Thursday, July 26, 2012

Significant Christian Victory

Titusz Dugovics, a Hungarian soldier of Slav origin, leads the charge at the Siege of Nándorfehérvár.

Ever wonder why the church bells ring in Europe at noon? A majority of Europeans do not know why. The bells in Europe toll at noon because of the Hungarian (Christian) victory at the Siege of Nándorfehérvár in 1456. The city is now called Belgrade, the capital of Serbia. It used to be a town in the old Kingdom of Hungary. Throughout the centuries since, Hungary lost control and ownership of the town. A majority of people in Europe also don't know that Hungary was the defender of Christian Europe in the 15th and 16th centuries.

To quote Pope John Paul II, "Hungary was also Christianity's bulwark against the invasion of the Tartars and Turks". Hungary was the only kingdom at the time that could organize significant resistance to the Ottoman Turks. The Turks made it their priority to crush Hungarian opposition and resistance. They were known to amass huge armies and marched all over the Balkans and Central Europe to attack their Christian enemies. They were quite a formidable foe as their troops were highly-trained. The Janissaries were the elite fighting soldiers of the Turkish Sultans and were highly effective in combat. They were drafted from the captured children of their foes as many of them were Christians (Slavs and Hungarians).

Turkish Sultan Mehmed II was the ruler of the Turkish forces that besieged Nándorfehérvár.

The Ottoman Turks invaded Europe in the 14th century in the attempts of conquering it and converting it to the Islamic faith. Many kingdoms fell to the advancing Turks but it was Hungary who was the only significant kingdom that stood in their way. The Byzantine Empire, Serbian and Bulgarian kingdoms all fell in defeat to the Turks. Christian Europe was beginning to fear this invasion. Various Popes over the centuries from the Catholic church had called for organized resistance in order to defend Christian Europe.

The fortress of Nándorfehérvár as it appeared during the siege in 1456.

The failures of the Crusades in the Holy Land led many European rulers to be very pessimistic about any more organized efforts against Islam. The Hungarians were pretty much on their own when it came to fighting the Turks as a result. The Kingdom of Hungary fought the Ottoman Turks for over two centuries mostly without any assistance. Many battles occurred as Hungary tried to maintain her independence and freedom. It was said centuries later that the Hungarians were the only foe the Turks truly respected.

John Hunyadi was Hungary's military leader who fought the Turks for two decades.

John Hunyadi (1407-1456), the Hungarian nobleman and military leader, fought many battles with the Turks for two decades before the siege. He was in charge of the Christian forces and prepared the defences of the Nándorfehérvár fortress before the Turks attacked. Hunyadi and the Christians, who consisted mostly of Hungarians and Serbians, were outnumbered by their enemy. It is estimated that the Turks had up to 100,000 men when they attacked.

The Christians could only muster about 4,000 well-armed and trained soldiers with about 60,000 peasants. In any case, Hunyadi managed to push the Turks back to their camp and defeated them outside the city walls. In the battle, the Turkish Sultan Mehmed II, was killed in combat with a Christian knight. The rest of the Turkish force fled with fear and never came back. Unfortunately for the Hungarians and Christians, John Hunyadi would die of a plague that broke out in their camp three weeks after the battle.

The siege turned into a battle outside the city walls as the Hungarians attacked the Turkish camp.

The Siege of Nándorfehérvár was significant because it was the first time that Christian Europeans stopped a large Turkish army and defeated them. The victory is very significant in Hungary today as it is celebrated every year. Since 2011, it has become an official holiday in Hungary. It does have great importance to the country and the Hungarian people. One can only imagine what would have happened if the Hungarians lost the siege.

If the Christians lost the siege, the Turks could have conquered Europe entirely or at a faster rate.  Though the victory at Nándorfehérvár didn't defeat the Turks entirely, it still gave European Christians time to re-organize and prepare for the next Turkish onslaught. The Turks would remain in Europe up until the 19th century. They were finally beat back and pushed out so that they never became a threat to Christian Europe ever again.

The 556th anniversary was celebrated in Budapest this past Sunday (July 22, 2012). There were thousands of people present at the celebration who remembered the Hungarian heroes at the siege. There was a flotilla of boats and small warships that commemorated the battle. It was a very colourful affair as many reenactors were also present in medieval armour and clothing.

Politicians and members of the Hungarian military were also present at the commemoration. They made speeches glorifying the great Hungarian victory against the Ottoman Turks. Unfortunately the Hungarian left-wing does not seem to celebrate this occasion as it is "politically incorrect" for them to do so. Nevertheless, many Hungarians see this victory with great pride as it was their forefathers that helped to stop one of Christian Europe's greatest threats.

The video on the commemoration is in Hungarian. It is over one hour, but worth a watch.

More on the Siege of Nándorfehérvár: