Johann Zápolya

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Johann Zápolya

Johann Zápolya ( Hungarian Szapolyai János , Croat. Ivan Zapolja , Ivan Zapoljski , Romanian. Ioan Zapolya , Serbian Jovan Zapolja ; *  February 2, 1487 at the Spiš Castle ; † July 22, 1540 in Mühlbach in Transylvania ) was a Hungarian aristocrat , Voivode of Transylvania and from 1526 elected King of Hungary and Croatia. In the Turkish war , Johann Zápolya stood against the throne rival Ferdinand I of Austria . The Treaty of Great Oradin in 1538 awarded the Kingdom of Hungary to the Habsburgs after his death .



Johann Zápolya came from the noble family of the Zápolya . He was born as the son of the second marriage of Stephan Zápolya , Voivode of Transylvania, with Hedwig (Hedwiga), Princess of Teschen from the house of the Piasts , at the Spiš Castle in eastern Upper Hungary , today Slovakia . His mother was the daughter of Przemysl II , Duke of Teschen and Glogau in Silesia, and Anna, Princess of Mazovia .

Voivode of Transylvania

In 1505, Johann took part in the Rákos Reichstag (on the Rákos field ) when he was eighteen - this is the earliest tradition of his political activities . At his request, the assembly is said to have decided that after the death of the reigning King Vladislav II (Bohemia and Hungary) no foreigner should be crowned King of Hungary. This made him the national candidate for the throne, which his family had long sought. Legendary embellishments of his life flowed into contemporary and later publications.

In 1510 Zápolya is said to have asked in vain for the hand of Princess Anna of Bohemia and Hungary . Behind his subsequent appointment as voivode of Transylvania in 1511, the intention was possibly to keep him away from the court. In 1513, after a successful attack on Turkish-occupied territory, he rushed to Buda at the head of 1000 horsemen and renewed his proposal of marriage, which was again rejected.

In 1514 Zápolya stifled the great peasant uprising under the leadership of György Dózsa against the manorial rule of the nobility and the inheritance of the peasants. At Zápolya's behest, the rebel leader György Dózsa was mocked as the “peasant king”, tortured and slowly put to death in terrible agony. Now Zápolya was more popular than ever as a rescuer from danger with the landed gentry, whose tyranny had driven the peasantry to revolt.

Ambitions for the Hungarian throne

Zápolya was a brother-in-law of the Polish King Sigismund I and the Hungarian- Bohemian King Wladyslaw II and thus the uncle of Ludwig II of Bohemia and Hungary . After the death of Wladyslaw II, the Diet of Rákos made him imperial administrator for the minor King Ludwig II in 1516. He was now striving for the dignity of the palatine , a supreme court official. But the Council of State and the court jointly opposed him and instead appointed Stephan Báthory (father of the eponymous King of Poland ) in 1519 .

The conflict between the interest groups flared up more sharply than before, and this at a time when the pressure from the Ottomans would have required a unification of all resistance forces. Last but not least, the disagreement between Zápolya and Báthory enabled the Turks to take the important fortress of Belgrade in 1521 , thus opening the way to Hungary.

In 1522 the Diet had appointed Zápolya and Báthory as captains general of the Kingdom of Hungary, but the court only confirmed Báthory. At the Diet of Hatvan and Rákos in 1522, Zápolya sat at the head of an alliance with the aim of deposition of the Palatine and other high-ranking state officials. But the attempt failed. The following year, the Hatvan Revolutionary Assembly of Estates removed all members of the State Council from their offices and made István Verböczy, a friend of Zápolyas, Palatine.

In the midst of this hopeless political situation, the Turkish Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent advanced into the Hungarian lowlands with a huge army . The young King Ludwig II died in the battle of Mohács in 1526 . Since Johann Zápolya - presumably as a result of contradicting orders from Ludwig II - did not appear on the battlefield in time, he was accused - probably wrongly - of treason by the court. His younger brother Georg Zápolya (* around 1490), hereditary count of the Spiš , field captain and second in command of the royal Hungarian troops, was also killed in the battle of Mohács.

King of Hungary

After the death of Ludwig II, two assemblies of the estates met to elect two different kings. Zápolya was elected King of Hungary in Tokaj on October 16, 1526. His choice was confirmed by another meeting in Stuhlweissenburg on November 10, 1526. The following day, Johann Zápolya was crowned King of Hungary as John I with the St. Stephen's Crown . His rival for the Hungarian crown, the later Emperor Ferdinand I , a brother-in-law of Ludwig II, was elected King of Hungary by a meeting of estates in Pressburg on December 16, 1526 . Zápolya was elected by a majority representation of the lower and middle secular nobility and the high clergy, but Ferdinand's few Hungarian supporters included prominent high nobility, especially from western Hungary.

"The double election meant the start of a civil war - the most unfortunate thing that could have happened to the country out of consideration for the invasion of the Ottomans." H. The power struggle fought out in the previous year with the formation of coalitions, the two kings took up the military power struggle in 1527. Ferdinand gained the upper hand. Johann had to retreat from the capital of Ofen (Hungarian Buda ) to Transylvania.

Both Ferdinand and Johann sent envoys to the Sultan's court to protect themselves. Johann's envoy, the Polish diplomat Hieronymus Laski, a brother of Johannes a Lascos , was successful and secured King John the sultan's goodwill. In 1528 King John submitted to the "protection" (and thus the sovereignty) of the Ottomans. On May 10, 1529, the Sultan set out for Hungary with a Turkish army and their auxiliaries and on August 18 he set up an army camp near Mohács . King John visited the Sultan in his camp and kissed the hand as a sign of vassalage . In return, the Sultan declared that he would recognize John as King of Hungary. The fact that Sultan Suleyman advanced on Vienna in 1529 also served to secure rule over Hungary for his vassal Johann.

It was not until the Peace of Greater Oradein (Hungarian: Nagyvárad, Romanian: Oradea) of February 24, 1538, that the twelve-year struggle between Johann and Ferdinand ended. Ferdinand recognized Johann as King of Hungary. However, he had the right of succession assured upon his death. However, Johann broke his succession agreement when a son, Johann , was born in Ofen on July 7, 1540, 15 days before his death, from his marriage to Isabella , the daughter of his brother-in-law Sigismund I , King of Poland, in 1539 Sigismund Zápolya , whom he immediately declared heir to the Kingdom of Hungary.


King John I Zápolya was limited in his government to the middle third of Hungary and eastern Transylvania. From a Hungarian point of view, his merit is the defense of national independence, in which his minister, Frater György (György Utješenović) played a decisive role as an advisor. Under the given circumstances, however, this was only possible by joining forces with the Ottomans and recognizing the sultan's sovereignty. In the Peace of Greater Oradea, Johann had to leave the north-western part of the Hungarian territory, which was henceforth called "Royal Hungary", to the Habsburgs. When Ferdinand von Habsburg asserted this claim in 1540 after Johann's death, Turkish troops occupied the heartland of Hungary, including Buda. Only the principality of Transylvania remained for Johann's heirs, which remained under the sovereignty of the Ottoman Empire until 1686/1687.


Web links

Commons : Johann Zápolya  - collection of images, videos and audio files


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predecessor Office successor
Ludwig II. King of Hungary
Johann Sigismund Zápolya
Ludwig II. King of Slavonia
Ferdinand I.