Foxe's Book of Martyrs -- 131. THE SIEGE OF VIENNA

131. THE SIEGE OF VIENNA

Illustration -- Vienna

In the year of our Lord 1529, Ferdinand, king of Hungary aforesaid, recovered divers holds gotten of the Turk before, and also warring against Johannes Vaivoda his enemy, with whom he had variance, (as ye heard before,) expulsed him out of his kingdom. Whereupon Vaivoda, flying to the Turk, desired his aid. The Turk, glad to take that occasion, with great preparation addressed himself to return into Hungary, where he, recovering again the city of Buda, which Ferdinand had gotten from him a little before, removed his army into Austria, spoiling and destroying by the way all that came to his hands, showing many examples of great cruelty and tyranny most lamentable to hear and understand. For of some he put out their eyes, of some he cut off their hands, of some their ears and noses, and of their children he cut off their privy members. The maidens he corrupted, the matrons had their breasts cut off, and such as were with child were ripped, and their children cast into the fire. And these examples of horrible and barbarous tyranny this wretched Turk perpetrated by the way coming toward Vienna, a noble city in Austria, besides the captives which he took by the way and led into servitude most miserable, amounting to the number of thirty thousand.

mong other holds by the way as the Turks came, there was a castle called Altenburch, strongly by nature situated, and by art defended; which castle the Turk intending not to overpass, because he would make all things sure behind him, began to make his assault, and lay his ordnance against it. The warders and keepers of the castle, so soon as the Turk began to lay siege against them, making no resistance, of a womanly cowardliness sent their messengers to the Turk, to yield themselves ready to do his commandment, and further him with their victual. Amongst whom were three hundred Bohemians, who were commanded to follow the host, that the Turk by them might learn what strength was in the city of Vienna; also where the king was, and what was to be done for the winning thereof.

Of whom when the Turk had understanding how all things stood, and how that there were but twenty thousand men in Vienna able to bear armour, and that other cities of Austria would soon yield if that were gotten, and that Vienna was victualled but for two months, and that the king was of late in Bohemia; thus the Turk of all things certified, having no doubt in his mind of victory, made speed toward Vienna; and first coming to Neapolis, a city but eight miles distant from Vienna, he required them to yield themselves; who, notwithstanding, withstood them, and repulsed them valiantly. Then the Turks assigned a place for the pitching of their tents; which, because it seemed something too little for such a great multitude, they took in more ground to the compass of seven miles circuit. The multitude of his army, which he there planted, is accounted of some to extend to two hundred and fifty thousand soldiers. The Turk thus being planted made daily excursions over all the country of Austria, especially about the city of Vienna, wasting and spoiling with great cruelty and murder amongst the poor Christians.

Moreover, to make all things more sure toward the preparation of the siege, scouts were sent abroad, and ambushments were laid about the river-side of the Danube, to provide that no aid nor victual should be brought to Vienna. So it pleased the providence of the Lord, (who disposeth all things,) that three days before the coming of the Turk, Frederic, the Earl Palatine, which was then assigned by the empire to take the charge of Vienna, was come down by the river Danube with fourteen thousand, and with a certain troop of horsemen well appointed and picked for the purpose. After the coming of this Frederic, provision also of victual was appointed to follow shortly after by the said river of Danube.

In the mean time, they who had the carriage and transporting thereof, hearing how the ways were laid, and all the passages ten miles about Vienna stopped by the Turks, although they knew the city to stand in great need of victual, yet seeing there was no other remedy, rather than it should come to the enemy's hand, thought it best to sink their boats with their carriage, and so they did. Whereby, albeit the Christians wanted their relief, yet were the Turks disappointed of their prey and purpose. The captains which had the keeping of the city, which were chiefly Frederic the Earl Palatine, William Rogendorf, and Nicholas earl of Salm, seeing themselves so straitened contrary to their expectation, although they had great causes to be discouraged, yet calling their courage unto them, they consulted together for the best way to be taken; and seeing that the little city Neapolis, (above mentioned,) being eight miles distant from them, so valiantly withstood the Turks, that in one day they sustained seven grievous assaults against all the main force of the Turkish army; by their example and manful standing being the more animated and encouraged, thought to abide the uttermost before they would give over; and, first plucking down all the suburbs and buildings without the walls, whereby the enemy might have any succour, they willed all the farmers and inhabitants about the city to save themselves, and to bring in their goods within the walls. Such places as were weak within the walls, they made strong. About the towers and munition of the walls they provided ramparts and bulwarks, distant eighty feet one from another, to keep off the shot; and every man had his place and standing awarded to him upon the wall, and his office appointed what to do; but especially that side of the city which lieth to the river Danube they fortified after the best wise; for that way only now remained for victual to be transported from the Bohemians unto them. Wherefore eight ensigns were assigned to the keeping of the bridge, and in the plain, which was like an island enclosed within the river, a sufficient garrison of horsemen were placed, lying within gunshot of the city, to the intent that if any grain or victuals were sent from the Bohemians, they might provide the same safely to be brought into the city.

These things thus being disposed and set in order, Lord William Rogendorf, to assay the strength of the Turks, made divers roads out with his horsemen, albeit much against the minds of the Austrians; who, knowing the manner of the Turks, thought it better to suffer them, while either with time they might be over-wearied, or for lack of victuals consumed. Among many and sundry skirmishes which the Christians had with the Turks, one especially was to our men unprosperous; in which, certain of the horsemen, espying a small troop of the Turks scattered abroad from their company, made out after them, who suddenly and guilefully were enclosed and circumvented by the Turks, before they could recover the gates of the city, and so were all taken alive; of whom three were sent from the Turks into the city, to declare to the Viennians what strength they had seen in the camp of their adversaries, and to solicit them to yield their city for fear of punishment which would follow. The residue they reserved to torments and punishment, whom in the sight of the whole army, and of the Christians, which should tell the same to the citizens, they caused every man to be drawn each with four horses, and so to he dismembered and plucked asunder.

After this done, the barbarous Turk immediately sent his herald to talk with the captains of the city, whether they would yield the city upon honest conditions, or else would abide the arbitrement of war. If they would gently submit themselves, they should have all gentleness to them showed. If they would be stubborn, and stand to their defence, he would also stand to his siege begun, so that he neither would spare man, woman, or child. To this the captains answered again, that they were contented that Solyman should stand to his siege begun, and do his uttermost, what he would, or what he could; as for them, they were at a point to defend themselves and their city so long as they might; the event and fall of victory to be doubtful, and many times so to happen, that they which begin the war are wearied sooner than they which be provoked; neither again that they were so unmindful either of themselves, or of their country, but that they did remember well what they are, and what they be called, named to be Germans; who use always first to assay the adversary, what he is able to do, and not rashly to commit themselves into their enemies' hands.

Solyman not a little disdaining at this answer, first burning and consuming all the villages, houses, and places round about the city, infecting also the springs and fountains which gave water into the city, and so stopping all passages that no relief should have way unto them, began with angry mood to approach more near to the city, with three great camps; sending them word in seorn and contumely by one of his captains, that if they stood in need of help of soldiers, he would send unto them the three hundred Bohemians (mentioned a little before) to aid them in their defence. To whom the Palatine directed answer again, that they had more soldiers in the city than they needed. As for the Bohemians which had yielded themselves, he might do with them what he would, for Vienna stood in no great need of them.

In the mean time a messenger coming from Ferdinand was privily let in by night into the city, which brought word that they should play the men in keeping out the enemy awhile; for it would not be long, but both Ferdinand and Charles his brother, with the strength of all Germany, would be ready to rescue them. At which message the hearts of the soldiers began somewhat to be cheered, and to contemn the huge multitude of the adversaries, being so great as they never did behold, nor did ever almost hear of before. The largeness of whose army extended no less in compass, as is abovesaid, than of seven miles round about the city walls.

Long it were to recite the whole order of this terrible siege, with all the parts and circumstances thereof. Briefly to touch so much as shall suffice for this history, with fewer words than were stripes given at the siege thereof; this is to be judged and confessed, whosoever beholdeth the number and fierceness of the Turks, the absence of King Ferdinand, the lack of provision and victual within the city, the noise of the guns, the violence of the shot, the terror of the sight, and yet no succour sent unto them; that the custody of that city was no man's doing, but the arm only of the Lord God of hosts, according to the true saying of the Psalm, Unless the Lord do keep the city, the watchmen watch in vain which watch to save it: unless the Lord do build the house, the builder striveth in vain which taketh upon him to build it. Experience whereof in keeping this city may well appear.

First, Solyman, bending his shot and ordnance against the city, beat down to the ground the vaumures with all the uttermost suburbs of the city, and that in such a short moment of time, that the hearts of the Viennians, a little before refreshed, were now as much appalled again with fear, misdoubting with themselves, lest the Turk with the same celerity and violence would have prevailed against the inward walls, as he did in beating down the outward vaumures. And no doubt the same time the Turk had put the city in great hazard, had not night coming on broken off the siege for that day.

In the mean time the citizens laboured all night in repairing and refreshing the walls, to make all things sure against the next assault. The next day early in the morning the Turks approaching the city again with a new assault, thinking to scale the walls, were so repulsed and manfully resisted by the Germans, that scarcely any ditches about the walls could be seen for the bodies of the dead Turks, wherewith they were replenished; so that the Turks were fain to fight standing upon the bodies of them which were slain. By the which calamity the force of the enemy was not a little abated.

It happened the same time, that a company of the Turks being spied out of the city wandering out of order, the captain Rogendorf with two legions of horsemen issuing out of the city gate called Salmaria, and so passing closely under the hill's side, did so set upon them, that they slew a great number of them; the rest being driven to take the river, whom with stones and shot likewise they destroyed, and so retired back into the city again. By this victory the captain Rogendorf began to be terrible to the Turks. For in the same skirmish (as after was known) were slain of them so many, that of five thousand and three hundred horsemen and footmen scarce one hundred and forty escaped alive.

Solyman disdaining at this repulse thought to prove another way, and so bringing his power toward the gate called the king's gate, there making his trenches and bulwarks, planted his ordnance, with the violence whereof the walls were so battered and shaken, that no man was able there to stand. Wherefore the Turk, seeing two great breaches made in the wall, commanded his soldiers covertly in the dark smoke of the gunpowder to press into the city. The like also was done at the Scottish tower, whereby the city was invaded in two sundry places at one time. The Viennians at the first freshly began to withstand them, new soldiers still coming in the place of them that were slain and hurt; and so this assault continuing more than six hours together, our men began at length to languish and faint, not only in strength but also in courage; whereby the city had been in great danger of losing, had not the two aforesaid captains, Rogendorf in the one place, and the earl of Salm in the other place, manfully encouraged the soldiers to abide the brunt, and to bear out awhile the violence of the Turks, promising that immediately they should have aid from Ferdinand.

In the mean time the Turks came so thick for the greediness of the victory, scaling, climbing, and fighting upon the walls, that had it not been for that press and throng of the great multitude of the Turks, coming so thick that one of them could not fight for another, Vienna that same day had been taken and utterly lost. But by the policy of the captains giving a sign within the city, as though new soldiers were called for, our men began to be encouraged, and the Turks' hearts to be discomfited.

When Solyman saw his army the second time repulsed, he began to attempt a new way, purposing by undermining to overthrow the city; in the which work especially he used the help of the Illyrians, of whom he had a great number in his camp, expert in that kind of feat. These Illyrians beginning to break the earth at the gate Carinthia, and coming near to the foundations of the tower, which they by strength of hand attempted to break, could not work so closely under the ground, but they were perceived by certain men above, which were skilful and expert in that kind of matter; who contrariwise undermining against them, and filling their trenches as they went with gunpowder, so conveyed their train, that when fire should be set unto it, the violence thereof should burst out by the trenches of the enemies; which done, suddenly the ground beneath made a great shaking, so that the tower did cleave asunder, and all the underminers of the Turks, working in their trenches. were smothered and destroyed; which came to the number (as it was supposed afterward) of eight thousand persons; insomuch that yet till this day a great number of dead men's skulls are found in the ground.

When Solyman saw that this way also would not serve, and had privy intelligence that the walls about the gates of Stubarium were negligently kept, and that he might have there more easy entrance; secretly he conveyeth about ten garrisons of fresh soldiers, in such sort as the townsmen should not perceive them; who came so suddenly upon them, that they had filled their ditches, and were upon the top of the fortresses and munitions, before that our men were aware of them, or could make themselves ready to resist them. For although there was no lack of soldiers within the city, yet forasmuch as the whole brunt of the siege did lie especially at the two gates aforesaid, from whence the soldiers which were there warding could not be well removed, for a shift the rescuers, which within the city were ready for all sudden adventures, were sent to the walls, by whose coming, those few which kept the enemies off before, being sore hurt and wounded, were succoured and sent to surgery; and thus the said assault continued terrible and doubtful, until the dark night coming upon them, they could not well know the one from the other. In this bickering were counted of the Turks to be slain more than five thousand.

Then the captain Rogendorf, commending the valiant standing of his soldiers, misdoubting with himself, as it happened indeed, that the Turks would not so give over, but would set upon him the next day with a fresh assault, providing with all diligence for the purpose, made up the breaches of the walls, and prepared all things necessary for resistance. The next morning following, which was something dark and misty, the Turks, thinking to prevent our men with their sudden coming, began again busily to bicker upon the top of the walls.

It would require a long tractation here to describe the great distress and danger that the city those three days following was in; during all the which time there was no rest, no intermission, nor diligenCe lacking, either in the enemies fighting against the city, either in our men in defending the same. For the Turks, besides the multitude of the great ordnance, wherewith, as with a great tempest of gunshot, they never ceased, still battering the walls and beating the munitions of the city, sent also such heaps and multitudes of the Turks to the scaling and climbing of the walls, that scarcely with all the ordnance and shot of the city, either the violence of them could be broken, or the `number of them diminished; till at the last, the soldiers of the Turk, perceiving themselves able by no means to prevail, but only to run in danger of life, and to do no good, began to wrangle among themselves, grudging and repining against their dukes and captains, imputing the whole cause only to them, that the city was yet untaken, seeing there was in them neither diligence nor good will lacking; and so ceased the siege for that time.

After this, when Solyman had purposed in himself with his last and strongest siege to try against the city the uttermost that he was able to do, and had encouraged his soldiers to prepare themselves in most forcible wise thereunto; the soldiers showed themselves much unwilling to return again from whence they were so often repulsed before, by reason whereof great commotion began to rise in the Turk's camp. The rumour whereof when it came to Solyman's ears, he sendeth his grand captain to keep all the soldiers in order and obedience; or if they would be stubborn, to compel them, whether they would or not, to accomplish his commandment. Who coming to the soldiers, showed to them the Great Turk's message, and to animate and encourage them, deelared that the opportunity of the time present was not to be neglected, neither could they now, without great shame, give over, after so many assaults attempted; who, if they would sustain but one brunt more, the victory were in their own hands. The townsmen, he said, were wasted, and their victuals spent; and the more to inflame their minds, he promised them not only great thanks and reward of their emperor, but also the whole spoil of the city, in recompence of their travail.

But when all this would not stir up the sturdy stomachs of the tired Turks, using compulsion where persuasion would not serve, he appointed a number of horsemen to be set at their backs, whereby to enforce them either to go forward, or if they denied, with guns and spears to destroy them. The Turks, seeing themselves in such a strait, that whether they went or tarried, it was to them like peril, yet would they not set forward except the captain would take the venture before them. Who warding forward in his array, thus spake unto his fellows, saying, "Do you forsake your faith and allegiance, and betray the emperor of Constantinople unto the Christians if you will, but I will discharge my duty towards the commonwealth and my emperor;" and with that word advanced his ensign, making toward the city walls. Whom when other followed, and still more and more pressed after, so it came to pass that whole routs of them were overthrown and slain of our men upon the walls, before it was known what they meant. Other, terrified by their example, gave back and left their array, and winding themselves by by-ways and under covert of hills, returned again into their tents; and so came it to pass, that the strength of the enemies daily more and more decreasing, they had less hope every day more than other of obtaining the city. For besides the innumerable slaughter of Turks upon the walls, the townsmen also, watching the foragers and purveyors of the Turks, as they ranged about for victual for the camp, ever as occasion served them did compass them about, and so encountered with them by that way, that of a whole legion scarcely the tenth part returned again to their fellows alive, by means whereof the courage of the enemies began greatly to faint. Whereby such a marvellous alteration happened, that as our men began to receive more hope and courage, so the Turks began still more to droop and to languish with despair; so that at length scarce durst they appear without the bounds where they were intrenched, but only in light skirmishes, when they were provoked by our men to come out and to show themselves.

Solyman perceiving his soldiers thus daily to go to wreck, of whom he had lost already more than eighty thousand, and that with long tarrying he could do no good, being also in lack of forage, for that the country about him was wasted, beginneth to consult with his captains and counsellors what remained best to be done. Of whom the most part advised him to raise his siege, and betime to provide for himself. Which to do, many causes there were that moved him. First, the loss of his men, which daily were cut from him by great numbers, besides them which lay in his camp wounded, or sick, or famished. Secondly, lack of purveyance. Thirdly, the approaching near of winter. But the chiefest cause was, for that he heard Frederic Palatine above mentioned, coming with a great army at Ratisbon towards Vienna, and there had done great molestation to a great number of the Turk's foragers, whom by the way he prevented, and so enclosed in the woods that he slew them. Whereof when Solyman had intelligence, thinking it not best to abide the coming of the Palatine, made haste with bag and baggage to remove his camp and to retire; and first sending away his carriage before him, he made speed himself with his army to follow shortly after.

The Viennians, when they heard of the removing away of the Turks, although at the first they scarcely believed it to be true, being afterward certified out of doubt, both of their removing, and also of the order thereof, how it was in a manner of a flight or chase, were greatly desirous to make out of the city after them. Wherein, albeit the presence of the Palatine with his army, if he had been there present,might have stood them in great stead, yet, notwithstanding, they took the opportunity of the time present, and, issuing out of the city, in most speedy wise set after them with their horsemen; and, first overpassing the tents, (where the Turks had pitched their stations or pavilions,) for haste of the way, they made such pursuit after them, that within little time they overtook the rearward or latter end of the army, whereof they made such havoc and destruction, that (as the author reporteth) there was never a shot of the pursuers, nor weapon drawn, nor stroke stricken, which was in vain. Which was no hard thing for our men to do. For as the Turks in their flight went scattered out of order and array, neither would they in the fore-rank (being so far off from jeopardy) return back to help their fellows, it was easy for our men, without resistance, to come upon their backs as they would. Yet, notwithstanding, in long pursuit, when our men could not see the carriage of the Turks, which was wont in armies to come alway behind after the host, and suspecting (as truth was) some ambush to be left in privy wait behind them, to come betwixt them and home; they called themselves to retreat, and consulted upon the matter, thinking good first to send out certain scouts, to espy and bring them word where the enemies lay, and what was the number of them. Whereof, when intelligence was given them that the remnant of the Turk's army was remaining in the tents behind, word was sent to their fellows in Vienna to issue out, and to join also with them against the tail of the Turks, which had entrenched themselves within the camp. Other were appointed to follow the chase, lest, peradventure, the Turks seeing our men to recoil back, might return again upon them and help their fellows. Which things being thus ordered and appointed, in the mean time, while part of the Viennians were hovering after the main army, the rest encountered with them that were left in the camp. Who, seeing themselves overmatched, first defended their camp with a deep ditch and bulwark, to delay the time until some help might come to them from the army. Secondly, they directed messengers to the Christians, to entreat for peace. Thirdly, they conveyed their privy letters unto Solyman for speedy aid and rescue. But all the ways and passages being stopped by the Christians, their letters were intercepted, and so the miserable Turks, being destitute of all hope and succour, seeing no other remedy, made out of their camp, to hazard and prove the uttermost for their defence: but, in conclusion, in their desperate venture they were enclosed about by our men on every side, and there put to the sword and slain, a few only excepted, who, escaping out very hardly by secret passages, shifted after the rest of their fellows as well as they eould. Their carriage and other furniture left behind them in their tents was distributed amongst the soldiers, only such things reserved as might serve for their public use and commodity of the city.

hus through the merciful protection and benefit of Almighty God, Austria was delivered from the fierce and barbarous hostility of the cruel Turks. Notwithstanding that neither Ferdinand the king, nor the emperor his brother, were there present, but only the power of God, through the valiantness of the worthy Germans, defended that city; in defence whereof consisted the safety and deliverance (no doubt) of all these west parts of Christendom. For the which, immortal praise and thanks be unto our immortal God in Christ our Lord, according as he hath of us most graciously and worthily deserved. Wherein by the way take this for a note, gentle reader, how and after what manner God's blessing goeth with the true reformers of his religion; and so much the more is it to be noted, for that the Turks in so many battles and sieges heretofore were never so repulsed and foiled as at this present time, in encountering with the protestants and defenders of sincere religion. This city of Vienna was besieged and delivered the year of our Lord 1529. The assaults of the Turk against the city are numbered to be twenty, and his repulses as many. The number of his army which he first brought, was two hundred and fifty thousand, whereof were reckoned to be slain eighty thousand and above. During the time of his siege he led away, out of the country about, many captives; virgins and matrons he quelled, and cast them out naked, the children he stuck upon stakes.

Previous Next