Gyula is a town in Békés County, Hungary. The town is best known for its Medieval castle and a thermal bath. The first recorded reference to Gyula was in a document dated 1313 which mentions a monastery called Gyulamonostora.
By 1332 the settlement around the monastery was being called Gyula. The construction of Gyula Castle began in the 14th century but finished only in the mid-16th century. It was the property of the Maróthy family and later John Corvinus, the illegitimate son of King Matthias Corvinus.
Gyula was a stronghold on the Great Hungarian Plain, taken by Pasha Pertev in 1566. The siege lasted for two months and finally the defenders, led by captain Kerecsényi László, withdrew into the brick-built inner castle. At last, he surrendered the castle in exchange for free passage but upon leaving the ruins, he and his soldiers were put to the sword.
For more than a century the castle had controlled the area between the Kőrös and the Maros Rivers. Gyula became a center of its Sanjak that was divided into four parts: the Nahije of Arad, Békés, Zaránd, and Bihar. The Bey of Gyula ruled over these territories. The town had a mixed population of Turks and Hungarians. Using the stones of the surrounding areas’ Christian churches as building materials, the Muslims erected two mosques, a ceremonial bath, and a turbe (tomb).
This town was well documented in the writings of Evlija Chelebi, the Ottoman traveler who filled 10 thick books with his stories and descriptions between 1664-1666. He was on the Sublime Porte’s errand and had mustered almost all places of the Ottoman Empire during his forty years of service.
He wrote of Gyula that it had “…two hundred shops and three churches in the outer town…it is a peculiar spectacle that everybody uses a boat when they visit each other from house to house, from the garden to the mill.”
As the tax-paying Hungarian population was severely decreasing, the Ottomans tried to fill the numbers up with settlers from the South-Slavic areas, giving them the abandoned villages, as they did it elsewhere. The town remained a part of the Ottoman Empire until 1694 when Christian troops liberated the area. Due to the wars, the native Hungarian population fled from Gyula, Békés County became near uninhabited.
The landlord János Harruckern invited German, Hungarian, and Romanian settlers, who re-established the town in the early 18th century. There is such a village near Gyula, called Ajtós. It is famous for its German-Hungarian family who left for Germany in 1455 and became famous in Nurnberg: it was Albrecht Dürer’s father. The word “Dürer” is the direct translation of the village’s name, “Ajtós”.
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