End of Europe's Middle Ages

Battle of Varna, 1444

This brief description of the Battle of Varna in 1410 is part of a letter written to the pope. The failure of Hungary's allies to come to her assistance is also bitterly condemned.

Most Holy Father.

Although I did not have the opportunity to report personally to your Holiness, I now confidently do so by letter. And I send you news of the late conflict, in which it was not so much our strength, but our misfortune that was betrayed. Having had wide experience in warfare since my early years, I easily admit that the wheel of military fortune is such that, according to the slightest movement of the Supreme Spectator, it rolls to favourable or calamitous conclusions. God may be the judge of those who were the cause of such distress for the Christian people. Many neighbouring princes, of Wallachia, of Bulgaria, of Albania as well as Constantinople, promised ample military aid, and told us to fly to their aid with feathered feet, because everything had been provided there for us. We answered their call after such great encouragement, marched with our army, crossing into the territory of the Turks. And since all that we needed was the promised help, we confidently penetrated farther each day into enemy territory. Some hostile units surrendered without resistance, some we defeated. But after a time it was clear that we could not rely on past promises of assistance. We had to face a situation that we had not anticipated since the friendship of the above-mentioned princes at its best was worse than insufficient and since the promised alliance actually turned out to be an insidious deception. Thus, while neglecting the defense of our own land, we found ourselves ill-armed in enemy country. However, before our perilous situation became evident, we obtained many spoils, slaughtered many Turks, and inflicted great damage. We were able to avoid open battle, but we were ashamed to give up the campaign that we had started for Christ's sake Therefore, a pious boldness overcame us and we resolved to take a venturesome course. An unequal battle took place which was fiercely fought, and only the sunset stopped the carnage. But the battle became a losing one because of the continuous waves of an endlessly attacking multitude, from which we receded not so much defeated than rather overrun and separated from each other.

Nevertheless, we saw it with our own eyes and know it from many documents, that we did not inflict fewer wounds to the enemy than we received. We left them with the remains of a bloody and funestuous victory. Further it is worthwhile to lament with great sighs the deplorable casualties we suffered. For there perished at Varna the king, our most illustrious prince and leader, and the venerable father, the Lord-Legate, Julian, whose character was virtuous and solid Our defeat was not caused by our weakness, or the superior bravery of the Turks, but it was divine justice which administered the defeat to us for we were ill equipped and almost unarmed; the barbarians won the day because of our sins. Therefore, recognising rather the weight of our guilt than that of our wounds, we have a firm hope that the One who administered the defeat as revenge for our sins will give a remedy to those who hope, and will move the mind of Your Holiness to strengthen the unbroken but bent power of the Christian people

Source: Densusianu, Nic, ed. Documente Privitóre La Istoria Romanilor. Bucharest: Socecu and Teclu, 1890. Volume I, Part 2, 715-717. Cited in Alfred J. Bannan and Achilles Edelenyi. Documentary History of Europe Eastern. New York: Twayne Publishers, 1970. 71-74.

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