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. It belonged to the Kőszegi family in the 13-14th centuries then Lőrinc of Osl got it from King Károly Róbert in 1323. They took the “Kanizsai” name from the castle, later on.
The place became an agricultural town in 1409. It had a bath in 1423 and a hospital in 1481. 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.
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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 and Kanizsa became the most important strongholds in southern Hungary. Szigetvár fell in 1566 and even greater pressure was put on Kanizsa.
Talking about this 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.
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 so the few defenders, led by Bakó Farkas, set the castle on fire and abandoned it. So it was how the famous castle of Kanizsa was taken by the enemy.
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.
Pasha Murat had 3825 soldiers at that time. There were several 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 (Batthyany Adam 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.
Finally, Kanizsa was retaken by the Habsburg army only in 1690. At the beginning of the 18th century, the holder of the castle moved German, Croatian, and Serbian settlers into the deserted town. A particularly mixed ethnic group lived in a suburb called Kiskanizsa. After the Turks were driven out, the town lost its strategic significance, so the Vienna War Council demolished the castle in 1702.