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Szigetvár - Zrínyi castle

 

    The foundations of the Szigetvár castle were laid around the end of the 14th century on an island int he floodplain of the Almás stream. It gained its present shape though a number of ownera and during the renovations following sieges.

 

    Its name entered into the history of Hungary with the siege of 1566 when Croatian viceroy, Miklós Zrínyi, commander of the castle at the time, stopped the 100-120.000 strong army of Sultan Suleiman, which was on its way to attack Vienna. Zrínyi was defending the castle with his 2500 soldiers, but he gave up the outer fortress after the unceasing siege, and withdrew to the inner castle with his remaining 200 soldiers. Suleiman died on 5th September, wich neither the besieging army nor the defenders of the castle were awere of. Two days later – as they could no longer hold the burning inner castle – Zrínyi stormed out of the castle with his remaining soldiers and they were all – with the exception of some people – slaughtered by the Turks.

 

Monuments

 

After the fall of the castle there was a Turkish flag raised above the town for 122 years. This period left us numerous Turkish architectural relics. One of these is, in the middle of the castle yard, the Suleiman djami with the ruined minaret, with a prayer niche (mirhab) facing Mecca and fragments of Arabic-Persian writing ont he walls.

 

The caravanserai is a unique building int he country, which some believe to have served as an inn while according to others it was school. It has preserved its original shape to this day; an  exhibition of miniatures can be viewed downstairs and period weapons can be seen in the cellar.

 

In the town centre we can find the djami of Ali Pasa, wich was later converted to a Roman Catholic parish church. The painting by the renowned artist István Dorffmeister, depicting the fall of the castle and the recapture of the town, which he finished in 1788, can be seen here.

 

In nearby Turbék there was a Turkish mausoleum, where, according to oral tradition, Suleiman’s heart  and internal organs were buried. When the town was recaptured, the mausoleum was demolished and replaced with a baroque church; it was a significant place of pilgrimage until the middle of the last century.

 

Szigetvár has a number of listed buildings, including the Franciscan church and nunery in Zárda street, converted from a Turkish djami, and the Baroque house in Dózsa György street, a Romantic one in Szabadság street and the Neoclassical style house, with the tent-shaped roof in Széchényi street. The old stagecoach station and salt depot house at the beginning of Vár street, which serves as a gallery, is a significant listed building.

 

Two kilometers from the town along the road to Kaposvár is the Turkish-Hungarian Friendship Park, which was inaugurated in 1994 on the 500th anniversary of SultenSuleiman’s birth. It was here where Sultan Suleiman’s tent was erected during the siege and this is where he died ont he night of 5th of September 1566. In 1966 a drinking fountain was added and in 1997 a statue of Miklós Zrínyi, and in this way, after four centuries, the two commanders look towards the Szigetvár castle together. Todey it is a place of pilgrimage for the Turkish guest workers returning home on holiday.

 

Zrínyi Days

 

Memorial celebrations have been held in Szigetvár since 1833 to pay homage to the heroism of Miklós Zrínyi and his soldiers. The Zrínyi memorial celebration and castle games, as one of the oldest events int he country, reaches beyond the traditional festival framework considering its significance. Owing to the international contacts of the town Szigetvár is an important meeting point of cultures, which brings the citizens of different nations closer to each other in the spirit of friendship and reconcliliation. The programmers of the Zrínyi Days still fit the more than one-and-a-half century traditions and attract thousands of visitors from all parts of Hungary and even from across the borders.