an English-language website, reported on the decision by Parliament to make the last day of the Siege of Nándorfehérvár (Belgrade), which lasted from July 4 to July 22, a day of national remembrance.
The Magyar Szó
(Hungarian Word/Speech) quoted Klára Szentgyörgyi, the Cultural Attaché to the Hungarian Embassy in Belgrade as saying the Turks could even take part in a future remembrance of the siege and battle. She said:
“I think, we are talking here about such historical perspectives, that there is really no sense in being angry at each other (any more.)”
The Parliamentary State Secretary of the Defence Ministry, István Simicskó
, opening the Danube-Day on the banks of the river, said:
“July 22 has become an important state occasion. There are few moments in the nation’s history which were recognised throughout Europe. The heroes of Nándorfehérvár were able to defeat the most advanced army of the time; the victory was due to the Christian faith and unity.”
In 1456, the mighty Ottoman Turkish Sultan Mehmet II (Mehmet is the Turkish form of “Mohammed”) who had captured Constantinople i
n 1453 and ended the Byzantine Empire’s thousand-year existence. (Byzantium, or Constantinople, had survived the Fall of the Roman Empire. The city is now known as Istanbul.)
Sultan Mehmed II decided to attack the mainland of Europe and to do this he first had to conquer Hungary, which was known at the time by Western Europeans as the “shield” or sometimes “bulwark of Christendom
”. But to do that, he first had to hold the key border fortress of Nándorfehérvár, or Belgrade.
(The two names, one Hungarian, one Serbian, mean much the same. The old Hungarian name meant “White Town of the Southern Bulgars” while “Belgrade” simply means “White Town.” The naming of towns as “white” is known from the Hun Empire as well as Medieval Bulgaria and Hungary.)
Mehmed, with probably 60,000 troops, besieged Belgrade
and the castle was held by Hunyadi’s relative, Mihály Szilágyi with about 6,000 soldiers. Hunyadi, who was the Captain-General of Hungary during the minority of the king, raised his own army of knights and was supported by Saint John of Capistrano
who preached a Crusade and raised an army of simple peasants and students. The total of Hunyadi’s men did not exceed 30,000.
Despite the odds, Hunyadi and Capistrano, with 200 corvettes, broke the siege by the Ottoman Navy on the Danube and entered the fort, which was well-placed by its earlier owner, the Serbian Despot Stephan Lazarevich.
On July 21, Mehmet ordered a general attack and the walls were breached in a number of places but many of the Turkish infantry, called Janissaries who entered the citadel were surrounded and killed.
On July 22, it appears there was a spontaneous attack on the Turks by the Crusaders, whose discipline and equipment was poor but who were nonetheless very eager for the fight. The commanders accepted the fait accompli and ordered a general counter-attack. Mehmet himself joined the fray but was wounded by a Hungarian arrow and had to withdraw.
The Turkish army pulled back under cover of night and Europe suffered no major Turkish incursions for 70 years. In this period, European guns equalled and eventually exceeded the power of Turkish artillery, which would eventually complete the “Gunpowder Revolution”
and pave the way for European mastery of the world until the late Twentieth Century.
Sadly, plague broke out in the Hungarian camp and Hunyadi
, one of Hungary’s best war leaders, was one of its victims.
The lasting tradition of the victory was the ringing of the noon bell
ordered by Pope Callixtus III, at first to pray for victory and then to commemorate it.