Ottoman wintering in Toulon

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Barbarossa's fleet wintering in the French harbour of Toulon, 1543, with the recently built Tour Royale (bottom right).
The Toulon Cathedral was temporarily transformed into a Mosque.
Catulaire des confréries de la Chapelle, with Ottoman head, Toulon, 1550.
Barbarossa's galley during his campaign in France, 1543. Istanbul Naval Museum.
Suleyman receiving Barbarossa in Istanbul.

The Ottoman wintering in Toulon occurred during the winter of 1543–44, following the Franco-Ottoman Siege of Nice, as part of the combined operations under the Franco-Ottoman alliance.

Wintering in Toulon[edit]

The Ottomans were offered by Francis I of France to winter at Toulon so that they could continue to harass the Holy Roman Empire, and especially the coast of Spain and Italy, as well the communications between the two countries:

"Lodge the Lord Barbarossa sent to the king by the Great Turk, with his Turkish Army and grands seigneurs to the number of 30,000 combattants during the winter in his town and port of Toulon... for the accommodation of the said army as well as the well-being of all this coast, it will not be suitable for the inhabitants of Toulon to remain and mingle with the Turkish nation, because of difficulties which might arise."

— Instruction of Francis I to his Lord Lieutenant of Provence.[1]

Only the heads of households were allowed to remain in the city, with the rest of the population having to leave, on pain of death. Francis I indemnified the inhabitants by exempting them from the taille tax for a period of 10 years.[2]

Ottoman fleet in front of Genoa in 1544.

During the wintering of Barbarossa, the Toulon Cathedral was transformed into a mosque, the call to prayer occurred five times a day, and Ottoman coinage was the currency of choice. According to an observer: "To see Toulon, one might imagine oneself at Constantinople".[3]

Throughout the winter, the Ottomans were able to use Toulon as a base to attack the Spanish and Italian coasts under Admiral Salih Reis.[4] They raided and bombarded Barcelona in Spain, and Sanremo, Borghetto Santo Spirito, Ceriale in Italy, and defeated Italo-Spanish naval attacks.[5] Christian slaves were being sold in Toulon throughout the period.[6]

Sailing with his whole fleet to Genoa, Barbarossa negotiated with Andrea Doria the release of Turgut Reis.[7]

Barbarossa found the Toulon base very pleasant and convenient, could refit his ships at the expense of France, and could maintain an effective blockade of Christian shipping. The Lord Lieutenant of Provence complained about Barbarossa that "he takes his ease while emptying the coffers of France".[4]

The Ottomans finally departed from their Toulon base after a stay of 8 months, on 23 May 1544, after Francis I had paid 800,000 ecus to Barbarossa.[2][8] All Turkish and Barbary corsairs had to be freed from French galleys also, as a condition to his departure.[2] Barbarossa also pillaged 5 French ships in the harbour of Toulon in order to provision his fleet.[2]

Return to Istanbul[edit]

The French galleys of Captain Polin in front of Pera at Constantinople in August 1544, drawn by Jérôme Maurand.

Five French galleys, under the command of the "Général des galères" Captain Polin, accompanied Barbarossa’s fleet, on a diplomatic mission to Suleiman.[8] The French fleet accompanied Barbarossa during his attacks on the west coast of Italy on the way to Istanbul, as he laid waste to the cities of Porto Ercole, Giglio, Talamona, Lipari and took about 6,000 captives, but separated in Sicily from Barbarossa’s fleet to continue alone to the Ottoman capital.[9]

This would be one of the last naval campaigns of Barbarossa, who died 2 years later in Istanbul in 1546.[10]


Toulon would again be used as a safe harbour for several months by Turgut Reis from August 1546, when he was pursued by the fleet of Andrea Doria.[11]


  1. ^ Harold Lamb. "Suleiman the Magnificent - Sultan of the East". p. 229. Retrieved 2016-12-01. 
  2. ^ a b c d Robert J. Knecht (2002-01-21). "The Rise and Fall of Renaissance France: 1483-1610". p. 181. Retrieved 2016-12-01. 
  3. ^ Crowley, p.74
  4. ^ a b Harold Lamb. "Suleiman the Magnificent - Sultan of the East". p. 230. Retrieved 2016-12-01. 
  5. ^ Robert Elgood (1995-11-15). "Firearms of the Islamic World: In the Tared Rajab Museum, Kuwait". p. 38. Retrieved 2016-12-01. 
  6. ^ "The Cambridge Modern History". p. 77. Retrieved 2016-12-01. 
  7. ^ [1]
  8. ^ a b Crowley, p.75
  9. ^ Crowley, p.75-79
  10. ^ "Penny Cyclopaedia of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge". p. 428. Retrieved 2016-12-01. 
  11. ^ [2][dead link]