Mohac field

Mohac field

In 1526 the disastrous defeat of Hungarian and Croatian army took place in the Mohac field in southern Hungary. Let us mention by the way that since 1991 this area has offered refuge to 45,000 exiles, mostly Croats from Serbia and occupied parts of Croatia.
The territory of western Bosnia, that was occupied by the Turks only after the battle on the Mohac field, was called Croatian Bosnia or Turkish Croatia (Bosna hrvatska or Turska Hrvatska) until the Berlin Congress in 1878.

Here is a document depicting cut off heads of Croats killed after the battle at Petrinja near Zagreb in 1592:

Petrinja near Zagreb, 1592

The 1592 defeat of Croatian-Habsburg army near Brest was celebrated in Constantinople by showing 29 charriots with 172 captured dignitaries, 600 cut off heads, and 23 captured flags.

A legendary Croatian military commander Nikola Jurisic (born in the town of Senj, 1490-~1545) managed to stop sultan Sulejman the Magnificent (or Great) in 1532 near the town of Köszeg (Güns) at Austrian and Hungarian border. Nikola Jurisic had about 700 Croatian soldiers, the Turks about 32,000 people. The Turkish onsloughts lasted for three weeks. The aim of sultan Sulejman was to occupy Vienna. It is interesting that two years earlier Nikola Jurisic visited sultan Sulejman in Constantinople as a deputy of King Ferdinand.

Marko Stancic Horvat, Croatian military commander (Gradec, circa 1520 – Siget, 1561), successfully defended Sziget in 1556 with his infantry consisting of 1000 men, against the attacs of Ali-pasha. The Turcs had about 10,000 victims. Marko Stancic Horvat wrote the book Historia obsidionis et oppugnationis arcis Zigeth in Ungaria, published in 1557.

Nikola Zrinski Junior (1620-1664), a Croatian statesman and writer, described in his epic “The siege of Siget” the heroic death of his grandfather Nikola Subic Zrinski in 1566, which entered all the historical annals of the 16th century. With his 2500 brave soldiers, mostly Croats, he was defending the fortress of Sziget in southern Hungary against 90,000 Turks.

Nikola Subic Zrinski, Siget 1566

The Turkish troops were under the sultan Sulejman the Great and supplied by 300 cannons. It took them a month to defeat the Croatian soldiers, who all died a terrible death in the final battle. Despite his promise, the King Maximillian Habsburg did not help Nikola Subic Zrinski. Historians say that the Turks had almost 30,000 dead.

Siget defended by Nikola Subic Zrinski, 1566

Cardinal Richelieu, the famous French minister at the court of King Lui XIII, wrote the following: A miracle was necessary for the Habsburg Empire to survive. And the miracle happened in Sziget. The above mentioned epic was written in the Hungarian language. Though written by the Croat, it is regarded to be one of the greatest achievements of the early Hungarian literature. See also here (in Croatian).

Nikola Subic Zrinski, his oath taken in Siget in 1566., and his original signature in the Glagolitic script.

Ivan Zajc has composed the opera Nikola Subic Zrinski, which is very popular in Japan, especially its tune “U boj, u boj!” (on this web page you can listen to a Japanese choir singing this song in Croatian!).

  • It is worth noting that Dominko Zlataric, famous 16th century Croatian writer in Dubrovnik, dedicated some of his translations from Greek classics to Juraj Zrinski, son of the above mentioned Sziget hero Nikola Subic Zrinski. Zlataric stated that he translated Greek verses into Croatian (“u hrvatski izlozene”).
  • In 1660 a Dutch scientist Jakov Tollins payed a visit to Nikola Zrinski Junior in Cakovec, and was impressed by his huge library (now a part of the National Library in Zagreb). Besides his native Croatian, Nikola Zrinski Jr read Hungarian, German, Latin, Italian and Turkish perfectly, and he was not stranger to French and Spanish.

Among innumerably many Croatian captives in Turkish slavery, there were at least two that deserve special attention:

  • Bartol Gyurieuvits (Bartol Jurjevic, Gjurgjevic), 16th century, who left us extremely interesting testimonies about the Ottoman (Turkish) Empire, that can be found in various libraries of almost all larger European cities;
  • Juraj Hus (Husti), 16th century, who became Turkish military trumpeter.

It is not widely known that in the 16th century the town of Bihac was Croatian capital. Hasan-pasa Predojevic, an islamized Croat, occupied Bihac in 1592. About 2000 people were killed and 800 Croatian children taken to slavery and educated in the spirit of Islam.

Illustration of the victory of the Christian army in Croatia (Crabaten) over the Turks in the town Sisak (Syseck) in 1593 (from Oertler’s Chronology, 1602). Source of the photo [Markovic].

A real turning point which meant the beginning of the fall of the Ottoman expansion to Croatian historical lands (and to Europe) was a defeat of Hasan-pasa Predojevic in a battle at Sisak near Zagreb in 1593, which echoed in the whole of Europe.

Ban (Viceroy) Petar Zrinski (1621-1671) and Fran Krsto Frankapan (1643-1671), both outstanding as statesmen and writers, are among the most beloved figures in the history of Croatia. They had a great successes in liberating the areas occupied by the Turks. However, the Viennese Military council, instead of supporting them to free the rest of the Hungarian and Croatian lands, signed a shameful peace treaty with Turkey, by which the liberated territories had to be handed back to the Turks. The result of the rebellion against Vienna was a cruel public decapitation of Zrinski and Frankapan in Wiener Neustadt near Vienna in 1671. The remains of these two Croatian martyrs were buried in the Cathedral of Zagreb in 1919.

It is interesting that, while in prison from 18th April 1670 to 30th April 1671, Fran Krsto Frankapan translated Molier’s “George Dandin” into Croatian, written in Paris in 1669, ie. only two years earlier. This was was its first European translation. Frankopan is the author of very famous Croatian verses Navik on zivi ki zgine posteno (Forever he lives who dies honorably).

Petar Zrinski was also very educated, being a statesman, poet, composer, polyglot. He presented his legendary sword to the town of Perast in Boka kotorska during his sojourn there in 1654.

The letter sent by Petar Zrinski to his wife Katarina (in Croatian) just a day before his death is one of the most deeply moving texts ever written in the Croatian language. It was very soon translated and published in

  1. Croatian (Moje drago serce), Vienna, 1671,
  2. English (My dear soul), London, 1672,
  3. German (Mein liebes Herz), Vienna, 1671,
  4. French (Ma chere Femme), Paris, 1691,
  5. Italian:
  6. Latin (Delicium meum), Vienna, 1671,
  7. Spanish (Querida Esposa mia), Madrid, 1687,
  8. Dutch (Myn Liefste Hert), Amsterdam, 1671,
  9. Hungarian (Anna Catharina), Budapest, 1671.

© by Drazen Budisa; reproduced from his book “Moje drago serce” with permission. Mr Budisa believes that early translations into other European languages may exist. Any such information would be most welcome.

His wife Katarina, also an outstanding poetess, was imprisoned by general Spankau in a monastery in Graz, where she went insane and died in extreme poverty. Even the son of Peter and Katarina – Ivan Antun, the last of the Zrinski’s, was imprisoned in Graz, solely because he belonged to this outstanding noble family. He died after 20 years of prison in Schlossberg in Graz out of pneumonia. For more details see [Bartolic].

Ana Katarina Frakapan translated a prayer book (Putni tovarus) from German into Croatian language (Heruatczki jezik) and published in Venice in 1661:

Vsega Hervatczkoga i Szlovinskoga osrzaga… – Of the entire Croatian and Slavonian state…

Velimir Trnski painting the 1671 love story of Petar and Katarina Zrinski

These six centuries old noble Croatian families died out and their property was robbed. It should be stressed that both Petar Zrinski and Fran Krsto Frankapan went to Vienna voluntarily, where they have been arrested. During the trial they defended themselves claiming that only Croatian Parliament (Hrvatski Sabor) can try them. In their burgs they had a considerable collection of books and works of art, which after confiscation are held in Austria (many of them in Austrian National Library). A period of the influence of the absolutistic Viennese politics had started.

Petar Zrinski and Fran Krsto Frankopan (1825-1871), by Dr. Vinko Grubisic

  • Marc Forstall (Marcus Forestal, +1685), an Irish monk of Augustinian order, was a chancellor of Nikola nad Petar Zrinski. In 1664 he wrote a genealogical treatise about the family of Zrinski, kept in the National and University Library in Zagreb.
  • Even today some descendants of the Zrinski family (Sdrin, Sdrinias) live in Greece. See an interesting article by Dionisis pl. Sdrinias (Greece).

photo from Croatian Historical Musem

Map dedicated to Petar Zrinski, ban of Croatia. The map was created at the workshop of Joannes Blaeu in Amsterdam as an addition to the work by Ivan Lucic, “De Regno Dalmatiae et Croatiae libri sex”, Amsterdam, 1666. Blaeu had inserted the map in Atlas Maior in 1667, and dedicated it to the Croatian ban Petar Zrinski (bottom of the map, in the middle):

To the most illustrious and noble lord, Prince Peter of Zrin, the ban of the Kingdom of Dalmatia, Croatia and Slavonia, hereditary ban of the Littoral, hereditary captain of the Legrad fortress and Medimurje peninsula, master and hereditary prince of Lika, Odorje, Krbava, Omis, Klis, Skradin, Ostrovica, Bribir etc.., Master of Kostajnica and the sliver mine at Gvozdansko, councillor and chamberlain to his anointed imperial majesty, master Ioannes Blaeu dedicates this map.

Text from Croatian Historical Musem. Note Croatian coat of arms on the map.

Ivan Lucic, the first Croatian historiographer: Map of Illyricum (i.e., of Slavonia, Croatia, Bosnia, Dalmatia),
from the atlas by Dutch cartographer Joan (or Johannes) Blaeu, 1669. Source of the photo [Markovic].

Joan (or Johannes) Blaeu: VUE DE SEBENICO Pendant que les Turcs l’avait Assiegee en 1645.
(Joan Blaeu: A view to Sibenik, during the Turkish occupation in 1645)
This was one of the most dramatic events in the history of this important Croatian city.

Zrin-Frankapan heritage in Croatia: 126 fortresses, castles and bourgs

Two clearly visible Croatian Coats of Arms of Croatian troups at the 1526 battle at the Mohac field (Hungary) against the Turks. By the courtesy of Josip Sersic and Mijo Juric, Vienna, 2009. The photo below is a detail, to see larger drawing, click on it.

The city of Vienna, capital of Austria, has been attacked by the Turks already in 1529. Among defensive forces Croatian troups participated under their flag. See encircled below, left of the Stephanusdome, the famous Vienna Cathedral.

Croatian defensive forces under their Croatian flag in Vienna in 1529, during the first Turkish siege of the city. I express my deep gratitude to Josip Sersic and Mijo Juric, Vienna, for this information.

For more details see Croatian Coat of Arms.

During the second Turkish siege of Vienna in 1683, a Croatian village called Krowotendörfel, placed immediately near the city walls, has been destroyed, and since then it does not exist any more. The meaning of its name is precisely Croatian Village! Its position corresponded to contemporary Spittelberg near the Hofburg palace. For more details see [400 Jahre Kroaten in Wien]. Other names of Krowotendörfel can also be encountered in the literature:

  • Crabathen Derffel
  • Crabatendörfel
  • Croathndörfel
  • Krowotendörfel
  • Crabatendoerfel
  • Krawattendörfel
  • Croatendörfel
  • Kroatendörfel …

Among defenders of Vienna in 1683 was a renowned Croatian theologist and ecumenist panslavist Juraj Krizanic, who was assasinated during the Turkish seige.

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