The Turks Triumph at Mohács: August 29, 1526

This text comes from our book, Light to the Nations I: The History of Christian Civilization.


Emperor Charles V in 1519

If Charles V could not expect help from the French king, Francis I, against the German Lutheran princes, it seems he at least could expect Francis to stand with the empire against the Turks. After all, the Turks threatened the freedom of all Christendom. But instead of helping Charles defend Christendom against the Lutherans and the Turks, Francis aided both in their struggles against Charles. Why Francis aided Christendom’s enemies is not fully known. He may have thought he was helping France against her Habsburg enemies, for Charles V’s territories surrounded France on three sides. Charles seemed too powerful to Francis; so the French king sacrificed the good of all Christendom for the good of France—an attitude that had left Europe in such peril before.


War broke out between the French king and the German emperor in 1521. After some fighting in southern France, Francis invaded northern Italy and, in October 1524, laid siege to the imperial city of Pavia. Charles sent an imperial army to defend the city.


During the Battle of Pavia, fought in February 1525, the French troops panicked in the face of the fire from a new weapon called the harquebus, one of the earliest handheld guns. Only the Swiss mercenaries and the Spaniards, who both fought for Charles, had mastered this weapon. Terrified by these new guns, the French ran—right into a unit of Swiss pikemen. In the confusion, King Francis himself was captured and taken a prisoner to Madrid, where he was confined in a castle until he and Charles could agree to a treaty. This treaty, the Peace of Madrid, was signed by both monarchs in December 1526 and brought an end to their war—for a time.


Battle of Pavia

Charles hoped that the Peace of Madrid would allow him to turn his attention to dealing with the Turks and the German Protestant princes. He was wrong. Not a year had passed since the signing of the peace when Francis I made a pact with England, Milan, and Florence against the emperor. Even Clement VII, who had become pope in 1523, joined this pact, called the Holy League of Cognac. The pope, too, wanted to see Charles’s power in Italy weakened. For nearly a year, Clement pretended to make peace with Charles, only to join again with the emperor’s enemies.


Suleiman I

Meanwhile, Suleiman I had returned to eastern Europe with 100,000 Turkish troops and was threatening Hungary. In that summer of 1526, the 20-year-old king of Hungary, Louis II Jagiello, had only a token army of 20,000 to face the might of the Turk. On August 29, 1526, the Turks annihilated the Hungarian army on the field of Mohács (pronounced MOH-hatch) beside the Danube River.


Following this victory, Suleiman entered the Hungarian capital of Buda unopposed. From that city he led away 100,000 Christian captives to be sold in the Turkish slave markets. Hungary became a Turkish province. The Turks now stood less than 150 miles from Vienna, the heart of Europe.


A Crypto-Lutheran Composer at the Court

of Hungary’s King


In the year 1526, the composer Thomas Stolzer died — it was long thought at the Battle of Mohács. A priest and the composer for the Hungarian court of King Louis II Jagiello, Stolzer was also a secret Lutheran. We offer here the Kyrie from Stolzer’s Missa duplex per totum annum.



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