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Ottoman conquest of Otranto

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Battle of Otranto
Part of the Ottoman wars in Europe
and Ottoman–Hungarian Wars

Castle of Otranto
Date28 July 1480 – 10 September 1481
  • Ottoman forces conquer Otranto[1][2]
  • Christian forces recapture the city in September 1481
Ottoman Empire
Commanders and leaders
Gedik Ahmed Pasha
  • 18,000 infantry
  • 700 cavalry
  • 128 ships
  • Unknown
  • Hungary: 2,100 Hungarian heavy infantry[3]
Casualties and losses
Garrisoned forces surrender
  • 12,000 killed in action
  • 5,000 enslaved
Relics of the Martyrs of Otranto inside Otranto Cathedral

In the summer of 1480, the Ottoman Empire invaded southern Italy, and laid siege to Otranto, finally capturing it on 11 August. This was their first outpost in Italy.[4] According to a traditional account, more than 800 inhabitants were beheaded after the city had been captured.[5][6] The Martyrs of Otranto are still celebrated in Italy. A year later, the Ottoman garrison surrendered the city after a siege by Christian forces, uncertainty upon the death of sultan Mehmed II and the intervention of papal forces that were led by Paolo Fregoso of Genoa.

Background and motive[edit]

In 1479, the Ottomans proposed an alliance to Venice. The Signoria declined the request. However from Venetian sources, it can be inferred that the Signoria, through Battista Gritti, its new bailo in Istanbul, gave the sultan to understand that it would be his rights in seizing Brindisi, Taranto, and Otranto. While, it is impossible to say what extent such declarations contributed to Mehmed's decision to carry out his long-standing plan for a landing in Italy, he acted quickly and resolutely.[7]

Early in the summer of 1480, kapudan-i derya Gedik Ahmed Pasha received orders from Mehmed to cross the Strait of Otranto.[7]

Siege and capture[edit]

On 28 July, an Ottoman fleet of 128 ships, including 28 galleys, arrived near the Neapolitan city of Otranto. Many of the troops had come from the 1480 Siege of Rhodes. The garrison and the citizens of Otranto retreated to the city's castle. On 11 August, after a 15-day siege, Gedik Ahmed ordered the final assault. When the walls were breached the Ottomans methodically passed to house to house and sacked, looted and set it on fire. Upon reaching the cathedral, "they found Archbishop Stefano Agricolo, fully vested and crucifix in hand" to be awaiting them with Count Francesco Largo, the garrison commander, and Bishop Stefano Pendinelli, who distributed the Eucharist and sat with the women and children of Otranto while a Dominican friar led the faithful in prayer. A total of 12,000 were killed and 5,000 were enslaved, including victims from the territories of the Salentine Peninsula around the city, and the cathedral was turned into a mosque.[8][verification needed]

Stalled advance[edit]

In August, 70 ships of the fleet attacked Vieste. On 12 September, the Monastero di San Nicholas di Casole, which had accommodated one of the richer libraries of Europe, was destroyed. By October, attacks had been conducted against the coastal cities of Lecce, Taranto and Brindisi.

However, the lack of supplies made the Ottoman commander, Gedik Ahmed Pasha, unable to consolidate his force's advance. Instead he returned with most of his troops to Albania and left a garrison of 800 infantry and 500 sipahi behind to defend Otranto. It was assumed that he would return with his army after the winter.

Catholic response[edit]

Since only 27 years had passed since the Fall of Constantinople, there was some fear that Rome would suffer the same fate. Plans were made for the Pope and the citizens to evacuate the city. Pope Sixtus IV repeated his 1471 call for a crusade. Several Italian city-states, Hungary and France responded positively. The Republic of Venice did not do so, as it had signed an expensive peace treaty with the Ottomans in 1479.

In April 1481, Sixtus IV called for an Italian crusade to liberate the city, and Christian forces besieged Otranto in May. An army was raised by King Ferdinand I of Naples, to be led by his son Alfonso, Duke of Calabria. A contingent of troops was provided by King Matthias Corvinus of Hungary.


Between August and September, King Ferdinand of Naples, with the help of his cousin Ferdinand the Catholic and the Kingdom of Sicily, attempted to recapture Otranto.[9] The Christian forces besieged the city on 1 May 1481. Mehmed II was preparing for a new campaign on Italy but lost his life on 3 May. The succession issues prevented the Ottomans from sending reinforcements to Otranto. After negotiation with the Christian forces, the Ottomans surrendered in August, left Otranto in September 1481 and ended the 13-month occupation.


The number of citizens, which is said to have been nearly 20,000, had decreased to 8,000 by the end of the century.[10]

The Ottomans also briefly held Otranto once more after they conquered it in 1537.[11][12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Encyclopædia Americana, Volume 9
  2. ^ The Ottoman Empire: A Short History Page 44
  3. ^ Csaba Csorba; János Estók; Konrád Salamon (1999). Magyarország Képes Története. Budapest, Hungary: Magyar Könyvklub. p. 62. ISBN 963-548-961-7.
  4. ^ Savvides, Alexios, and Photeine Perra. "Hospitallers and Ottomans Between the Two Great Sieges of Rhodes (1480–1522/1523) 1." In The 1522 Siege of Rhodes, pp. 11-39. Routledge, 2022.
  5. ^ "Pope canonises 800 Italian Ottoman victims of Otranto". BBC News. 12 May 2013. Retrieved 17 March 2022.
  6. ^ "HOMILY OF POPE FRANCIS". www.vatican.va. 12 May 2013. Retrieved 17 March 2022.
  7. ^ a b Franz Babinger (1978). Mehmed the Conqueror and His Time. Princeton University Press. p. 690. ISBN 978-0-691-01078-6.
  8. ^ Paolo Ricciardi, Gli Eroi della Patria e i Martiri della Fede: Otranto 1480–1481, Vol. 1, Editrice Salentina, 2009
  9. ^ G. Conte, Una flotta siciliana ad Otranto (1480), in "Archivio Storico Pugliese", a. LXVII, 2014
  10. ^ Andrews, Robert.; Belford, Ros; Buckley, Jonathan Buckley; Dunford, Martin; Jepson, Tim; Ratcliffe, Lucy; Woolfrey, Celia (2012). Puglia Rough Guides Snapshot Italy. United Kingdom: Rough Guides. ISBN 9781409362333.
  11. ^ The Sultans of the Ottoman Empire By Doç. Dr. Raşit GÜNDOĞDU
  12. ^ Discovering Turkey Page 63

Further reading[edit]

  • Hubert Houben, ed. La conquista turca di Otranto (1480) tra storia e mito: atti del convegno internazionale di studio, Otranto–Muro Leccese, 28–31 marzo 2007. 2 vols. Galatina, 2008.

External links[edit]