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Battle of Otranto
Part of the Ottoman wars in Europe
and Ottoman-Hungarian Wars
Otranto castello.jpg
DateJuly 1480–1481
LocationOtranto, Kingdom of Naples
Result Ottoman forces seize the city; Christian forces recapture the city
 Ottoman Empire  Kingdom of Naples
Aragon Arms.svg Crown of Aragon
Coa Hungary Country History Mathias Corvinus (1458-1490) big.svg Kingdom of Hungary
Commanders and leaders
Ottoman Empire Gedik Ahmed Pasha Kingdom of Naples Francesco Largo
Kingdom of Naples Alphonso II of Naples
Coa Hungary Country History Mathias Corvinus (1458-1490) big.svg Balázs Magyar
18,000 infantry
700 cavalry
128 ships
Hungary: 2,100 Hungarian heavy infantry[1]
Casualties and losses
Garrisoned forces surrender Unknown
Civilian casualties:
approx. 1,600 Hungarians (mostly servants)

The Ottoman invasion of Otranto began on 28 July 1480 and lasted until May 1481, when Ottoman forces withdrew under a truce with the Kingdom of Naples.


On 28 July 1480, an Ottoman fleet of 128 ships of which 28 were galleys arrived near the Neapolitan city of Otranto in the region Apulia. Possibly these troops came from the siege of Rhodes. On July 29 the garrison and the citizens retreated to the citadel, the Castle of Otranto. On 11 August this fort was taken by the invaders.

According to Christian historiography a raid was held to round up all male citizens. Archbishop Stefano Agricoli and others were killed in the cathedral, while Bishop Stefano Pendinelli and the garrison commander, Count Francesco Zurlo, were sawn in two alive.[2] On August 12, 800 citizens who refused to convert to Islam were taken to the Hill of the Minerva and beheaded without mercy.[3] These 813 victims were canonized as saints in the Roman Catholic Church in May 12, 2013.[4] Some of the remains of the 800 martyrs are today stored in Otranto Cathedral and in the church of Santa Caterina a Formiello in Naples. The cathedral is said to have been used as a stable after that.[citation needed]

This version has come under severe criticism[citation needed]. From the Turkish side it is disputed that large-scale executions took place; the bones to be found in the Cathedral of Otranto are claimed to be actually those of fighters killed during the Turkish invasion. Italian researchers, on the other hand, conclude that some acts of terror were committed by the Turkish invaders to create panic among the Italians around Otranto.

In August, 70 ships of the fleet attacked Vieste. On September 12, the Monastero di San Nicholas di Casole, which accommodated one of the richer libraries of Europe, was destroyed. In October 1480, the coastal cities of Lecce, Taranto and Brindisi were attacked.

Due to lack of food, Gedik Ahmed Pasha returned with most of his troops to Albania, leaving a garrison of 800 infantry and 500 cavalry behind to defend Otranto. It was assumed he would return after the winter.


Since it was only 27 years after the fall of Constantinople, there was some fear that Rome would suffer the same fate. Plans were made for the Pope and citizens of Rome to evacuate the city. Pope Sixtus IV repeated his 1471 call for a crusade. Several Italian city-states, Hungary and France responded positively to this. The Republic of Venice did not, as it had signed an expensive peace treaty with the Ottomans in 1479.

In 1481 an army was raised by king Ferdinand I of Naples to be led by his son Alphonso II of Naples. A contingent of troops was provided by king Matthias Corvinus of Hungary.

The city was besieged starting 1 May 1481. On May 3 the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, Mehmed II, died, with ensuing quarrels about his succession. This possibly prevented the sending of Ottoman reinforcements to Otranto. So in the end the Turkish occupation of Otranto ended by negotiation with the Christian forces, permitting the Turks to withdraw to Albania. However, quite a few of them were still taken captives when the Christian troops occupied Otranto again.


  1. Csaba Csorba, János Estók, Konrád Salamon (1999). Magyarország Képes Története. Budapest, Hungary: Magyar Könyvklub. p. 62. ISBN 963-548-961-7. 
  2. Ted Byfield (2010). Christians - Their First Two Thousand Years, Renaissance: God in Man, A.D. 1300 to 1500. Edmonton, Alberta: McCallum Printing Group Inc.
  3. Bunson, Matthew. "How the 800 Martyrs of Otranto Saved Rome". Catholic Answers. Retrieved 11 February 2012. 
  4. "Martyrs of Otranto, entire village that chose death instead of renouncing their faith". Rome Reports. Retrieved 10 May 2013. 

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