After the Battle of Mohács - before the Final Turkish Occupation of Buda
1541 is an important date in Hungarian history. It was then that Turks occupied Buda and the country was divided into three parts. It is less commonly known, however, that prior to these events the sultan's army had already occupied the Hungarian royal residences twice before. The first of these occasions was on the 11-12th of September 1526, two weeks after the battle of Mohács, when Turkish troops marched into the capital -and met no resistance. The king's court, at that time rather the widowed queen's court, and the majority of the population had made their escape prior to this. Sultan Suleyman I spent a short time in the royal castle and at the royal hunting lodge of Nyék, then on the 25th of September, after plundering the castle and the town, the latter of which he had put to the torch - he started back to his empire with his army. After this Buda became the main target of the two opposing successors, John Szapolyai and Ferdinand Habsburg. The last 25 years of the century were to be the most troubled and difficult in the medieval history of the Hungarian capital.
On the 1st of November, 1526 John Szapolyai, the Transylvanian voivode entered Buda's charred walls. Not long after, on the 10th of November Szapolyai was elected as king at Székesfehérvár, then on the 11th he was crowned as John I (1526-1540). The town and the castle, however, were in such disrepair, that the new king spent the winter in Esztergom. On the 17th of December, the same year, at the Diet convened in Pozsony, the Czech king, Ferdinand of Habsburg, the brother of King Louis II's widow Mary of Habsburg, was also elected as king. The power of the newly elected, but uncrowned ruler grew quickly. Although John I was still able to convene the Diet in Buda in March 1527, by August he was compelled to surrender Buda to Ferdinand without a fight. Ferdinand marched into Buda on the 20th of August. This time Ferdinand convened the Diet on the 3rd of October in the Hungarian capital, where the representatives decided on his coronation. Finally he was crowned on the 3rd of November at Székesfehérvár. (Ferdinand I reigned between 1527-1564). In February 1528 he convened another Diet in Buda, and soon after, in March 1528 he departed from the Hungarian capital and indeed the country, leaving a governor in his stead.
Ferdinand's supremacy over the Hungarian royal residence did not last long. In September 1529 Sultan Suleyman's troops conquered it over a five-day period (the 3rd to the 8th) while on the way to wage a campaign against Vienna. It was the first time in the history of Buda that its walls had been assaulted by cannon fire. However, the Turks did not hold the capital on this occasion either and on the 14th September they handed it over to their ally and vassal, John I. On returning from Vienna they stayed in Buda for a short time, while they crossed the Danube on the floating bridge here. Leaving 3,000 soldiers behind - to support John - they finally withdrew on the 25th of October.
Ferdinand tried to reoccupy the capital in the autumn of 1530. The siege, which was begun on the 31st of October, led by general Wilhelm Roggendorff, came to an end on the 20th of December without success. The castle (the royal palace was usually referred to as a castle at this time) and the town held out despite the siege having been the fiercest in its history. The enemy had surrounded the castle, the town walls were again subjected to an assault by cannon fire (which destroyed a part of them), and then it sustained several attacks. In the meantime famine broke out within the walls as a result of the encirclement.
After the siege Buda enjoyed a relatively peaceful decade, although the threat was ever present. King John used this period to restore the town walls and build new bastions. The Rondella - which defines the view of the royal castle from the south even today - and the Erdélyi bastion on the north-eastern side, as well as many of bastions on the western and northern side - which were later reconstructed - were built at this time. King John, however, tried to secure his relationship with Ferdinand through negotiations, and finally these led to a peace treaty signed by the two parties in 1538, in Várad. The terms of the treaty stated that after Szapolyai's death the part of the county under his control had to be passed into the hands of Ferdinand. John I died in July 1540, in Transylvania, but Queen Isabella and her newborn baby, John Sigismund stayed in Buda. Under the pressure of the Szapolyai party and especially that of György Martinuzzi the Estates of the Reign gathering in Rákos field on the 13th of September chose the child to be king, a move which broke the treaty of Várad. To solve the problem and to occupy Buda Ferdinand launched a campaign in October. The siege, led reluctantly by Leonard Fels, ended in failure on the 21st of November - just as the one launched some 10 years before had. To put matters right a campaign to take the capital, led by Roggendorff, was launched on the 4th of May 1541. The sultan then launched his campaign to "relieve" the baby John Sigismund - whom he formally recognised as king - and Queen Isabella, who were held under siege.
The "relief" was successful, and the besiegers, virtually trapped between the defenders and the Turkish troops, were defeated on the 22nd of August. It was the end of medieval Buda, too. At that time Buda was already more important for the sultan, and he could not leave this key-town in the uncertain hands of a baby-king and his regent, i.e. his mother, or his regents. On the 29th of August, 1541, when the Hungarian aristocrats paid a visit to the sultan's camp with the child John Sigismund, the Turkish units infliltrating to the town - who were " just looking around"- were given a signal and they occupied the town gates and key positions. The sultan himself marched into the town on the 2nd of September, where he participated in a thanks-giving service in the Church of Our Lady, i.e. the Matthias Church, which was stripped of its Christian ornamentation and converted into a djami, (a kind of mosque). Since Queen Isabella, her child and her court stayed still in the castle, the sultan took up residence in the Werbőczy palace, which stood in today's Színház Street, around the today's Castle Theater. After three days, on the 5th of September, the queen, together with her child and escort, left for Transylvania. With this a whole period of Buda and the medieval Hungarian royal residence came to a close. It fell into the hands of the Turks for 145 years. Sultan Suleyman remained in the town until only the 22nd of September. Before he left, he appointed his namesake, Pasha Suleyman, to begler begh, i.e. to governor of the Buda province (vilayet).
Buda in the Turkish Era
Ferdinand could not accept the loss of the Hungarian capital, so in the summer of 1542 he set out with a huge army - under the command of the Prince of Brandenburg, Joachim - to reoccupy it. Hungarian troops also joined this army led by Péter Perényi and Miklós Zrínyi. However, by the end of September, 1542 the united army had only managed to lay siege to Pest, and shortly after this at the beginning of October they withdrew in failure. From this time on there was no siege for 56 years, so a "peaceful development" - i.e. the assimilation of Buda into the Turkish military and administration system - started.
There were Hungarian and other Christian citizens in Buda following the departure of the Queen's court and after part of the bourgeoisie had fled. These citizens had a certain autonomy, but they were subordinated to the Turkish, Islamic administration system. (The elements of the local government were organised on the basis of religious rather than ethnic groups. Although at first the Italians had their separate prefect.) The sultan appointed István Werboczy, the former chancellor, as chief judge of the local Hungarian citizens, but he died in October, 1541. He was said to have been poisoned by the Pasha of Buda. In the first year of the Turkish occupation the judge of the town remained the same person who had held this office before the conquest, and the representatives of the council were chosen from among the former elite. Turncoats can be found among the later judges of Buda, who were given the title of spahi for their services. According to the first known Turkish tax register of 1547 there were 238 western Christian (as the Turks saw them, faithless, that is kyafir, otherwise pronounced jaur) families in the town. The Christians were allowed to practise their religion "without restrictions" for a while, and the former Hungarian parish, standing in the northern part of the town, was left for them. It was the Church of Mary Magdalene, the predecessor of the later Garrison church. Both the Catholic and the Calvinist denominations used the church. Later, probably in 1596, this church was taken over and converted into a djami. Later the number of Christian families decreased because the Turks prohibited them from moving into the town.
The Jews formed a significant colony in Buda. In 1547, for example, 75 families were registered. Some of them had come back, while others were newcomers. Later their numbers fluctuated, decreasing by the turn of the century, only to increase at the end of the Turkish era. They also had their own judge.
The third group making up the population of Buda was the community of the "Coptic", Kiptile people. They were mainly Greek Catholics. In 1547 there were 60 families. The majority of these may have come here before the Turkish conquest. Their numbers gradually increased over time, since there were a lot of Balkan Slav people among the defenders of the fortresses and office holders and their religion was more palatable to the Turks. Historical sources refer to several of their churches, but the locations of these have not yet been pinpointed.
In the era of the Turkish occupation the fourth, nevertheless dominant religious-social group in Buda was that of the Muslims, which included not only the Turks but also other Muslim nationalities, and those who had converted to Islam, such as the Balkan Slavs. In the beginning they formed part of the defenders and officials, but later their numbers increased as family members joined them. Their significance is shown by the fact that they occupied all the former Christian churches and converted almost all of them into their own shrines. In addition to this they built a new church in one of the palace courtyards.
The town structure, network of streets and squares of Buda in the Turkish era changed little if at all. The Turks referred to the former royal palace as ich kala (inner castle) or hisarpeche (citadel), while they called the town (the Castle quarter) orta hisar (middle castle). The units of these territories were not identified as streets and squares (although they used them) but as specific housing blocks, groups of houses and smaller town parts, called mehalle, which were usually structured around certain objects, such as the Turkish djamis.
These changes were apparent on the exterior view of the town, both on the buildings and in them. In churches the furnishing and ornaments were thrown out or plundered, and they were converted into djamis. The first to be used for this purpose was the Church of Our Lady: "the Turks converted it into a main mosque, the altar and the tombstones were thrown out and a lot of things were walled up." - reported the traveller Hans Dernschwam on the occasion of his visit in 1555. (Dernschwam had lived in Buda for a long time before the conquest, so he could properly compare the new conditions to the old ones.) The Turks called the new djami Büyük (Great) or Sultan Suleyman djami. Later, being the oldest one, it was referred to as Eski - Old - djami as well. The Virgin Mary's or in other words Saint John the Almoner's Chapel of the royal palace became the Seray (Palace) or Enderun (Inner) djami. St Sigismund Provostry became the Küchük (Small) djami, and the church of St. John of the Franciscan order became the Pasha djami. The St George's Chapel in the former St George's Square (today's Dísz tér) was called the Orta (Middle) djami. Derschwam gave a clear description of this, too: "Their other mosque is the church of St George, which was completely surrounded by buildings. The heathens walled up the high arched windows halfway up, building and attaching their stalls and cottages to the walls." The Dominican church of St Nicholas was first used as a storehouse for weapons, then as Hüsrev Pasha's djami. Finally the church of Mary Magdalene was converted into a Muslim shrine in 1596, and was called the Fetih or Fethiyye (Victory) djami to commemorate the Turk's victory at the battle of Mezokeresztes (26-28 October, 1596). Where feasible, the tower in front of the church was used as a minaret, and if this was not feasible - as for example in the case of the former Franciscan church, which was not at the church's façade - they built a new one. According to our present knowledge the Murad Pasha djami, situated at the western outer-ward of the former royal palace, then called the Yeni Mahalle (new quarter of the town), was newly built.
In the Hungarian royal palace there were basic functional changes in addition to the establishment of djamis. Apparently, only the first pasha of Buda, who was appointed by Sultan Suleyman, resided within its walls. In the beginning his successors lived somewhere out in the suburbs, only moving back at the end of the 16th century, but not to the royal palace. They moved into the town, to the area north of the former Franciscan church (today's Várszínház). The palace completely lost its former role. Its territory and buildings were used as barracks, storehouses and as a prison. Its leader was the dizdar (castle supervisor). The pasha sometimes used it for meetings, and certain legations also visited it.
Changes were striking at the dwelling-houses - and Dernschwam may again be utilised as a witness to this. Though it must be noted that his descriptions probably related to the years directly after the conquest, when the dwellers of the town were newcomers, and in the majority of cases soldiers and officials without families. "The houses collapse one after the other. There is no new construction; the dwellers merely seek a shelter from rain and snow. The great, spacious halls and rooms were divided up into numerous cells, with walls pieced together from stone, clay and wood, just like a stable. They did not need cellars, and so filled them with rubbish. Nobody is a lord or owner of their own house." Building surveys and excavations proved the existence of the above mentioned walls made of stone, clay and wood in several places. However, there are also examples of more sophisticated Turkish constructions and renovations, such as skillfully hewn out vaults. Some information is available about the use of cellars in the Turkish era from a Turkish traveller, Evlia Chelebi, who lived a century later. He wrote: "There is a cellar under every palace. During sieges they seek refuge from cannon fire by going underground." Later Derschwam talks about another typical Turkish architectural solution: "All the houses became pigsties; they were surrounded by so many other buildings that one can hardly recognise the gates and the big old coach entries. They built gutters and stalls in front of and to the side of the houses, in which the Turkish craftsmen sit and work in the street - according to Turkish customs." In any case, the look of the medieval towns started to resemble that of eastern towns, and especially that of Balkan towns conquered at an earlier date.
The Turkish Fortifications of Buda
Besides the buildings that ensured the peaceful life of the town, there were military buildings as well. The Turks paid great attention to the construction and maintenance of fortresses, since Buda was one of the most important western strongholds of the Turkish Empire. The former royal palace at the southern end of Várhegy was a huge military base. The fortifications here had hardly been changed. The round bastion in the southernmost part, the big, southern Rondella, which was called Büyük frengi kulesi (The Big Frengi, i.e. the Frank tower) in Turkish, was built in the time of Szapolyai, but was nevertheless ranked among the modern ones. Its shape was used in Turkish fortress architecture for a long time, and occasional repairs were only made when necessary. It is possible, however, that the huge Water rondella - which stood on the southeastern corner of the complex, but has since disappeared - was a bastion built in the Turkish era. However, since no excavations have been made, this is only a theory. The Mace tower on the southwestern corner was built in the Sigismund era, but was not considered modern even then. In spite of this the Turks kept it - and called it Küchük frengi kulesi (Small Frengi tower) - and merely thickened, i.e. coated it. The latest archaeological research seems to confirm the Turkish origin of the Pasha Karakas tower (Karakash pasha kulesi) situated on the northwestern part of the palace. Apparently the rondellas of the western town wall - starting from the northern closing wall of the royal palace - as well as the ones on the northern town wall gained their basic form, which remains the same today, in the era of the Turkish conquest. Although in almost every case precedents in the Szapolyai era or even before are also possible. Moving to the north from the closing wall, one can find the Ova kapusu (Field gate), i.e. the rondella defending the predecessor of today's Fehérvár gate, the Kasim pasha kulesi. Khasim pasha kulesi, i.e. the rondella screening the Ova kapusu, the predecessor of today's Fehérvári rondella. The next one is the Ekhsi ash kulesi (Sour Soup tower) and then comes the Veli bey kulesi (Veli bey tower). The last one is the Toprak kulesi (Earthen tower, with other words: Mud wall built "tower", or rather: bastion), i.e. today's Esztergom rondella, standing in the northwestern corner of the town. To the east of this can be seen the Siavus pasha kulesi and the Murad pasha kulesi, then the town wall joins the Bécsi gate (Bech kapusu), which originates from the Turkish name and still used today. On the other, eastern side of the gates an outer town wall was built in the Turkish era, from which a bastion stood out to the north (Mahmud pasha kulesi). However, this curtain-wall and the bastion were completely demolished in the 19th century. The town wall of the north side ended in the northeastern corner, at the Erdély bastion (Erdel kulesi). As opposed to former ones, this bastion - which was originally built by Szapolyai - was not round but polygonal, after the Italian fashion. At later dates it was enlarged several times, but without excavations the scale of alterations excecuted by the Turks cannot be defined. To the south of this there were two more bastions built next to each-other on the eastern town wall: the precursors of the Halászbástya (Fishermen's bastion). The one on the north protruded out sharply and there was a round tower at its end. The Turks called it Haber kulesi (Sentinel tower). On the section of the town wall to the south from the double bastion the role of the bastions was substituted by the fractioned, sometimes protruding line of the wall as far as the eastern town gate, which was called Su kapusu (Water gate) by the Turks.
Attempts at Recapture during the 15-Years' War
After the campaign to recapture Buda in 1542 - which failed - the next attempt was not made until half a century later in 1598. Archduke Matthias commanded the army, which included thousands of German-Hungarian-Polish soldiers, but among his lieutenants were the Hungarians Miklós Pálffy and Tamás Nádasdy, and a Pole, Stadniczky. The siege between the 3rd of October and the 3rd of November seemed to be working at first, because they soon managed to occupy the suburb surrounded by a wall, which is today's Víziváros. However, the siege - partly owing to the autumn rains - ended in failure. The troops had to be withdrawn before they could do any damage to the town on Várhegy, or to the castle. After this, in 1599 there were roaming imperial troops around Buda, but they did not launch an attack. However, one of these units made up of Miklós Pálffy's troops, managed to capture the pasha of Buda, Suleyman, who had ridden out from the town to study the terrain.
The next siege was launched three years later in 1602, under the command of General Christoph Hermann Russwurm. The encirclement of Buda started relatively late again, on the 29th of September, but in the beginning it seemed quite promising. The attackers managed to occupy the suburb on the first attempt, and soon after this they took Pest, across the river. Their success did not last long however, since Pest was soon surrounded by Turkish troops led by Grand Vizier Yemishji Hassan. Although the Turkish army, which besieged Pest, was withdrawn on the 2nd of November, they succeeded in sending support to their comrades across the river.
Meanwhile the Imperial camp besieging Buda also got support when Archduke Matthias took command. Although the siege continued - the northern fortifications of the town sustained heavy cannon fire, and several attacks were launched against the walls - the endurance of the defenders and the heavy autumn rains forced the Imperial army to stop the siege, and they withdrew from the walls on the 18th of November. Pest, however, was still under imperial authority. This encouraged the Imperial commanders to try to reoccupy Buda the following year.
The army led by Russwurm again began the siege quite late, at the end of September in 1603. The garrison of Buda had already prepared the defences in advance, and the Turkish field troops also marched there. Although the imperial troops drove back the assault of the Turkish field troops (which were withdrawn on the 5th of November), the siege was a failure nevertheless, and Russwurm decided on withdrawal because of the approaching winter. After the withdrawal the Muslim garrison of Buda was not attacked by Christian troops for more than 80 years. Meanwhile the Turkish administration of the town was able to work unhindered and successfully developed a system of defence.
The Siege in 1684
A campaign for the recapture of Buda was only made possible after the Turkish defeat at Vienna (1683) and the establishment of the Holy League. Learning from previous failures, the campaign was launched earlier in the year. The Imperial troops led by Charles of Lorraine - after they had defeated the Turkish army at Vác - occupied Pest, which had been evacuated by the Turks at the beginning of July. Then on the 12th of July 1684 another victory against the Turks was won, and the walls of Buda were finally reached on the 15th of July.
Although not an overwhelming force, the besieging army of over 30,000 - supplemented by 8,000 Hungarian soldiers on the 18th of July - well outnumbered the defending 10-12,000 soldiers. However, the besiegers did not have enough artillery pieces. The beginning was promising again: on the 19th of July - after a battle which cost the Turks considerable losses - the attackers managed to occupy the suburb, then on the 22nd of July defeated the Turkish field troops at Érd. After this they were able to begin the siege of the town and the castle, which meant that first of all they had to build up a double entrenchment-earthwork system. The inner, narrower ramparts (contravallacio) checked the castle directly, whereas the outer defence line (circumvallacio), which surrounded a much bigger area, was formed against the anticipated relief troops. They marked the main directions of attack so that the artillery set up on the neighbouring hills and mountains could provide the best support. From Gellért hill they fired at the southern bastions, especially the Rondella and the Mace tower of the palace, and from Nap hill of today they attacked the section between the northern closing wall of the palace and the Fehérvár rondella (Kasim pasha kulesi), while on the north, from the direction of present-day Kis-Sváb hill and Rózsadomb, they besieged the neighbourhood of the Esztergom rondella (Toprak kulesi). In these parts simultaneously to the artillery arrangement the besiegers approached the castle walls stage by stage with the help of saps so that they could mine them and launch an attack with the infantry. They also attacked from the northeast, from the direction of the Danube bank. In spite of the continuous cannon fire, the repeated minings and attacks by the infantry, the defensive army led by Mehmed Kara (Black) and Ibrahim Seytan ("Satan") fought very hard, and even launched various counterattacks that inflicted losses upon the enemy. On the 9th of September the weakening besieging troops received considerable reinforcements under the command of the Bavarian Elector-prince Maximilian Emmanuel, but on the 22nd of September the Turkish field troops attacked the outer defence line of the besieging army at several points. On the 25th of September the defenders also launched a significant attack against the inner defence line. On the 4th of October the Imperial troops - under the command of Maximilian - launched a major attack against the walls, but when this was repulsed they were only able to maintain a state of siege for a short while. Because the besiegers were caught in the crossfire they decided to withdraw at the end of October. They broke camp between the 1st and 3rd of November, then withdrew leaving a great number of wounded soldiers behind.
The preparations for the next siege took place in the spring of 1686. A sizeable army of some 61,000 gathered at Párkány in May, which although mostly made up of Imperial troops also comprised of soldiers sent by various allies: Bavarian, Brandenburgian, Saxon, Swabian, Frank, Swedish, Spanish, Italian and even Scottish. In addition at least 15,000 Hungarians took part in the campaign, the total number of which - including the covering army corps - was around 100,000. Buda as the final destination of the campaign was decided on only on the 31st of May, as up to that time Székesfehérvár was also a possible target. The troops led by Charles of Lorraine and Maximilian Emmanuel, lined up on the banks of the Danube, reaching Pest and Buda on the 16th-17th of June. Pest was occupied on the 17th, but the real siege of Buda was started only on the 20th-21st of June. The greater part of the imperial army - under the command of Charles of Lorraine - attacked from the north, from the direction of the Rózsadomb, whereas the "Bavarians" under the command of Maximilian Emmanuel attacked from the south, from the Gellért hill. The entrenchment-rampart system surrounded the whole, besieged area. The artillery maintained almost continuous cannon fire on the castle from every point.
At this time Pasha Abdurrahman, commanding a force of 14,000, defended Buda. The parts of the town and castle damaged in 1684 had been repaired, and even new fortifications had been added, for example, on the southwestern part of today's Szent György Square, and on the northern court of the castle. With the new line of defence built from the eastern Water gates of the town to the bank of the Danube, a significant part of the outer town was attached to the inner defence system in order to provide a water supply.
It was soon needed, because the other parts of the suburb Víziváros (Watertown) had already been occupied by Imperial troops following a short siege on the 24th of June. After they had secured themselves by building mounds they approached the north-, northwestern fortifications of the town stage by stage, with saps and mounds. They pressed forward in a similar fashion on the southern part, towards the Rondella, and on the 9th-10th of July they reached the walls at both places. Thus they opened the way for the infantry and miners towards the fortress, and the artillery was able to move forward, too. The defenders, of course, tried to prevent this with cannon fire and frequent counterattacks, and managed to neutralise the mines with countermines.
Despite the efforts of the Turks an exploding Turkish countermine on the 13th of July caused parts of the Esztergom rondella and the joining wall to collapse, opening up the opportunity for the first significant attack on the northern side. The defenders, however, repelled this attack after a hard close fight, which inflicted quite heavy losses upon the besiegers.
The explosion of the mines under the Rondella on the southern part was a more successful move. As a result of this the Bavarians were able to occupy the moat surrounding the collapsed bastion, which they used as their own fortification, deploying cannons here. According to some sources the Turks' gunpowder stock stored in the north-eastern part of the palace exploded because of a cannon ball fired from there. This explosion killed 1,500 of their soldiers. But this did not shake the defenders.
The attackers attempted to blow up further mines on the northern side, to which the Turks responded with heavy attacks at the Bécsi gate. In the meantime news arrived about the approach of Turkish relief troops, so the besiegers decided on a general siege. On the 27th of July they set offensives on three sides, but it brought only partial success: on the northern side they managed to overrun the outer line of defence (the Turks had built two more lines of defence), while on the south they occupied the Rondella, although the eastern attack failed.
The next general attack on the 3rd of August failed again. After this the besiegers had to focus their attention outwards, because on the 14th of August certain units of the Grand Vizier Suleyman's relief troops attempted to break through towards the besieged castle. However, the Turkish relief troops were driven back, so only a fraction of the attacking force managed to reach the castle. After this the attackers launched various local assaults in the north and south, which brought only small, temporary success. However, in the southern part of the palace they managed to gain a foothold.
On the 29th of August the relief troops again tried to break through the encirclement, this time from the north. This attempt ended in failure since the Transylvanian corp. had also arrived to buffer up the Imperial army. Suleyman retreated towards the south, and this move sealed the defenders' fate.
After continuous cannon fire by the besiegers, the final, decisive attack was launched on the 2nd of September 1686 at 5 p.m. First they succeeded in breaking into the town at the northwestern section of the wall, south from the Esztergom rondella, then at the northern section. They gradually pushed out the defenders to the south. It was only around today's Hess András Square that they were strongly opposed. The last pasha of Buda, Abdurrahman, died here, with a sword in his hand. On the southern part the attack of the Bavarians came to a halt. The Turkish troops, led by Adburrahman's second-in-command, basha Ismail, retreated to the palace. The attackers were only able to force him to surrender by squeezing him from the north too, at which point it became clear to him that the town had fallen. By nightfall, after 145 years Buda was again in the hands of the Christians.