I wake up and read the news that King John III Sobieski’s statue outside Vienna has been desecrated. Desecrating statues is in fashion, as we have seen in the United States with Robert E. Lee and Christopher Columbus. Europeans have forgotten what happened on 11th and 12th September 1683 there, by the Danube riverbank. But whoever comitted the heinous act has not forgotten. Neither had Mohamed Atta and Osama Bin Laden forgotten, and that is why they chose that date for what we all know.
Let us set up the scene, we are in an age in which Europe has been bleeding out for a century and a half in religious wars (they would deserve an article for themselves, now that it will be 500 years since Luther’s billboard announcement). And the Turk, as always, takes advantage of this weakness. When the party was barely starting in 1529 they tried. Now it seemed the death blow. Vienna was badly defended, her walls were crumbling and the Turks had gathered 170,000 men, of which 140,000 arrived at the siege according to the order of battle in their commander-in-chief Kara Mustafa Pasha’s possession. He was Sultan Mehmet IV’s Great Vizier.
Against them, a motley coalition headed by the Holy Roman Empire (which had little of those 3 qualities) to which they enrol the Republic of the Two Nations (which was a single country under a King). They manage to gather 90,000 men.
The Ottoman troops camp. Everything seems ready for the Imperial capital to fall in the Mohammedan’s hands, as it happened to another Roman Imperial Capital, Constantinople. Rome would be a matter of time.
The Ottomans try to blow up the walls by digging a mine under it and filling it up with gunpowder. In order to not let the Viennese know, they dig at night. Only Vienna’s bakers, who work at night, realise that their water barrels vibrate at night. If nobody intervenes, the wall will be blown to smithereens and Vienna will fall.
But in the morning of 12th September 1683 there is someone who does not accept it. It is the Polish King, Jan III Sobieski. After inconclusive fighting throughout the morning, he pulls an Alphonse VIII of Castille and orders the charge of 4 cavalry groups. A grand total of around 20,000 troops. Commanding the elite Winged Hussars, Jan III Sobieski charges.
Ottomans are thoroughly beaten. The Viennese garrison comes out of their positions and joins the charge. Jan Sobieski declares that “Veni, vedi, Deus vicit”. I came, I saw, God won. He immediately sends the news of the victory to the Pope, a scene immortalised by Polish painter Jan Matejko which is preserved in Rome’s Vatican Museums.
Yeah, it’s not Velazquez’s Surrender of Breda, but it is also pretty cool
Among the looted plunder in the Ottoman camp they find sacks of coffee that the Viennese mix with milk to make palatable, it is the invention of the Mélange. Bakers, in a display of pride, invent a crescent-shaped bun to celebrate their role in the Ottoman defeat. It is what we know nowadays as a croissant. You see the Viennese a re weird Germans, who take brakfast from their battles. And name it in French to boot.
The Ottoman army falls back. Kara Mustafa would be executed by the Janissaries, strangled with a silk rope. Three years later, in 1686, Buda would be retaken. In the decisive charge to break the castle walls, 300 Spaniards (most of them Catalans) are the spearhead. You can see it if you ever go to Budapest
Yes, the Spanish Republican coat of arms next to Saint John’s Eagle. Hungarians have understood “historical memory” better than Spaniards.
Lest we forget. Vienna may be teeming with Turks nowadays, and you can see more hijabs than dirndle. It may seem that Jan III Sobieski, Starhemberg and all their troops fought for nothing. But Poles have not forgotten. Hungarians have not forgotten. And Turks have not forgotten.
It is our turn to choose on whose side we are, knowing who we are, it is life or death. I have chosen already. Disidencia has chosen already.
The battle rages.
Choose your side.