Selected Passages from Hungarian-Ottoman Wars between 1372-1699


Kolozsvár, the statue of King Matthias Corvinus

Kolozsvár (Klausenburg, Cluj) was the historical center and the most important town of Transylvania, the birthplace of the Hungarian King Matthias Corvinus but Prince Bocskai István was also born here. The city can be found in Romania. Historically speaking, Kolozsvár used to be populated by Saxons and Hungarians alike but it has been heavily industrialized in the 20th century and now the Romanians are in majority. Read more about the Saxon people of Transylvania here:


Kolozsvár in 1617


In the beginning, the settlement used to be a fortified Slavic place in the 8th-9th centuries, then it became the center of Kolozs County where the Comes of the county lived. Kolozsmonostor is now part of Kolozsvár but it used to be 2.5 km away from it in the 12th-13th century when the Comes of Kolozs moved there. Soon, it lost its importance because of the growing city of Kolozsvár. 

The Monastery on the top of the small hill

After the Home-taking of the Magyar tribes, the Hungarians built an oval-shaped earth fort in the 9th century that was 220 x 98 m large with an entrance at the south-eastern corner. However, Romanian and Hungarian historians have different opinions about the history of the place. Romanians say it had been founded by the Dacians long before the Hungarians appeared. On the other hand, the Hungarians reason that it must have been a Magyar settlement because there was a medieval cemetery excavated in it and the oldest coins they found were from the age of the Hungarian King András I (1046-1060).

Further archeological finds and coins were found that can be connected to the attack of the nomadic Úz tribesmen around 1068. The monastery was dedicated to the Virgin Mary and it was founded by King Saint László and it had a very strong wall around it in the 13th century. However, it was destroyed during the Mongolian invasion in 1241.

It is assumed that the comes of Kolozs County had moved his office to Kolozsvár before the Tatars’ coming, though. In the northern part of the Gothic church, there are the remains of a typical Hungarian round-church. These small churches had a circular basement, they were in fashion during the Árpád dynasty in the Carpathian Basin. There are about 150 of them in the medieval Hungarian Kingdom, more than similar round churches anywhere in Europe. Historians say this church might have been the Saint Miklós Chapel that was still standing near to the Gothic church in 1418 but it had been built no sooner than the 13th century.

 As for the Gothic church of Monostor, it was built around 1360. Kolozsmonostor was not under the direct authority of the Transylvanian bishop and we know that many documents were issued there since 1288. It caused conflicts with the bishops: Bishop Adorján (1190-1201) had the monastery destroyed while Bishop Vilmos destroyed only the documents issued there, a couple of decades later.

The town of Kolozsvár

Its first fort was built in the 10th century but was destroyed during the Mongol invasion of 1241. The Saxons were invited there in 1272 and they built its Óvár (old castle) in the second part of the 13th century while the third fort was built in the 14th century. The various guilds of the city were in charge of the assigned bastions and walls. The first Hungarian mention of the city is from 1257, as “Kulusuar”.


 The Óvár received its first privileges and became a town in 1316 and King Zsigmond made the city a free royal town in 1405. The king awarded the burghers the same rights that Buda enjoyed: local authority, the right of keeping markets, and to stop merchants who were passing through. He also allowed them to build new walls, towers, and bastions, not to mention the moats. The constructions began in earnest, due to the imminent Ottoman peril. At that time, there were only about 3-4 thousand burghers in the city so the work was going on slowly, it was not finished in the age of King László V. The 3-kilometer-long wall around the city was completed at the end of the 1470s.

The town was taken by the rebelling peasant troops of Budai Nagy Antal in 1437 for a short time. (They were defeated in 1438.) At that time, half of the inhabitants of the town were Saxon and half of them were Hungarians, just like in the 15th century. Lord Szilágyi Mihály ordered in 1458 that the city should be led by 50 Hungarian and 50 Saxon men. King Matthias Corvinus beheaded the plotting nobles in the city in 1468. (Note, I am using the Eastern name order for Hungarian names where family names come first.)

There were about 20 guilds in the city during the 15th century, the largest was the Butchers’ Guild. They guarded the main gate of the town and they maintained the biggest bastion, the so-called Butchers’ Tower where 16 cannons could be placed.

The birthplace of King Matthias (born in 1443)

During the peasant uprising of Dózsa György, the rebels led by Priest Lőrinc were defeated next to the city in 1514. Priest Lőrinc was burned on the stake in the middle of the town. King Szapolyai held his Diet there in 1538 during the Dual Kingship of Hungary: at that time, he ruled Eastern Hungary while King Ferdinand was controlling the western part of the kingdom. Eventually, Eastern Hungary became the Principality of Transylvania and Kolozsvár became a very important city in it. Queen Isabella, the widow of King Szapolyai János was crowned here in 1551. Her son, Prince (and elected King) János Zsigmond made Kolozsvár famous as a Protestant city: it was the time when the burghers left the orthodox Lutheran Church and became Unitarians. Heltai Gáspár was the greatest Unitarian priest of Kolozsvár.

Kolozsvár in our days

Prince Bocskai István was born here in 1557. You can read more about Prince Bocskai here:

Prince Báthori István beheaded the plotters against him in 1575 on its main square. Similarly, Prince Báthori Zsigmond beheaded the plotting nobles also here in 1594. The Diet reelected Prince Báthori Zsigmond in 1601 in Kolozsvár, as soon as General Basta removed the Wallachian Mihai Viteazul from the power by betraying him. During the Báthory-rule, the fortifications of the city were repaired and reinforced. They rebuilt the Hídkapu (Bridge-gate) Tower, the Monostor Gate, and the Közép (Middle) Gate.

The Bridge-gate in 1860

Altogether there have been 37 Diets held in the city. Prince Székely Mózes minted the best and nicest gold coins in Kolozsvár in 1603. The first university of Transylvania was established here by Prince Báthori in 1585. Its Jesuit professors in 1603 were unfortunately chased away and so the university closed its gates.


The walls and the bastions of Kolozsvár

The town was in its heyday during Prince Bethlen’s period when Transylvania was called a “Fairy Garden.” Bethlen Gábor was elected as Prince of Transylvania in Kolozsvár in 1613. He paid the cost of rebuilding the southern corner bastion in 1629, now it is called Bethlen Bastion. Kolozsvár was prospering and it was called the “Treasure-house Kolozsvár”, the city of the princes and many Transylvanian Diets. Prince Bethlen Gábor issued a document here in favor of the Jewish inhabitants all over Transylvania in 1623 which permitted them to settle freely, trade freely, and practice their religion freely, without the obligation of wearing the distinctive marks for the Jewish. 

Bethlen’s Gold Forint

Like Prince Bethlen Gábor, Rákóczi György I. was elected here to be Prince. Prince Rákóczi György I (ruled 1630-1648) also repaired the walls and the bastions. More and more high ranked noblemen moved in Kolozsvár who began to build their rich houses in the city. Prince Rákóczi György II also took good care of Kolozsvár and he paid attention to maintaining the defenses. It proved to be useful as the Turks besieged the city in 1658. The enemy pillaged and burned the area and made Kolozsvár pay a high ransom. 

1661: Prince Kemény János, supported by the Habsburgs’ Imperial army besieged and took Kolozsvár, leaving  German soldiers in its garrison. A year later, Prince Apafi Mihály, supported by Bey Kucsuk Mehemed of Jene, besieged Kolozsvár. Fortunately, the city avoided the worst because the Prince made a Truce with the men of Emperor Leopold I. Finally, Prince Apafi took Kolozsvár in his hand only in 1664 because the unpaid German garrison rebelled and opened the gates before him. 

Kolozsvár in 1880

 During the Reconquest Wars of Hungary, the Imperial troops entered Transylvania. General Friedrich Veterani marched in  Kolozsvár in 1687 without any resistance. Emperor Leopold I. ended Transylvania’s autonomy in 1690 and Kolozsvár began to decline. After this time, Transylvania was directly under the Habsburgs’ control, unlike the Kingdom of Hungary. However, Kolozsvár was the city where the Union of Transylvania and Hungary was declared on 30 May 1848. After 1867, Kolozsvár ceased to be the administrative center of Transylvania but it remained the center of the County. Yet, the city was the most important city of Transylvania, also the center of culture and education. It became Transylvania’s capital again only in 1790.

A section of the town’s wall (2012)

The Upper Castle of Kolozsvár

After the fall of Rákóczi’s War of Independence, the Imperials built a huge fort next to the city at the confluence of the Szamos and the Nádos rivers, between 1713 and 1716.

The burghers of Kolozsvár were protesting and denied to pay the 5,000 Gold Forints that they were supposed to give for the constructions. The fort was designed by a military architect called Murando and the work was completed by Count Wirmond between 1721 and 1723.

 The fort was used as a storage and a prison. It was famous for its deep well. It was Emperor Joseph II who closed the castle and sold it to the city in 1782.

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Here are many pictures of Kolozsvár: 


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