Selected Passages from Hungarian-Ottoman Wars between 1372-1699

Szarvas

Szarvas castle in the Ottoman age

Szarvas can be found in Hungary, it is a town with a castle on the Körös River that was flowing into the Tisza River. Szarvas is located in the Great Hungarian Plain, 170 km southeast of Budapest. The name of the settlement originated from the old Hungarian word szarvas, which means deer. We can see this animal in the COA of the town, too. The history of the town is a sad example of Ottoman destructions during the 16th-17th century.

The area has been inhabited since prehistoric times, and important archeological findings were unearthed from the Avar Age. We do not know the founding time of Szarvas precisely but it is thought to have been during the last decade of the 13th century. However, it was first mentioned by Anonymus in the first part of the 13th century. He called it Szarvashalom (Deer-Mound). There are other documents about the existence of the village between 1284-85 because King László IV issued several of them at Szarvas that was assumedly a market town by then.

We know that the Ábránfy, the Maróthy, Szilágyi, and the Veér families owned lands in Szarvas because they were suing each other. According to the Hungarian Royal Treasury, it was still an ethnic Hungarian town in 1495. Its strategic role got bigger during the Turkish wars. Sadly, the medieval market town was ruined due to the Ottoman expansion, the native Hungarian population fled from the area.

The palisade castle was built after the Turkish occupation in 1566, by Bey Cherkes Omer who later became the Turkish Bey of the Gyula-Sanjak area. Archeologists claim that the location of the palisade-castle was at the modern-day Reformed church. It was surrounded by a moat with the water of the River Körös. Its shape was a square with four bastions at its corners, made of earth.
Only the mosque, the bath, and the minaret were built of brick. Its guards couldn’t have numbered more than 150 men, not including the Serbian irregulars in Ottoman pay.


 
Szarvas belonged to the 72 villages of the Nahije (an Ottoman administrative district) of Békés county, it was a center where tax was collected from the area. During the 15-Year-War, the Turks emptied the castle and put it on fire in 1595. however, they returned later and built it up again in 1673, making it a bit perhaps stronger. They also built a bridge over the Körös River. The bridge made the settlement strategically and economically a bit more important. The Christians took it back in 1683 but the castle and the town got totally destroyed in the meanwhile and the entire area got depopulated.

The Mini Hungary Park in Szarvas (Photo: Szajci)

General Heister had the palisade fort pulled down and destroyed the bridge by burning it in 1686. After 1690 the area was exposed to the frequent Serbian raids, similarly to the southern part of the country between 1690-1708. Read more about the ethnic changes in Hungary due to the Ottoman wars here:

https://www.hungarianottomanwars.com/essays/ethnic-changes-in-hungary-due-to-the-ottoman-wars/

The mini Hungary Park (Photo: Civertan)

It was uninhabited until 1720 when Austrian baron Johann Georg Freiherr von Harruckern invited mainly Slovak settlers from Upper Hungary to the deserted area. They built a brand new town with the help of Tessedik Sámuel who invited engineers to plan the town. Tessedik also established the first agricultural school in Hungary. The Lutheran church was built from 1786 to 1788, while the Roman Catholic one was built from 1808 to 1812. 

The model of the Törcsvári castle (Bran) in the Mini Hungary Park (Photo: Solymári)

One more thing about Szarvas castle: I’ve incorporated it into my historical novel, “The Ring of Kékkő Castle”:


 

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Szarvas castle
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