22 July 1456, The Ottoman siege of Belgrade ended with a victory of the Hungarian warlord John Hunyadi and John of Capistrano’s crusaders, commemorated to this day with ringing the noon bells in church.
"... the Pope praised Hunyadi to the stars and called him the most outstanding man the world had seen in 300 years." (Jacob Calcaterra, Milanese ambassador tot he Holy See)
|"The Battle of Nándorfehérvár" as Belgrade was known in Hungarian, mid-19th century painting by an unknown Magyar artist, showing John of Capistrano in the centre and John Hunyadi on horseback to the left.|
|Belgrade (Kriechisch Wyssenburg, Greek White Castle), from Sebastian Münster's "World Chronicle" (1545)|
Fifty years earlier, during a momentary lapse in Ottoman power, the Serbian Prince Stefan Lazarević had led his new capital on the junction of the rivers Sava and Danube into something of a Golden Age and established a New Constantinople in more than an Orthodox Christian sense. By the end of his rule in 1427, the White City housed about 50,000 people and Stefan’s biographer Constantine the Philosopher praised her buildings “as mighty as Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem” shadowing her surroundings like “the Tower of Babel and the Hanging Gardens”, the “most Tsar-like of all cities”, along with the state-of-the-art fortifications of the upper and lower city. However, Stefan’s successor Đurađ Branković had to cede her to the Hungarians and in 1455, the warlord John Hunyadi, anticipating where his old enemy Mehmed’s first major blow would fall, gave the fortress the finishing touches. 50 years old by then, Hunyadi had fought the Ottomans for almost 20 years with varying success, to say the least, but assembled a hard core of professional soldiers, cavalry, infantry and artillery, presaging his son Matthias Corvinus’ Black Army of Hungary, and he knew how to worry the modern Turkish soldiers on the battlefield. On the other hand, he worried the local Hungarian, Croatian and Serbian lords enough with his internal power play that they feared him more than the Turks. And left him, more or less, on his own. The westerners, fearing the advance of the Ottoman Turks on a more insubstantial level, practically followed suit. Already in 1453, Pope Callixtus III had preached a crusade that fell on deaf ears. And even the fire and brimstone hatemonger John of Capistrano couldn’t entice the princes of the Holy Roman Empire to take the cross at the Diet of Frankfurt two years later. He had more success in the southeast, in Bavaria and Austria, and finally in Hungary, where the Ottoman threat was already manifest. Thus, he managed to gather several ten thousands of peasants, bolstered by German knights and led them to Hunyadi as the crusaders of the “Soldier Saint”, as he became known. Pope Calixtus III donated a considerable amount of money from the alms bag for Hunyadi’s war chest and gave ideological support. Allegedly by issuing a papal bull against the foreboding appearance of Halley’s Comet and by ordering the whole of Christendom to ring the church bells at noon time and pray for the crusader’s victory at the Siege of Belgrade. By then, the defenders of the White City under Hunyadi’s brother-in-law Michael Szilágyi already fought for their lives.
And more about the 1456 Siege of Belgrade on: