The Ottoman Turkish Empire had been a serious threat to Europe for 300 years. They conquered the last vestige of the eastern Roman Empire when they captured Constantinople in 1453, renaming it Istanbul. In the 16th and 17th centuries they continued advancing into central Europe, aiming to capture Vienna. They knew that this city, with it’s interlocking rivers and location in the heart of Christian Europe, was a key to destroying Christendom.
In 1683 a force of 150,000 Turks approached Vienna and laid siege to the city. Vienna at the time was defended by only 16,000 troops, but a relief force from the Holy Roman Empire, and from the Kingdom of Poland, was on its way.
The siege began on July 14, and Turkish sappers built tunnels up to the walls of Vienna to blast their way in with underground explosives. The Turkish army nearly surrounded the city and cut off most food supplies. Things looked pretty grim, until September.
King Jan IIII Sobieski of Poland and his Polish army arrived on September 6. He had left Poland virtually undefended to come to the aid of Vienna. Additional Holy Roman Empire troops from several German states also came pouring in. Still, the Turks outnumbered the Polish-German alliance by at least two-to-one.
King Jan of Poland was placed in overall command; the leaders of the European alliance recognized his superb skill as a strategist and warrior. The battle began on September 12, and was a see-saw affair throughout the day. The battle was turning in favor of the Europeans by late afternoon, and at 6 pm, King Jan formed his cavalry for a final charge against the Turks. It was 18,000 strong, and in the lead were 3000 Polish Lancers…the famous “Winged Hussars.” And in the very front of the cavalrymen, leading the way of course, was King Jan Sobieski.
It was the largest cavalry charge in history. The armored knights charged downhill at full gallop, and King Jan and his men crushed the Turkish army. It was a complete rout of the Turks, and after it was all over, the Ottoman Turkish Empire receded in Europe, and was never a threat again to Christian Europe.
Thank you, King Jan, and all your courageous warriors.