Select your language

Buda in the Turkish Era

After the Battle of Mohács - before the Final Turkish Occupation of Buda

The capture of Buda, 1526 - miniature1541 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.

János Szapolyai - copper engraving from the Mausoleum, 17th centuryOn 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.

Agostino Veneziano: Suleyman II - copper engraving, 1535Ferdinand'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.

Prisoners are taken in front of Suleyman at the capture of Buda in 1529After 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 capture of Buda in 1541The "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).