leadership from 1705–1708, to liberate and hold onto the areas west of the Rába River.

Photo: Kocsis Kadosa

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