Szolnok Castle


Enjoy the animation video of Digitális Legendárium about Szolnok Castle but turn on the English subtitles! The music is also outstanding. But first, here is a short story that could supplement the video:

Szolnok castle was guarding its market town, it was situated in the middle of Hungary at the confluence of the Zagyva and the Tisza Rivers. It had an important function on the 1,000-mile-long Military Borderland because it was the entrance to Eger castle, the one that guarded the road to the north. It was especially Captain Dobó István of Eger and Zay Ferenc who were recommending that this strategic place should be reinforced. The fort was mainly built of earth and a wooden palisade. German and Spanish mercenaries were appointed to guard it, their captain was Nyáry Lőrinc in 1552. (Please, note that I use the Oriental name order for Hungarians where family names come first.)

The fort of Szolnok (Photo: Atrajer)

Nyáry Lőrinc, a Hero of the Valiant Order

The captain of Szolnok derived from a real soldier family. His grandfather used to be a flag-bearer of King Matthias Corvinus, his uncle, Ferenc fought in the Battle of Mohács in 1526 and later in defending Vienna. Ferenc defeated a Turk cavalry unit in 1541 at the siege of Buda, and he had an important role in the fight at Szalka in 1544, too. Lord Nyáry Ferenc was the commander of the Hungarian auxiliary unit in the war of King Habsburg Ferdinand against the League of Schmalkalden in 1546: Without his Hussars, Ferdinand would have had more trouble defeating his Protestant enemies in the Battle of Mühlberg. Ferenc died in Saxony after that battle.
The COA of the Nyári family from 1535
 Then, it was the nephew of Ferenc, Nyáry Péter, who inherited the rank of Chief Comes of Hont County. Péter was the father of Nyáry Lőrinc who became also the Chief Comes of Hont County around 1542. Nyáry Lőrinc was a member of the delegation on behalf of King Ferdinand who took over the Hungarian Holy Crown from the resigning Queen Isabella in 1551. The next spring, he was appointed as the captain of the freshly built castle of Szolnok.
Szolnok in 1552 (By Pazirik Ltd.)

The Siege of Szolnok in 1552

Nyáry Lőrinc was in a difficult situation because the number of guards was only 1,400 soldiers, mainly Spanish, Bohemian, and German mercenaries who showed not much willingness to fight against the overpowering Turks who were due to come soon. The number of Hungarian defenders was about 600 or fewer men, the mercenaries were in a larger number, although there are contradicting sources. Nyáry fortified the castle as much as he could and had the guards swear to fight until the last man’s stand. However, the siege didn’t last more than ten days. We know, that the fort was supplied with twenty-four cannons and three thousand muskets along with eight hundred quintals of gunpowder. According to the latest research, the defenders were weakened by a disease, a typhoid fever.
The siege of Szolnok in 1552 by Abraham Ortelius

Sultan Suleiman ordered his Pasha Achmed Ali of Buda Castle and Pasha Mohamed to take Szolnok and Eger in 1552. After taking the Hungarian castles in Nógrád castle, Pasha Achmed Ali arrived in Szolnok on 25 August and besieged the castle. Ali demanded the castle to surrender but it was refused. Then the army of Second-Vizier Ahmed and Pasha Szokollu Mehmed who had just conquered the area of the Temesköz joined him on 2 September.

Szolnok, 1552 (Pazirik Ltd.)

Now, the enemy had a forty-thousand-strong army. Seeing the huge Ottoman army, the mercenaries got frightened and began to whisper about surrender. We must know that in Western Europe, the mercenaries had a contract in which they agreed with the castle’s captain to hold the fort only for a reasonable period of time if the enemy was too large and there was no hope of reinforcement. It was behind their thinking now. Additionally, they didn’t trust the Turks that they would grant them safe conduct in case of surrender. Indeed, the Ottomans many times had broken their word and slaughtered the soldiers who abandoned their castles, especially the Western mercenaries were given no mercy. Yet, the mercenaries were fighting bravely and repelled the first attacks. 

Szolnok in 1552 (By Pazirik Ltd.)
Then, the German mercenaries were the first to think of fleeing but it turned out that the Hungarian boaters had fled away before them. The next night the Spanish riders swam across the Tisza River, and then the boaters returned for the rest of the foot soldiers. All of the mercenaries had fled by the third day of the “real” siege and left the gate ajar after themselves. Seeing them go, most of the Hungarians followed them, too. Captain Nyáry Lőrinc, his officer Pekry Gábor, and his 50 faithful Hajdu soldiers were left behind. Nyáry had the gate closed but it was in vain.
The Ottomans attacked on 4 September and the defenders fought until the last man: Pekry and Nyáry received many wounds and were captured. It was how Szolnok was taken by the Turks who garrisoned the fort with two thousand soldiers and went on against Eger castle. In any case, the defenders of Szolnok gained ten valuable days for Eger Castle, and it must have contributed to its successful defense.
Szolnok in 1617

As for Vice-Captain Pekry, he took the side of the son of King Szapolyai who was the lord of East Hungary, and this was how he was released from Turkish captivity. However, Nyáry refused to leave King Ferdinand so he was taken to the Yedikule in Istanbul. He was held there for several years and even Zay Ferenc and Verancsics Antal, the leaders of Ferdinand’s envoys could not liberate him. King Ferdinand was not hurrying to ransom him out, either. Ferdinand made a feeble promise to free him after making a Truce with the Turks, though. In the meantime, Nyáry’s body was weakened in the captivity where he was made to work, too.

The capture of Nyáry and Pekry at Szolnok (painting by Than Mór)
 Finally, he was freed by his jailer, a renegade Hungarian called Huszár István. They fled through Venice in a very adventurous way. Returning home, Nyáry gifted several villages to his helper, out of gratitude. He could even get a noble rank for him from the king. Sadly, they wanted to sue Nyáry at home for losing Szolnok castle but then, the case was dropped. Nyáry Lőrinc went on fighting against the Ottomans all his life, after returning home. His son, Pál became the Captain of Eger castle and gained a name by defending Várad castle as well. You can read more about Nyáry Pál here:
Nyáry Lőrinc had a wife called Lady Török Margit of Enying, and after her death, he married Turóczy Márta. We know he had four sons and three daughters altogether. Lord Lőrinc died in 1558 or 1559. Although he failed to keep Szolnok castle, his name must be honored because he never abandoned the fort and fought there until he could lift his saber.
Some remains of the castle (photo: Atrajer.)
As for Szolnok, it remained in Ottoman hands until 1685. Szolnok became the center of a Turkish Sanjak and unlike other places, they began the construction of several typical Turkish buildings: they built a bath, a minaret, and a mosque in 1553. They made the first permanent bridge over the Tisza River in 1562. It was in Szolnok where they copied the only Turkish manuscript made in Hungary that had been about the Hungarian campaigns of Sultan Suleiman.


As for the Mosque in Szolnok, it was pulled down and its stones were reused in 1820. Yet, I have heard that the city of Szeged signed a contract in 2013 with the Turkish Embassy of Hungary and the mosque will be rebuilt. By the way, when will Turkey return the two huge candle holders that had been pillaged from Buda, from the Matthias church in 1526? They are presently in the Hagia Sofia as far as I know. It would be a real sign of friendship, too.

The Turk well in Szolnok: the minaret used to stand at this site, too (Photo: Atrajer)

Source: partly from Szibler Gábor 

You can read more about the latest historical research about Szolnok Castle in this Hungarian study of Kertész Róbert and Korpás Zoltán:


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The reconstructed gate tower of Szolnok (Picture: Vágó B. Endre)