By Barnabás Bartók
Master’s Thesis, U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, 2011
Abstract: The crusade of Nicopolis, in 1396, intended to expel the Turks from the Balkans, but it ended with the disastrous defeat. Sigismund of Luxemburg, the King of Hungary and Holy Roman Emperor, achieved much to fortify the southern border of Hungary and he had the power to mobilize the unwilling Hungarian nobility when it was needed. After his death none of his successors to the throne was able force his will upon the nobility to react on the growing Ottoman threat. In these critical times, János Hunyadi, born from low nobility, was the only person who was able to present the skills and capabilities which could balance the expansion efforts of the Ottoman Empire in the Balkans. By using his experiences gained in the condottiere wars in Italy and in the Hussite Wars in Bohemia, he was able to defend the Hungarian borders, and successfully attacked the Turks on their territory. For his outstanding performance on the frontier of Europe he earned the honorable “Defender of Christendom” title. Without the achievements of János Hunyadi between 1439 and 1456, Hungary could not have been the defensive Bastion of Europe.
Every day, when the bells start to ring, they herald a message for the citizens of the countries all over Europe, but for the Hungarian people this message has a far deeper meaning, than indicating the time. For generations from school ages through the eldest population come the same thoughts in their minds. If only for a few seconds, these thoughts let the people look back to the glorious ages of their history, and they visualize a person, who models the pattern of heroism and patriotism for his nation. These thoughts are centered on a person who not only set the basis of the last decades of the Golden Ages for the Kingdom of Hungary which lasted more than two centuries, but also influenced the history of Christian Europe in the fifteenth century.
This person was John Hunyadi, or in his native language János Hunyadi, who left his heritage not only in the hearts and minds of the Hungarian people but also in the memories of many people in the countries of Europe. The story of the noon bells and the circumstances of the events around it, originated from the year 1456. By then the conquered and vassal countries of Serbia, Bosnia, Albania, Bulgaria, and the still resistant Hungary experienced the reality of Ottoman rule and threat through blood. Not only Hungary but also Pope Callixtus III, realized the danger and called the Western European nations into a crusade to mitigate this threat. To prove his commitment and his belief in this matter, he removed many of the golden and silver buckles from the Vatican book collection. He sent them to the mint, to get money for equipping the crusading forces. Probably, the destiny of this collected money was to serve a more noble aim, because none of these soldiers fought against the Ottomans on the soil of the Kingdom of Hungary in 1456. Actually the lack of real physical threats on Western European countries’ borders presented by the Eastern Ottoman forces, did not spur the powers toward intervention.