July 24, 1456 (Belgrade)

This third letter from Hunyadi recounts for the king of Hungary the news of the battle. Note that the phrasing of the account is often very similar (and sometimes identical) to Hunyadi’s two previous letters.

Source: Trans. J. Mixson, from N. Iorga, ed., Notes et extraits pour servir à l’histoire des croisades au XV. siècle (Bucharest: Académie Roumaine, 1915), 4: 134–5 (no. 68). See also the alternative recension (with minor discrepancies) in A. Bernoulli, ed., Basler Chroniken (Leipzig: Hirzel, 1890), 4: 394–5.

To the most serene prince and lord, Lord Ladislaus, by the grace of God king of Hungary, Bohemia, Dalmatia, Croatia, etc., also Duke of Austria and Styria, as well as margrave of Moravia, our most gracious lord, the faithful servant of Your Distinguished Serenity, John Hunyadi, Count of Transylvania.

Most serene prince, our most gracious lord! Following the humble recommendation of my servants, we recount for Your Serenity how and in what way the emperor of the Turks, with certain clever schemes, lay siege to this fortress of Belgrade – indeed with such war machines that no human eyes have ever seen, nor any human could comprehend. For in the end we could not defend this fortress, and he was able to grind it down to the ground, along with the moat – so much so that we cannot call it a fortress, but a field. For we were in that fortress with our own leader from the beginning, as well as at the time of the assault, and we are there now.

Having broken and destroyed the fortress, early on Wednesday after the hour of vespers, the emperor of the Turks began the hand-to-hand fight for the castle (called “storming” in the vernacular tongue). It lasted through the whole night and into Thursday, up to the hour of the midday meal, so that two times we found ourselves fighting within the castle and face-to-face, as if on one field, due to the breaking and destruction of the walls. We won both battles, by God’s will. Then with God’s help we rushed out and rose up against those Turks. We drove the emperor of the Turks out from under the aforesaid fortress and field, and he was totally defeated. By God’s will we even captured all of his machines and his cannons. We continued to fight on the fifth day [Friday] until just before nightfall. Then at last the emperor of the Turks turned and fled the battle by night, fumbling and in great shame. Indeed, no emperor of the Turks has ever faced such great destruction as he has just now, and he has endured such great shame as has [never] been read about in history.

Your Serenity should know that the greater part of his infantry has been destroyed, and certain wounded among them, who barely escaped, were among the strongest of his people. There are also many other leaders and princes of his that lie dead beneath this fortress. We, too, have suffered great losses of our men and our household through these enemies. But for now, Your Serenity must know that at present this emperor of the Turks has been so defeated and disordered that should the Christians rise up against him, as has been suggested, with God’s permission they could gain all of the kingdom of the Turks quite easily, because he has lost all of his power beneath this castle. The more so because, before the aforesaid fight on land, we fought with their galleys on the river, and we were able to capture a number of these. But on the aforesaid Thursday, when we were about to move against them, those that remained soon turned in flight, and the Turks jumped from them and set them on fire.

Although Your Serenity wrote that all were to come [here] under our military authority for the defense of your kingdom, Your Serenity should know that none responded. There were only crusaders, and John Korogh.1 Thus, we diligently ask Your Serenity that you send one of your faithful and a reliable German man who can see the destruction and the brokenness of Your Serenity’s aforesaid fortress; and also that Your Serenity inform us of what to do about this place, since it cannot properly be called a fortress anymore, but a field. And we also are ready and prepared to uphold for Your Serenity that fidelity which we have promised, and now promise again.

Given at Belgrade, on the Saturday before the feast of Saint James the Apostle, in the year 1456.

1 As ban of Macsó, John Korogh played a key role in the defense of Belgrade. See document 25, pp. 172–3 and n. 32.

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