Selected Passages from Hungarian-Ottoman Wars between 1372-1699

Kanizsa

Kanizsa

Kanizsa (today is Nagykanizsa), is in the south of Hungary. (Großkirchen, Velika Kaniža, Kanije) Its name appeared like this (Knysa) the first time in 1245. In fact, there were two forts in the area of the present town of Nagykanizsa. One of them stood on the island of the Kanizsa River, it was called Kanizsaszeg but it was destroyed in the first part of the 14th century.

Kanizsa in 1380, thanks to the drawing of Szakonyi Balázs (Pazirik Kft.)

It belonged to the Kőszegi family in the 13-14th centuries then Lőrinc of Osl got it from King Károly Róbert in 1323. The Kanizsai family built the new castle in the middle of marshland, a bit to the west from the city. In fact, the family took the “Kanizsai” name from the castle, later on. As for names, I use the Eastern name order when Hungarians are mentioned. We know, that King Zsigmond spent the New Year’s Eve in the luxurious castle in 1393 and later he visited it many times. 

Kanizsa in 1440 (Szakonyi Balázs)


 
The place became an agricultural town in 1409. It had a bath in 1423 and a hospital in 1481. After the death of King Habsburg Albert, the Kanizsai family supported his widow, Queen Elisabeth in the 1440s. The local Rozgonyi family supported King Ulászló so they besieged Kanizsa Castle. The Kanizsai family sought the help of the Bánffy family who hurried to their aid and attacked the besiegers one night. It was how the Kanizsai family escaped certain death. The Kanizsai and the Bánffy families intermarried but their male family line ended in the first part of the 16th century. However, King Szapolyai gifted “male-right” to Lady Kanizsai Orsolya.

Lady Kanizsai Orsolya

The last and most famous Kanizsai family member was Lady Kanizsai Orsolya who later gave her hand to Palatine Nádasdy Tamás. Her son was Nádasdy Ferenc who became known as the “Black Bey”. (He was the first husband of Lady Báthory Erzsébet who was later innocently accused of horrible murders.) With the death of Lady Orsolya, the Kanizsai family was discontinued in 1571. This famous castle was built on a strategically very important location at the entrance gate of the Trans-Danubian region and thus it has become the target of fierce fighting.

Kanizsa in 1600 (Szakonyi Balázs)

 Enjoy the video:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8rf2uV-PHYE

The Ottomans moved through Kanizsa in 1532 and made great destruction in the area. As a result of the Turkish peril, the fort was reinforced in 1554. Szigetvár castle and Kanizsa castle became the most important strongholds in southern Hungary. Szigetvár fell in 1566 and even greater pressure was put on Kanizsa.

The castle-line of the Borderland

Talking about Kanizsa castle, we can’t leave a warrior’s name unmentioned. The most renowned Hungarian castle captain, Lord Thury György, used to be its leader between 1567-1571. Thury was the greatest hero of the Ottoman wars: he defended his castles with very few soldiers and won battles and sieges in the most hopeless situations. He was also a great duelist: we know of 600 (!) recorded duels against Ottoman warriors who sought him out from as remote places as Persia. He had also led countless raids against the Trans-Danubian Ottoman castles – it was the only successful strategy to keep the Frontier against the overwhelming enemy. It was the series of ceaseless and bold attacks from winter to summer that were effective enough. Here you can read more about him:

https://www.hungarianottomanwars.com/dramatized-historical-writings/interview-with-captain-thury-gyorgy-1561/


 
During the 15-Year-War the Ottomans attacked the Southern Trans-Danubian region in 1600. The Turks were raiding up to and right into the Austrian lands. In spite of the imminent threat, the Habsburgs hadn’t sent reinforcement to the castle. Besides, they appointed Georg Paradeiser as its captain because they were not trusting the Hungarians. Bey Ibrahim led a huge Ottoman army to the castle in 1600 in order to take the fort. As the Turks could not dig mines because of the marshy soil, they herded the Hungarian peasants from the area there and forced them to build earthen bridges so that they could assault the castle. A few days later, the castle’s gunpowder store exploded, allegedly the Turkish prisoners set it on fire.

The Habsburg reinforcement had arrived in the meantime, led by Prince Mercoeur of Lothar but they decamped and left after a few days, abandoning the castle. After 43 days of siege, there were only 109 soldiers and 37 officers alive in Kanizsa. The captain decided to surrender the fort and Bey Ibrahim let him and his men go. The Bey even gifted him with a kaftan and a precious saber. However, the War Council of Vienna got so upset upon hearing the news, that they executed poor Captain Paradeiser: they chopped his right arm off, then beheaded him in the burg; the Turkish saber was broken into two and his body was covered with the kaftan. Then, 12 more officers were beheaded but the crowd prevented the execution of the rest.

Nagykanizsa today

Unlike the Habsburgs, the Ottomans came to know the strategic value of the castle and made it a center of their Elayet, its leader became Pasha Murat. He built further fortifications and beat the attacking Hungarians back successfully. They were increasing the number of soldiers in the garrison, there were 1,372 warriors there in 1618 with 45 cannons while we can find only 309 Turkish soldiers and 21 cannons in the castle of Pécs at this time. Kanizsa was a very important fort of the Ottomans because they could send out raiding parties not only in Zala County but also in Austria.

the castles around Kanizsa in the 17th century

There were many Hungarian Frontier-castles which were built or reinforced on the Hungarian side of the Borderland to oppose Kanizsa: the leaders of them were the members of the Batthyány family from 1633 to 1659 (Batthyány Ádám 1633-1637). Lord Nádasdy Pál was also a captain between 1627–1633 in a castle against Kanizsa. These smaller castles had to be maintained by the free labor of the surrounding villages. While the Hungarian captains tried to persuade the peasants to come and work, the Turks were threatening them not to do so. Many times the Hungarian frontier-warriors had to herd the peasants by force to work on the fortifications.

Kanizsa in 1600 (Szakonyi Balázs)


 
Pasha Murat had 3,825 soldiers in the castle. The former Hungarian agricultural town next to the fort got depopulated and Muslim and South-Slavic soldiers and their families settled inside the fort which was mainly built out of wood. As a result of this, it caught fire several times, like in 1660.  Hearing this, Count Zrínyi Miklós aka Nicholas Zrinski hurried there with his army to take it but the Habsburg Emperor banned him to attack the fort. However, Zrínyi and General Hohenlohe tried to take Kanizsa in 1664 but they suffered huge losses and had to quit the siege. In fact, the triumphant Winter Campaign of Zrínyi had aimed to isolate Kanizsa Castle from the reinforcing Ottoman army. Having destroyed the Bridge of Eszék (Osiek), he achieved this goal but due to the sabotage of the Habsburgs, he lost this advantage. Here is more about Zrínyi:

https://www.hungarianottomanwars.com/dramatized-historical-writings/interview-with-count-zrinyi-miklos/

Count Zrínyi Miklós

 


 
Here is more about the 1,000-mile-long Hungarian-Croatian-Transylvanian Borderland that used to separate the West from the East for many generations:

https://www.hungarianottomanwars.com/essays/the-borderland/

The statue of Lord Thury in Kanizsa

Finally, Kanizsa was retaken by the Habsburg army only in 1690, after a 3-month-long blockade. The soldiers and the inhabitants had run out of food and they were allowed to leave. The Imperials found 279 smaller and bigger cannons and 3,900 hundredweight of gunpowder left behind. The Habsburgs ordered to demolish the castle in 1702 in fear of a possible Hungarian uprising. They forced 1,500 Hungarian peasants with their wagons who had to do the job.

Hungarian renactors in Kanizsa

At the beginning of the 18th century, German, Croatian, and Serbian settlers came into the deserted town. A particularly mixed ethnic group lived in a suburb called Kiskanizsa.

Here you can listen to the song of the Canischa Band about the deeds of Lord Thury György (see my English translation of their song  below):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eJatBVo5_Rk

„I am telling you of György Thury,
he is the champion of Hungary,
he has never been defeated in a duel,
he is a fearsome Turk-beater…

He was born in 1519, in Hont County,
he was from Középtúr, a son of a noble family…

His valiance was recognized early,
in Ipolyság, in Ság-vidék, in 1544,
he became a hussar chief-lad (petty officer).

His star rose high by 1558, became
Léva castle`s captain, Chief Comes of Vas County…

I am telling you of György Thury,
he is the champion of Palota,
he has never been defeated in a duel,
he is a fearsome Turk-beater…

I am telling you of György Thury,
he is the champion of Palota,
he has never been defeated in a duel,
he is a fearsome Turk-beater…

He stood his ground on knightly tournaments,
on the coronation of King Miksa (Maximilian),
the Lion of Dunántúl (Trans Danubian Region)
went on raids against the Turks…

He held Palota castle in 1566
to the shame of Pasha Arslan,
his 500 fighting off 8,000…

Turk army surrounded it,
but they failed in taking it,

They tried to starve them out,
scourging them…
but Salm didn`t come to relieve the siege…

I am telling you of György Thury,
he is the champion of Palota,
he has never been defeated in a duel,
he is a fearsome Turk-beater…

I am telling you of György Thury,
he is the champion of Palota,
he has never been defeated in a duel,
he is a fearsome Turk-beater…

In 1567, chief commander of Kanizsa,
Chief captain of Dunántúl,
a Turk-flaying, famous tough warrior,

In 1571, he with his good 150 lads,
at Orosztorony he was trapped,
beheaded and excised…

His head was taken to Istanbul,
Sultan looked at it, was touched,
he took his grey beard in his hand,
had him buried in his court.

I am telling you of György Thury,
he is the champion of Kanizsa,
he has never been defeated in a duel,
he is a fearsome Turk-beater…

I am telling you of György Thury,
he is the champion of Palota,
he has never been defeated in a duel,
he is a fearsome Turk-beater…

Those whom he had been bringing up since their childhood,
carrying them through many good fortunes,
having turned in many things with them,
giving them good name and reputation,

These have been weeping loudly,
not ceasing to mourn him day and night,
and they have all gone into hiding,
because the crown of their head had fallen…

I am telling you of György Thury,
he is the champion of Palota,
he has never been defeated in a duel,
he is a fearsome Turk-beater…

I am telling you of György Thury,
he is the champion of Kanizsa,
he has never been defeated in a duel,
he is a fearsome Turk-beater…”

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Here are a few pictures of Kanizsa castle:

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