Pécs / Peç

The city of Pécs was occupied by the armies of Suleiman after the Battle of Mohács in 1526, in which the invading Ottoman army defeated the armies of King Louis II. Although a large part of the country was occupied by Ottomans, the public opinion of who should be the king of Hungary was divided too. One party supported Ferdinand of Habsburg, the other party crowned John Zápolya in Székesfehérvár. The citizens of Pécs supported Emperor Ferdinand, but the rest of Baranya county supported King John. When Ferdinand defeated the armies of Zápolya in the summer of 1527, he was crowned king on November 3. The city was favoured by Ferdinand because of their support and he exempted Pécs from paying taxes.

Pécs was captured by the Ottomans again in 1529, on their campaign against Vienna. The Ottomans made Pécs to accept King John as their ruler. When the Ottomans occupied Buda in 1541, they demanded Pécs, since the city was of strategic importance. The citizens of Pécs defended the city against the Ottomans and swore loyalty to Ferdinand. The emperor helped initially, but his advisers persuaded him into focusing more on the cities of Székesfehérvár and Esztergom instead of Pécs. Pécs was preparing for the siege, when Flemish and Walloon mercenaries fled the city and raided the nearby lands. The next day in June 1543, the Bishop went to the Ottomans with the keys of the city.

After occupying the city, the Ottomans fortified it and turned it into a real Ottoman city. The Christian churches were turned into mosques; Turkish baths and minarets were built, Qur’an schools were founded, there was a bazaar in place of the market. For a hundred years the city was an island of peace in a land of war.

The city was ravaged and burned in 1664 by Croat – Hungarian nobleman Nicholas Zrínyi and his army. Since the city was well into the Ottoman territories, they knew that even if they occupy it, they could not keep it for long. Mediaeval Pécs was destroyed forever, except the wall encircling the historical city, a single bastion (Barbakán), the network of tunnels and catacombs beneath the city. Several Turkish artifacts also survived, namely three mosques, two minarets, remnants of a bath over the ancient Christian tombs near the cathedral, and several houses, one even with a stone cannonball embedded in the wall.

After the castle of Buda was wrested from Ottoman rule in 1686, the armies went to capture the rest of Pécs. The advance guards could break into the city and pillaged it. The Ottomans saw that they could not hold the city, and burnt it, and withdrew into the castle. The army led by Louis of Baden occupied the city on 14 October and destroyed the aqueduct leading to the castle. The Ottomans had no other choice but to surrender, which they did on 22 October.

The city was under martial law under the command of Karl von Thüngen. The Viennese court wanted to destroy the city first, but later they decided to keep it to counterbalance the importance of Szigetvár, which was still under Ottoman rule. Slowly the city started to prosper again, but in the 1690s two plague epidemics claimed many lives. In 1688 German settlers arrived. Only about one quarter of the city’s population was Hungarian, the others were Germans or Southern Slavs. Because Hungarians were only a minority of the population, Pécs did not support the revolution against Habsburg rule led by Francis II Rákóczi, and his armies pillaged the city in 1704.

Places of interest

> Mosque of Jakováli Hasszán pasa
> Mosque of Pasha Qasim
> Széchenyi square

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