Battle of Buda (1686)

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The Battle of Buda (1686) was fought between the Holy League and the Ottoman Empire, as part of the follow-up campaign in Hungary after the Battle of Vienna. The Holy League took Buda after a long siege.

After the unsuccessful second siege of Vienna by the Turks in 1683, which started the Great Turkish War, an imperial counteroffensive started for the re-conquest of Hungary, so that the Hungarian capital Buda could be freed from the Turks.

Formation of the Holy League[edit]

In 1541, Buda was conquered by the Turks in the Siege of Buda, and was under Turkish rule for the next 145 years. Following the Turkish defeat at the Battle of Vienna in 1683, Holy Roman Emperor Leopold I saw the opportunity for a counterstrike. With the aid of Pope Innocent XI, the Holy League was formed on 5 March 1684, with King Sobieski of Poland, Emperor Leopold I, and the Republic of Venice agreeing to an alliance against the Turks.

First siege, 1684[edit]

First Siege of Buda, 1684
Part of Great Turkish War
Siege of Buda 1686 Frans Geffels.jpg
Siege of Buda 1686 by Frans Geffels
Date Spring of 1684
Location Buda, Ottoman Hungary
Result Ottoman victory
the siege lasted 108 days[1]
Ottoman Empire Ottoman Empire Holy League
Commanders and leaders
Grand Vizier Kara İbrahim Pasha
Abdurrahman Abdi Arnavut
Charles V, Duke of Lorraine
Louis William, Margrave of Baden-Baden
Ernst Rüdiger von Starhemberg
7,000 inside Buda
17,000 relief forces
40,000—43,000 troops[2]
Casualties and losses
Unknown 24,000[3]—30,000 [4]

In the spring of 1684, an army of about 80,000 men marched under Charles V, Duke of Lorraine, to free the city of Buda from the Turks.

After the main army crossed the Danube at Esztergom on 13 June, the front of the imperial army under the command of Maximilian Lorenz von Starhemberg and the cavalry general Louis William, Margrave of Baden-Baden arrived at the castle town of Visegrád on 15 June.

On 16 June, the town of Esztergom was taken by storm by the imperial troops in spite of its strong walls, after a gate was destroyed by cannons. The majority of the Turkish occupation troops were killed and the city was plundered. Only a few Turks managed to withdraw to the castle on the rock above the city. After a siege of one-and-a-half days, the remaining Turkish garrison capitulated on 18 June.

On 27 June, the imperial army met a strong Turkish army of 17,000 men at Vác under the command of the Grand Vizier Kara İbrahim Pasha who would eventually drive out the Habsburgs.[5] Although the Turks had entrenched themselves at a favorable position, Karl V opened the fight with cannon fire. The centre of the imperial troops was led there by Maximilian Lorenz von Starhemberg and after a rather short fight knew that the Turkish troops were defeated. Vác fell to the imperial army the same day.

On 30 June, the imperial main army entered the city of Pest, to which the Turks had set fire shortly before. After the army crossed the Danube at Vác, it began the siege of Buda, which was defended by approximately 7,000 Turks. The imperial army, consisting of 43,000 men, began the bombardment of Buda's fortress with 200 cannons on 14 July 1684, the anniversary of the beginning of the siege of Vienna. Field Marshal Graf Ernst Rüdiger von Starhemberg was assigned to conduct the siege.

On 19 July, the imperial troops took control of the lower part of the town of Buda. However, since too few troops were available to occupy it, Ernst Rüdiger ordered the houses in that part of the town burnt down.

Drawing of the Siege of Buda in 1684

Throughout July and August, the imperial army made several attempts to attack the fortress, but all were repelled by the Turkish defenders.

At the beginning of September, an imperial general reported that the number of the soldiers fit for service had shrunk, and morale was low. On 11 September, an imperial auxiliary corps reached Buda, providing new momentum to the campaign.

On 22 September, a Turkish relief army arrived, and immediately attacked the besieging forces. The imperial army managed to repel them, but was unable to defeat them. The Turkish relief army then engaged the imperial army in repeated nuisance attacks, which, coupled with losses caused by the Turkish city garrison, caused a plunge in morale. Ernst Rüdiger, who was severely wounded and facing sustained criticism from his army, had to be replaced in command of the siege. The final blow was a spell of poor weather conditions throughout October, and the decision was made to withdraw.

On 30 October, the imperial army withdrew after a siege which had lasted 109 days. Several factors had caused the size of the allied force to shrink to about half its original size: battle losses, dysentery and a fever epidemic, poorly dug trenches, and tactical errors in the siege. The captain Paul Joseph Jakob von Starhemberg and the Christian allies after this failed enterprise had to regret losing between 24,000[3]—30,000 men.[4] Ironically, the blame for the failure was laid with the man who had only led the army at the beginning of the siege: Ernst Ruediger von Starhemberg.

Second siege, 1686[edit]

Second Siege of Buda, 1686
Part of Great Turkish War
Reprise château Buda 1686.jpg
The Recapture of Buda Castle in 1686 by Gyula Benczúr
Date 1686
Location Buda, Ottoman Hungary
Result Holy League victory, after 78 days of siege
Holy League Ottoman Empire Ottoman Empire
Commanders and leaders
Charles V, Duke of Lorraine
Louis William, Margrave of Baden-Baden
Ernst Rüdiger von Starhemberg
Abdurrahman Abdi Arnavut 
Grand Vizier Sarı Süleyman Paşa
Pasha of Temeşvar
Pasha of İstolni Belgrad
Pasha of Osijek
65,000—100,000[3] Garrison below 7,000 men inside Buda (including 3,000 Janissaries, 1,000 horses, 1,000 Jews and 2,000 inhabitants[6]
Casualties and losses
5,000 killed 3,000 killed
6,000 captured
(including civilians)
Fireworks in Brussels in commemoration of the recapture of Buda from the Turks in 1686

In 1686, two years after the unsuccessful siege of Buda, a renewed campaign was started to take Buda. This time, the Holy League's army was much larger, containing between 65,000-100,000 men,[3] including German, Hungarian, Croat, Dutch, English, Spanish, Czech, Italian, Catalan, French, Burgundian, Danish and Swedish soldiers, and other Europeans as volunteers, artillerymen, and officers. The Turkish defenders consisted of 7,000 men.

By the middle of June 1686, the siege had begun. On July 27, the Holy League's army started a large-scale attack which cost them 5,000 killed. They were thrown back by the defenders. A Turkish relief army arrived at Buda in the middle of August led by Grand Vizier Sarı Süleyman Paşa, but the besieged Ottoman forces led by commander Abdurrahman Abdi Arnavut Pasha was unable to mount any offensive and he was soon after killed in action. Abdi Pasha's defensive efforts are referred to as "heroic" by Tony Jaques in his book the Dictionary of Battles and Sieges.[5]

Prince Eugene of Savoy and his dragoons were not directly involved in entering the city, but secured the rear of their army against the Turkish relief army, which could not prevent the city from being entered after 143 years in Turkish possession.

Massacre of Jews and Muslims[edit]

After the conquest, the victorious soldiers took out their fury on the hated "heathens". Knowledge of the Turkish threat was firmly embodied in the consciousness of Europe at that time, fueled by reports of Turkish atrocities against civilians and the religious attitudes of the Christian church:

"Buda was taken and abandoned to plundering. The soldiers committed thereby such excesses. Against the Turks, because of their long and persistent resistance, which had cost an amazing quantity of its comrades their lives, they spared neither age nor sex. The Elector of Bavaria and the Duke of Lorraine, disturbed by knowing of men killed, and women raped, gave good orders that the butchery must stop, and the lives of over 2000 Turks were saved."

Over 3,000 Turks were killed in the slaughter perpetrated by imperial troops, and the violence was directed not only against the Muslims, but likewise against the Jewish population of Buda.[7] As subjects of the Ottoman Empire, who enjoyed greater tolerance under the Ottomans compared to the Habsburgs,[6] the Jews had fought side-by-side with the Turks[8] and were considered their allies.[6] After the conquest of the city, the Jewish community of Buda, which at its height had numbered 3,000 persons,[9] was almost completely destroyed.[6][10] Approximately half of the city's 1,000 Jews were massacred;[11] hundreds of Jews and 6,000 Muslims were captured to be sold as slaves or held for ransom[11][12] as a "punishment" for their loyalty to the Ottoman Turks, while the other half, a further several hundred Jews and 6,000 Muslims,[11] were captured to be sold as slaves or held for ransom.[clarification needed - that is the same as the first group. Is this intentional, and if so why are they separated?][13] The homes and properties of the Jews were looted and destroyed.[13] The Reformation Hungarian Protestants advocated the complete removal of the Jewish population of Hungary.[13] Most of the Jews remaining in Buda,[10] as well as most of those the rest Hungary, left along with the retreating Turks.[10][14] The captured ones were sent to Vienna, Pozsony or Mikulov.[6] The mosques and minarets of Buda were destroyed and three synagogues were burned, along with numerous valuable books, by the Army of the Holy Roman Empire.[11]

The most bloody events of the battle have been recorded by Johann Dietz of Brandenburg, an army doctor in the besieging army:

"...Not even the babies in their mother's wombs were spared. All were sent to their deaths. I was quite horrified by what was done here. Men were far more cruel to each other than wild beasts (Bestien)."[15]

The imperial troops buried their own dead, and threw the dead bodies of the Turks and Jews into the Danube.[8]


During the Turkish reign, the city of Buda flourished. It became a cultural and commercial center. Some of the churches in the city were rebuilt as mosques rather than being destroyed. Churches, mosques, schools, communal kitchens, bakeries and Turkish baths were built. The cultural treasures of the city were protected and preserved by the Turks during their reign.

As a consequence of the recapture of Buda from the Turks, as well as winning the Battle of Mohács (1687), the Hungarian parliament recognized at Pressburg in November 1687 that the inheritance of the Hungarian crown had passed to the Habsburgs, without the right to object as well as resistance. In addition the Hungarian parliament committed itself to crown the Habsburg successor to the throne still during his father's lifetime as king of Hungary. Thus on 9 December 1687 Joseph, the 9-year-old son of emperor Leopold, was crowned, as a first hereditary king with the Stephanskrone crown. Hungary was a hereditary country of the Habsburgs and already in June 1688 the "commission for the mechanism of the Kingdom of Hungary" was now finally created, in order to create in the country of the Stephanskrone a strong monarchistic government.


  1. ^ A Military History of the Ottomans: From Osman to Atatürk, by Mesut Uyar, Edward J. Erickson, 2009, p.103
  2. ^ Hochedlinger, Michael (2003). Austria's Wars of Emergence: War, State and Society in the Habsburg Monarchy, 1683-1797. Pearson Education. p. 159. ISBN 9780582290846. 
  3. ^ a b c d Young, William (2004). International Politics and Warfare in the Age of Louis XIV and Peter the Great: A Guide to the Historical Literature. iUniverse. p. 433. ISBN 9780595329922. 
  4. ^ a b Banks, John (1742). The History of Francis-Eugene Prince of Savoy By an English Officer, who Served Under His Highness in the Last War with France. James Hodges, the British Library. pp. 11–12. 
  5. ^ a b
  6. ^ a b c d e Urban Societies in East-Central Europe: 1500-1700, by Jaroslav Miller, 2008, p.89
  7. ^ Jewish Budapest: Memories, Rites, History, by Kinga Frojimovics, Géza Komoróczy, 1999, p.504-505
  8. ^ a b The Dutch Intersection: The Jews and the Netherlands in Modern History, by Yosef Kaplan, 2008, p.214
  9. ^ The Myth of the Jewish Race, by Raphael Patai, Jennifer Patai, 1989, p.47
  10. ^ a b c A Travel Guide to Jewish Europe, Ben G. Frank, 2001, p.532
  11. ^ a b c d The Holocaust and the Book: Destruction and Preservation, by Jonathan Rose, 2008, p.268-270
  12. ^ Frommer's Budapest and the Best of Hungary, by Ryan James, 2010, p.174
  13. ^ a b c Masked Ball at the White Cross Café: the failure of Jewish assimilation, by Janet Elizabeth Kerekes, 2005, p.24-25
  14. ^ Christianity and the Holocaust of Hungarian Jewry, by Moshe Y. Herczl, Charles Darwin, 1995, p.4-5
  15. ^ Jewish Budapest: Memories, Rites, History, by Kinga Frojimovics, Géza Komoróczy, 1999, p.505