Lippa and Solymos

Solymos castle overlooking the town of Lippa (Photo: Tetcu Mircea Rares)

Lippa (Lipova), Jenő, Arad, and Temesvár: these were the major Borderland forts near Transylvania…Now we are talking about the town of Lippa and its nearby castle called Solymos, as well. As for Solymos castle, we know that the wine from the Sólymos region was very tasty and the Transylvanian princes liked it very much. Solymos (Soimos) is in Transylvania, Romania but we took the liberty to describe it in the same post as Lippa castle because they are so close to each other.

The Fort of Lippa in 1800

Solymos was built in 1272 by Bán of Szörény, Pál. The castle went to Hunyadi János in 1444 who made further fortifications on it. Later it was owned by the illegitimate son of King Matthias, Prince János Corvin. Here is a video of Solymos (Soimos):

The rebelling peasants took the castle in 1514 for a while; later the castle belonged to Queen Isabella in 1541. The castle withheld the siege of the Turks in 1551 but the men of King Ferdinand who put Serbian soldiers there in charge, 1500 men in all, surrendered it to Mehmed Begler-Bey of Rumelia. The Turks pillaged the city but Brother Martinuzzi György, the famous “White Monk”, and statesman took it back in the same year. The next year its Spanish garrison yielded the fort to the Turks.

Solymos castle (Photo: Spiridon Manoliu)

The Ottoman Turks organized a Sanjak around it and garrisoned the castle with 100-500 men. Many Sefard Jews arrived there during this time. After forty years of Turkish rule, Borbély György’s Transylvanian army took the castle back. The Begler-Bey of Temesvár attacked the place in 1595 but Prince Báthory’s arriving army chased him away. The Prince left 2000 soldiers in the castle. It proved to be a good idea because this way three years later they could beat the Ottoman Turks back. Lippa fell to the Wallachian Prince Michael in 1600 but was taken back in 1604 by Prince Bocskai István. (The Serbian guards surrendered the castle to him.)

The COA of Lippa

Quite unfortunately, Lord Székely Mózes traded the castle in 1602 for the castle of Kladova so it has become the Turks’ property again. The Pasha of Temesvár gained it in 1605 but the next year it was taken back by Petneházy István’s army. During the next few years, this fort played an important role in Ottoman-Transylvanian negotiations. The Turks wanted to get back Lippa and Borosjenő which had been organic parts of their frontier castle chain before the 15-Year-War. Now, after the end of the Long War, Lippa was in the hands of the Transylvanians and the Ottomans were very angry for losing it.

Several Transylvanian princes had fed them with promises to give the two castles back but when Prince Bethlen Gábor needed the confirmation of the Sublime Porte in 1613 to gain the throne – he didn’t take risks and agreed to give the forts “back”. But he was not in a hurry to do so. Bethlen was quite unwilling to fulfill his promise and kept postponing it. Finally, after several years of delay, the Sublime Porte was on the brink of removing Bethlen from power because of Lippa castle.  Bethlen had to give in, grudgingly. He said: “…if I had a way of keeping it, I would follow that way at all costs – but I have no means to hold it or to procrastinate it any longer because the Turks wouldn’t allow me to do so even if I vomited my soul in front of them…” 

Solymos (Photo: Citrom21)

His position was not so firm at this point because Homonnai-Drugeth György was collecting soldiers again in Hungary to usurp his throne. Homonnai allied with the Transylvanian Kendi István, and Voivode Radu Serban of Wallachia was also supporting him against Bethlen. King Habsburg Matthias II of Hungary also lent him a hand, and King Zsigmond III of Poland as well as the Spanish monarch were siding with Homonnai. On the other hand, Pasha Ali of Buda did his best to dethrone Bethlen. It was when Tholdalaghy Mihály, Bethlen’s envoy returned home from Istanbul in February 1616 and told that Lippa had to be given to the sultan by all means.

Solymos castle Photo: Alexxed

Bethlen summoned a Diet on 17 April where he informed the estates about his decision about Lippa Castle.  Then, he sent an order to Captain Keresztesi Pál of Lippa Castle to evacuate the town and cede the castle to the Turks. At the same time, Bethlen sent an army led by Balassi Mihály and Erős Benedek who were supposed to assist the process. However, the guards of Lippa did not open the gates before them, and even Erős Benedek sided with them and left the Transylvanian army. The garrison of Lippa received a message from Homonnai who promised to come to their aid. 

Solymos castle Photo: Tetcu Mircea Rares

Hearing this, Bethlen appeared in front of Lippa in person, bringing along a great army and several cannons. Finally, on 14 June 1616, Lippa had to be ceded to them after two weeks of blockade because the defenders, more precisely Captain Vajda István, didn’t want to accept the decision easily because everybody thought it a shame. Then, Pasha Mehmet of Temesvár arrived and took Lippa over.

The garrison of Lippa was settled around Gyulafehérvár, the capital of Transylvania. Nevertheless, Prince Bethlen’s reputation suffered this action quite a bit in the eyes of the Hajdú soldiers all over the country, and in Europe, too. You can read more about Prince Bethlen here and find out whether he was just a mere servant of the sultan or not:

Prince Bethlen Gábor of Transylvania (1580-1629)

It was how Lippa became part of the Ottoman Empire that made the Hajdú soldiers extremely upset. They began the gossip that Borosjenő Castle and Várad (Oradea) Castle would be surrendered to the Turks, too. As for Homonnai, he was first beaten back in June 1616 at Konyárd by the army of Rhédey, the Chief Captain of Várad, the brother-in-law of Prince Bethlen. After this defeat, Homonnai didn`t attack for a while but continued his plotting against Prince Bethlen. Later, Bethlen defeated him in November 1616, you can read more about that battle on my page:

Homonnay Drugeth György (1583?-1620)

The Turkish Bey of Lippa repaired, enlarged, and reinforced the castle and brought there more Turks from the surrounding Turkish frontier castles. Three circles of walls protected the inner castle and there were 1500 houses around the outer walls. The Ottomans installed the water from the nearby springs into the city and covered the streets with wooden boards.

Solymos castle Photo: Padurariu Adrian

Allegedly, seven Ottoman schools could be found in the city. Altogether there were 953 defenders in 1621 and 800 in 1660. It happened under the castle’s walls that Prince Rákóczi György II defeated Achmed, Pasha of Buda, in 1658. General Caraffa took it back after four days of siege in 1686. Its garrison numbered 130 men at that time. The Habsburgs ordered its destruction by gunpowder in 1788. So we have no modern pictures to show you of Lippa castle…


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The model of Solymos castle in Dinnyés Castle Park, Hungary (Photo: Solymari)

Here are more pictures of Solymos Castle: