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Temeschburg in the Battle Against the Turkish Yoke

by Anton Zollner
Translated by Brad Schwebler
Published at DVHH.org 2004 by Jody McKim Pharr
German Translation: www.banater-aktualitaet.de/tms22.htm

   As was also the case in other Banat castles they had trouble in the liberation of Temeschburg from the Turkish yoke.  In 1594 Transylvanian Prince Sigismund Bathóry tried to move the Serbs and Walachians living in the Banat to rebellion against the Ottoman.  The rebellion soon erupted under the leadership of Theodors of Dazien.  As the south Banat was in their hands, the rebels moved to the Betschkereker Mountain and they crushed the Turks here mercilously.  The Pascha of Temeschburg moved towards them in the field, but were always turned back and they lost 25,000 men from it.  But the rebels lacked uniform leadership there, got into quarrels and asked Bethóry for help.  This also soon came under army leader Moses Székelyis, but he remained incomprehensibly standing at the border.  So the Pascha with 30,000 men could whip the rebels into fleeing.

   At the beginning of 1595 Bathóry decided with Austrian Emperor Rudolph to make an alliance against the Turks and sent Georg Borbély with a considerable army into the Banat.  These conquered some south Banat castles, and as the Pascha was again moved from Temeschburg, he could be whipped into fleeing.  Following this siege the Transylvanian army also established itself in several of the Turkish-owned castles in the north Banat.  Dr. Iliesiu wrote that in that year the Temeschburg fortress would be besieged, but the Turks could still successfully resist.

   In 1596 the Ottoman tried to conquer back the castles they lost the year before.  There it happened according to the Kraushaar that it was Bathóry himself in the Banat, and he attacked the Lippas to conquer Temeschburg back.  On the 11th of June 1596 the fortress was surrounded on all sides.  After that the walls were shot with cannon, Bathóy stormed the fortress, but was soon beaten back.

   Dr. Iliesiu justified this defeat to the superiority of the Turks, the occupying force of the fortress number 10,000 Ottoman, while Bathóry only had over half at his disposal, and of them 2,082 foot soldiers and 1,146 cavalry fell.  But this data appears to be questionable because one observed Kraushaar’s and Griselinis’ descriptions.  Before the second storming of the fortress a powerful Tatar army of about 20,000 men came.  Both authors state that Bathóry’s army whipped the Tatars into fleeing, and a loss of 10,000 men should have taught them something.  But that could not happen because Dr. Iliesiu’s statements would be true.  After a 40 day siege Bathóry was forced to give up the fortress because of a shortage of food and siege materials.

   In the next year the Transylvanian Prince Báthory sent his army under the orders of his chancellor Stefan Josika once again to Temeschburg to conquer it.  The siege lasted from 17 October to 17 November 1597, but was also without success this time.  Nevertheless, Josika advanced up to the suburbs of Temeschburg, but he had to give up the fortress because of the autumn rains.  After this last attempt to conquer it back the Ottoman still remained the undisputed rulers of the capital city of the Banat for another hundred years.  This only served as the base point for the Turks for their numerous battle campaigns, which they led not only in north and west Hungary but also in Transylvania.

   In 1683 Sultan Mohammed decided to subjugate all of Christian Europe, and the first step at realizing this plan should be the occupation of Vienna.  The Turkish army, which consisted of 200,000 men, was however totally beaten on the 12th of September 1683 with the assistance of the Polish King Sobiesky.  The slaughter in Vienna was the beginning of the end of the Ottoman Empire.  On the 2nd of September 1686 the Christians stormed and conquered back Ofen (Buda), after which followed Fünfkirchen (Pécs) and Szegedin.  On the 12th of August 1687 the Austrians besieged the Turks at Mohatsch (Mohács).  One year later, on the 12th of August 1688 the Bavarian elector Max Emanuel began the siege of Belgrade, which became part of the empire on the 6th of September. Prince Eugen of Savoy also took part in the storming of Belgrade.  After only two years, 1690, the Belgrade fortress again fell into the hands of the Turks.  At this opportunity Ippeker archbishop Arsen Csernovits fled with 30,000 “mostly Serbian families” (Kraushaar) into Austrian owned regions and settled down in Syrmia, Slavonia, and the Banat.

   According to Karl Kraushaar Sultan Mustafa II invaded Hungary on the 20th of June 1695 with an army of 50,000 men.  This undertaking should have been thwarted by the just as powerful army under the leadership of elector Friedrich August of Saxony.  In August this approached Peterwardein with the task of the Viennese war council to conquer Temeschburg.  But soon the elector was held up at Lippa with mud at Beodra and Groß-Kikinda  hindering their advance to Temschburg.  After that he crossed throught the swamp at Aranka, and he began to besiege Temeschburg on the 1st of August 1696.  But here he heard that the sultan came to help the besieged.  He moved toward the approaching Ottoman and met them at Tschene (Cenei).  A three day battle ended undecided, the Christian losses amounted to 1,146 men, the Turks had double as many dead to lament over.  In these battles the Temeschburg Pascha also perished.  Both sides were so weakened that they avoided further battles.

   For this setback the elector Friedrich August of Saxony was made responsible, and the court war council decided that a general was to be placed at his side as advisor.  This was no big deal to the already famous Prince Eugen of Savoy.  Shortly after that the elector  to the king of Poland was chosen, and the 35 year old Prince Eugen was made commander-in-chief to the emperor.  His first shining victory over the Turks was won at the battle of Zenta on the 11th of September 1697.  Here the baptismal fire of the high and German master infantry regiments also took place at the same time.  After this battle, which lasted from two hours before sunset until 10 PM, left 20,000 Turks dead in the battlefield and 10,000 drowned in the Thieß but could not intervene.  From fear he fled to Temeschburg and left behind a splendid booty for the emperor.  The sultan recognized the weaknesses of his army but also Prince Eugen wanted his army to winter over in peace.  So after long negotiations the peace treaty of Karlovitz (today: Karlovac) came on the 26th of January 1699.

   During the following period of peace the Turks strengthened the fortress walls.  According to Turkish and Hungarians documents the Temeschburg Pascha asked for help from the sultan on the 14th of November 1705.  The sultan immediately sent 50 construction workers from Belgrade to Temeschburg, and the Walachian Wojewode Constantin Brâncoveanus sent the important wooden material for 50 wagons, which was pulled by four oxen.  One year later, in 1706, the Turks built a barracks with 41 rooms according to Dr. Iliesiu, which cost 2,537 Piasters.  But that was the last war preparations by the Turks in Temeschburg.

Temeschberg under the Imperial Septer

The Karls (Charles) Fortress

   Soon after the liberation of Temeschberg from the Turks (1716) they began to strengthen the existing fortress enclosure.  The work was carried out under the supervision of Count Mercy.  At the same time the erection of the Temeschberg fortress began they adapted to the latest modern war technology.  It received the name of the Austrian emperor at the time, Karl IV, and was known as “Karlsfestung” because of it.

   The foundation stone of this new fortress was laid by the Jesuit superior P. Michael Gasteyer at the large celebration on the 25th of April, 1723 in the north Bastei (rampart).  The stone contained the following text in Latin: Imperante Carolo VI. Duce Eugenio Sabaudiae Principe per cladem Petro-Varadini MDCCXVI a Turcis recuperata Provincia, sub praesidio claudii Comitis a Mercy anno a partu Virginis MDCCXXIII die XXV mensis Aprilis Temesvarini moenia fondabantur”.  This text probably already prepared Dr. Iliesiu for translation difficulties, as he also did not translate other texts in Romanian.  For the same reason only an incomplete translation was also found here: “During the rule of Karl VI under field marshal Prince Eugen of Savoy the province was conquered back from the hands of the Turks as a result of the defeat at Peterwardein in 1716 under the protection (…translation gap – A.Z.) was by Mercy in 1723 since the confinement of the Holy Virgin, (=after the birth of Christ – Amn. D. Verf.), on the 25th day of the month of April the city walls of Temeswar were erected.  The Bastei (rampart) in whose walls the foundation stone was laid received the names of the founders of the Jesuit order of the Holy Ignatius.  The construction work according to Dr. Iliesiu cost 20 million Guilders, lasting until 1765.  During this time Temeschberg transformed itself from a middle age fortress into one of the most modern resistance buildings erected in the Vauban’s system in the 18th century.  In the region of present day Romania, after Mahai Opris, it is the most perfect resistance building of its kind.

   One can recognize that this great plan was carried out in several stages when one compares the fortress plan from 1727 (see insert) with the one from 1736.  The first one still shows the fortress plan from Turkish times whereas the second one is a much greater fortress which from a ship looks like an irregular,  nine corner bastioniertes? (rampart) structure.  It is also worth noting that during the time of construction different gates were established.  One recognizes on the first plan in the east the Lugoscher Gate (L) (later called the Siebenbürger (Transylvanian)Gate or Factory Gate, in the northeast is the Arad Gate (A), in the northwest is the Prince Eugen Gate (E) (the former Fosforzi Gate), and in the south is the Belgrade Gate (B) (which was later called the Peterwardein Gate or Josef City Gate.

   On the plan of 1736 the Arad Gate no longer exists, and the place where the Prince Eugen Gate is identified finds itself with the Großpalanka deep in the interior of the fortress.  The Prince Eugen Gate here was replaced with the Vienna or Mehala Gate.  At the same time the Belgrade Gate is still identified on the east side of the castle which was later moved to the west side and then bore the names Peterwardein or Josef City Gate.  According to Dr. Ilieiu the gates were very narrow so that only one wagon could drive through.  For this reason a second passageway had to be knocked through the walls by all gates so it was possible to have traffic in both directions. One reached the gates over drawbridges which were hoisted up in the evening with heavy chains. According to Schiff a military cemetery was erected in 1849 in the enclosure of the tombstones which were used to honor the fallen imperial  troops.

   The fortress walls were built in the form of triple ramparts.  Between these there were moats which could be filled if required from the Bega.  The inner rampart was 10 to 12 meters high, the others were always lower on the outside.  Along the wall nine “Basteien” (ramparts?) were erected which gave the fortress a star-shaped appearance.  Between the Peterwardein and the Vienna Gate one found the Florimund rampart (from Opris) or Mercy rampart (from Schiff) (21), the Prince Eugen rampart (20), and the Elisabeth rampart (19).  On its completion in 1739 a board was affixed at the Prince Eugen rampart which had the following text in Latin: “The great warrior leader, his highness Prince Eugen of Savoy, was promised a pledge (=foundation stone – Anm. D. Verf.) dedicated in deference, and a corner defense stone (=Bastei – Anm. D. Verf.) was dedicated in honor of this hero who has returned the destroyed province to the undefeated emperor in which he freed them after the overthrow of the barbarians in a battle.”  After the Vienna Gate followed the Karls (Charles) rampart (18), which contained the already mentioned foundation stone.  On the walls after the construction work was finished a tablet was affixed with the following Latin text: “The sublime Emperor VI has the afterworld, as the Banat was freed from the yoke of the Turks after 164 years and the Christian beliefs and the ruling Austria took back this defense work in a glorious way that he left erected, left behind; it sits as evidence of steadfastness and bravery.”  After that followed up to the Siebenbürger (Transylvanian) Gate the Arad rampart (according to Opris) or the French rampart (according to Schiff) (17), the Theresien rampart (16), the Josef rampart (15), and finally the powder tower (according to Opris) or the Hamilton tower (according to Schiff) (23) and the castle rampart (22).   Today only three parts of the Temeschberg fortress remain standing. Only the food storehouse remains completely standing, which today houses the ethnographic department of the Banat Museum.  The other two are fragments of the Prince Eugen and the Theresien ramparts (at the Timisoara 700 market, rather close to the post palace?  But both were repaired in the ‘60’s, and a restaurant was set up in a part of it.

Copyright © Anton Zollner.
Permission granted to translate and reproduce this page for nonprofit genealogical use.


Last Updated: 04 Feb 2020

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