Presentation on theme: "It was 551 years ago that the Hungarian army led by Captain Janos Hunyadi, the most eminent general of 15th-century Hungary, gained a decisive victory."— Presentation transcript:
It was 551 years ago that the Hungarian army led by Captain Janos Hunyadi, the most eminent general of 15th-century Hungary, gained a decisive victory over the Ottoman sultans forces, regarded than undefeatable, in the battle at Nandorfehervar, or today Belgrade. Throughout the historic battle defeating Mohammed II on July 22 in 1456 Hunyadi enjoyed the full support of his brother-in- law Mihaly Szilagyi and a Franciscan friar from southern Italy, Giovanni Capistrano, who was later canonized.
They however would have failed in all of their efforts without the immense backing of the head of the Roman Catholic Church, Pope Callixtus III, conveyed to them through his legate to Hungary, Don Juan de Carvajal. And certainly the fortress of Nandorfehervar should not be forgotten either as contributing a great deal to the victory. In the battle, which was a massive siege, the fortress had a crucial role and the victory could be thanked to it in a great part, so lets look at it from a bit closer:
Friar Capistranos peer Giovanni da Tagliacozzo wrote in 1460 of his memories about the fort and its significance the following: The fort of Nandorfehervar is an ultimate point of defence of the entire country. It serves as a main gateway to reach the Hungarian lands most easily. It is surrounded on two sides by two huge rivers, the Danube and the Sava. The Turks attempted several times before to capture the fort to ensure a free movement into and out of Hungary.
The strategic importance of the town of Nandorfehervar was well-known in Hungary at that time, which fact most likely influenced than king and emperor Sigismund of Luxemburg in trading the fort for approving Gyorgy Barankovics his heir in the Treaty of Tata in 1426. In the fall of next year Sigismund took over a strongly rebuild and extended fort, which was the result of the vast refortification work carried out by a local Serb ruler called Stephen over the preceding 23 years against the Ottoman threat. The king wanted the fort to be the main stronghold to defend Hungary instead of being his seat.
The refortification work continued even after 1427 with a immense support of the Talloci family of merchants and was so well done that in 1440 an attack by Sultan Murad II was easily averted. After that siege than King of Hungary and Poland Ladislas I entrusted Janos Hunyadi and Miklos Ujlaki to take care of the fort, which underwent a series of additional refortification until 1456.
The fortress of Nandorfehervar was built on the Kalemegdan rock ridge between the Sava and the Danube, directly at the outfall and was thereby protected by three sides in the Sumadiyan region of humps, 125 metres above sealevel and 51 metres above the two rivers level. There are several descriptions from the 15th century about the town itself.
Lets look at one the most concise of them written by Knight Bertrandon de la Brocquiere, the councilor to Prince Philip Good of Burgundi, from the year of 1433. He wrote about the site this:
Belgrade is located in Rascia country and used to belong to local ruler Stephen who conceded it 4 years ago to the king of Hungary to prevent that the Turks take their hands on it, as it happened at Golubac (Galambóc) in 1391, causing a major loss to Christianity. But loosing Belgrade would have been a loss even bigger, since its size considered it was big enough to take 5,000 to 6,000 horses. It is embraced by the Sava river coming from Bosnia and flowing next to the forts walls and running into the Danube, which flows near the fort on the other side. And the town is located in the angle where the two rivers meet. The ground outside the forts round-walls is somewhat bumpy except on the side where it is flat enough for walking near to the riverside.
The other chronicle, Brocquiere, described the fortress as follows: The fortress with strong fundaments is surrounded by a ditch and double walls which precisely follow the geography of the ground. It has five fort bastions, the three stronger ones on the upper side and two well-reinforced ones next to the waters. There are two watch-towers protecting the little harbour to hold 15-20 galleons, sloops and gun-boats, which can easily be blocked by a chain stretched in between the towers. I saw six galleons and five sloops around the weakest bastion to fortify it.
And the next is a description by above mentioned friar Tagliacozzo what he recalled in 1460 about the fortress in 1460: The fortress-complex was composed of three forts. The first embraced a large space, a flat yard with a couple of houses, where noble people lived. The walls here were all in ruins, since it connected to roadways down to the town and it was also the gateway to other forts inside. So this was the major strategic point the Turks sought so eagerly to conquer in order to take to the rest inside. The second one was a smaller fort hence very well separated from the first one, refortified with deep ditches and strong bastions and accessible from the first one only through one single gate and a pull-up bridge.
Now from the second fort was the entrance to the third, much smaller yet much more reinforced, third fort, where the Dont Be Afraid tower was located. Here was the kings suite as well, since it was the safest place, with windows to the city quite high up and a rare door, through which one could crawl downside to the direction of the city and the Danube. The volumes of Giovanni Capistrano and the relics were also stored here, as well as the biggest cannons in case the rest of the fortress became taken over. Residents of the fortress could escape through the gate here and where locals from the city wanting to come to help could also enter.
The above two descriptions give a good idea of the actual size of the fortress. So now lets take a closer look at how the fort in fact used to look like in 1456.
The forts main gate was the Southern Gate, located at the south- eastern wall of the upper city. This was close to what is today called Clock-Tower or Sahat Kula. This gate was protected against any attacks by two towers in the medieval times.
There were 11 active defence towers built on the 160x300-metre walls protecting the square-shape upper city, which occupied 48,000 square- metres and was modeled on a Roman castrum or camp.
Today the exact size of the gates is not known, but can be estimated well after a by now reconstructed tower of the upper city and the towers still standing in the nearby fortress of one-time Szendro, today Smederevo. Once impressive but those 11 towers still proved to be an easy target for the Ottomans back in the 15th century.
Looking at the walls of the fortress we learn that those who built it took the idea from the wall-system at Constantinople. Namely the line of double walls, which at Nandorfehervar was built so that it was suited as best as possible to the geography of the land. It meant that in front of the actual fortress wall line another surrounding lower wall line was built, fitted to the ditch and for a better safety. The soldiers then could patrol in the path, or corridor, between the wall lines.
The upper city with its several tiny streets and houses was one of the prettiest parts of the whole city with many noble families living there. It had two more gates beside the Southern Gate mentioned before, the one on the north-eastern wall called Despote, which was more significant and protected on its side by the Dizdar Tower. It shows how important that gate was that after 1440 a protective gate structure was erected serving a stronger defence.
This protective gate barbacan, called today Zindan Gate, or Hunyadi Gate, used tot be one of the most important points of the entire fortress-complex. The cannons placed in these two round towers and round walls were used to successfully avert the enemys attacks.
In fact, the important part of the entire fortress was the citadel, built much earlier in about 1151 and upgraded later during the rule of the local Serb man, Stephen in the early 15th century. Parts of it was remodeled into the kings suite and even a library. The citadel was separated from the upper city with a deep ditch and could be accessed only through a pull-up bridge.
This bridge had a major role in the 1456 battle since the defenders of the fortress, led by Captain Hunyadi, managed to stop the Ottomans there.
The citadel had two parts, the internal fort accessible through a pull-up bridge and a yard. In the middle of the citadel there was a tower for living, which was than called No Bojse (Dont Be Afraid) or Kőles in Hungarian. A reference is believed to have been made to this tower by Emperor of Byzantinum Constantine in his work De Administrando, in which he made mention of the tower of Emperor Constantine the Great in the fortress.
During the siege a small bell was tolled in the Ne Bojse to signal each time a cannon ball hit the fortress.
In front of the gate to the citadel there was a small gate opening from the ditch in front of the citadel. The gate is interesting since it is still there today and probably it was used during the night of the battle by the Crusaders arranged by Capistran to get into the upper city at Hunyadis request.
The most important part of the fortress was the water-city, which was located eclipsed by the citadel and the Sava river.
It had eight towers, of which the most interesting were those on the northern wall overlooking the lower city. Their age can be identified from the coins of the Sigismund times found there. The most typical of all was the one called Mill Tower, which stood in the river bed at the meeting point of the Sava and the Danube.
The largest area of Nandorfehervar was the lower city with many houses, two churches, and populated mostly by burghers, merchants and craftsmen. Of the two churches the Uspenia Bogorodice was the more significant as being the cathedral of the Orthodox Metropolitan, next to which their palace was built.
It is not fully known today whether there was a tower also at the commercial harbour on the Danube at the lower city wall. But as it appears from Brocquieres 1433 description there were even two, with a chain stretched between them.
The harbour could be accessed from the Danube through a channel, which by now has filled up. It is not entirely known if the channel was created by nature, since its shape on old layouts and maps suggests an artificial formulation.
The lower city was closed with the north- eastern wall, which stretched from the harbours entrance to one of the upper citys towers mention before. The ground structure of this wall is still there today. It was about 330 metres long and 2.10-2.60 metres thick on average. There were five towers on this wall section.
The lower city had a small gate to the harbor, its main entrance was however the Eastern Gate with a huge tower next to it. During Janos Hunyadis times a large protective structure barbacan was erected in front of it on a 0.11- hectare site, with two half-circle shaped towers.
The fortress-complex of Nandorfehervar suffered a lot damages during the Ottomans siege, as friar Tagliacozzo described it: The walls of the first bigger fort were destroyed to the ground, while some parts of the bastions stood. The bastions and towers of the other two forts, even after heavily hit by cannon balls, however still stood. And regarding the Ne Bojse he wrote that.... the big tower, inside which there were the guards and fro where the cannon ball hits were indicated, got cracked in the middle.....
This tower could only survive the massive attacks thank to its size. In his reports after the battle Janos Hunyadi gave accounts of similar heavy damages and destruction.
Alsóváros Ferences templom Az ortodox metropolita székesegyháza
Alsóváros Ferences templom Az ortodox metropolita székesegyháza
The fortress of Nandorfehervar today bears remembrance only in parts to how it used to look in the medieval times and it is the result of the number of sieges and mainly the series of re-modeling in our times. But with this brief description I wished to give to our dear guests an idea of the battle scene how it was back in the medieval times!