Austrian History (5)

Suleiman the Magnificent


The First Siege of Vienna        

At the beginning of the 15th century the Turkish army swept through Slovenia into Hungary and Austria. In 1425, the Turks crossed into Habsburg territory for the first time and became a threat to the villages and towns within the empire.
After the battle of Mohacs in 1526 and the defeat of Hungary, the Sultan Suleiman marched his army on towards Vienna. Vienna had only 8.000 defenders and an army of 1.700 armoured knights with which to defend the city and the Emperor Ferdinand I was in Innsbruck at the time of the siege.
Vienna only had its old 13th century fortifications and a defensive wall that surrounded the city which was in poor condition and in need of repair.

Vienna's 13th century fortifications were in a
poor condition and in need of repair.


Sultan Suleiman had an army of 100,000 soldiers but was not able to transport his heavy artillery due to the very poor weather conditions.
Before the main army arrived, his light cavalry entered and destroyed the villages on the outskirts of the city.
The main army arrived in Vienna on the 25th September 1529 and the Sultan made his headquarters near to Kaiserebersdorf (later the site of the so-called Neugebäude after positioning his army around the city. The right flank of his army was far stronger than the left and the main force was placed in front of the Kärntner Tor (Carinthian Gate).
A fleet of over 600 Turkish ships, which were stationed on the Danube River, constantly supplied the army. The weak calibre artillery could not break through the surrounding walls and made the storming of the city impossible.
In October the Turks started to undermine the city walls, placing mines beneath it in an attempt to breach it. The walls near to the Kärntner Tor and Burgtor (Castle Gate) were badly damaged by the mines but the defenders of the city were able to repel the invaders and defuse many of the mines.
The Turkish army tried again and again to break through the badly damaged walls of the city but had mounting problems with their supplies. The cold autumn weather led to sanitary problems and a lack of hygiene and resulted in the troops becoming demoralised.
As snow started to fall, the Sultan decided to withdraw his troops on the 18th October 1529, realising that the city could not be taken before the outbreak of winter.
The conflict continued throughout the following decades until a cease-fire in 1547 led to Ferdinand I having to make many concessions to the Turks. Hungary was to be divided into three parts, west Hungary and Croatia together with the coast of Dalmatia remained under Habsburg rule whereas the eastern provinces were conceded to the Turkish Sultan.
The 72-year-old Sultan led another offensive in West Hungary against the Habsburgs in 1556 with the intention of breaking through into the heart of the Habsburg Empire.
The advancing Turkish army was stopped in the small but well fortified city of Sziget. Suleiman ordered a fleet of heavy armoured ships into the area to help his army and to bombard the fortifications of the city. This massive attack led to the fall of the city a few weeks later.
Suleiman died on the evening of his victory but his death was kept secret in an attempt to avoid quarrels regarding his successor. To secure the secrecy of what had happened, the Sultan’s doctor and personal servants were killed and the Turkish army started to withdraw again taking the “ill” Sultan with them.
Suleiman’s son and new Sultan Selim II immediately negotiated peace with the Habsburgs.