Erzsebet Bathory, born 1560, belonged to one of the most remarkable Hungarian royal family lineage, in which polish King Stephan Bathory or Prince Gabriel Bathory were members. In no less significant status, as a military advisor for Emperor Rudolph the second of Hapsburg, was her husband Ferenc Nadasdy, to whom she was married to in age of 15. She gave birth to five children, daughters Anna, Catherine and son Paul have reached adultness, Andrew, and Orsloya died in babyhood. Her husband died during year 1604 because of implications from war injuries.
Erzsebet lived in a time of wars for power and religious believes and her life, afterwards as a widow owning enormous wealth, was not easy. Hungary was divided in two empires, Hapsburgs and Osmanian realms, capitol city of Hungary was Bratislava. Slovakia and a part of Poland belonged into so called Upper Hungary, princedom of Seven castles was located in territory on east, which was ruled by a seven-castle prince and polish king Zikmund Bathory, and later his nephew Gabriel. Until the beginning of a Fifteen-year-old war with Turks in 1591 were relationships between Hapsburgs and Osmanian realm basically peaceful. Erzsebet`s husband Ferenc Nadasdy had also enacted a major part in history of Hungarian politics when war against Turks was unleashed. However, the original plan was a failure, the country was plundered by a constant war, the displacement of Turks was not successful, and Sevena-cestle was disorganized. A civil war begun during last war years (1604-1606) when Istvan Bocskai fought not only for ending of war conflict with Turks, but also for freedom of protestant belief, generally against Hapsburgs efforts for re-catholicization of the country. Both ends in year 1606, however the whole territory remains in an internal battle between followers of Hapsburgs and Hungarian royalty.
Legend about Erzsebet Bathory was introduced to the world as a cruel countess, which murdered virgins, to bath in their blood in order to preserve eternal youth. Not only that - she tortured innocent girls with burning candle, overheated iron or poured cold water on them during freezing weather with help of some of her servants.
Complains on her, reached the ear of the ruler, who ordered palatine Juraj Thurzo to investigate this matter. Thurzo himself had leaded to disclosure of these alleged crimes and promised his friend Ferenc that he will protect his family in case of his eventual death. At the beginning, he tried to protect at the date enormous wealth of Nadasdy family and Erzsebet was forced to sign a testament on behalf of her children. After some time Thurzo reappeared unannounced on her manor in Cachtice, where he caught her during committing of mentioned crimes. He immediately ordered investigation, but it ended as fast as it started. Many witness testified at court, but the court with Erzsebet never took place. Her convicted servants ended up on a place of execution, Erzsebet was locked down into some "investigational arrest", interned into the tower of Cachtice castle where she died after four years in year 1614 without ever knowing her sentence.
Who was really Erzsebet Bathory? Was she really a "bloody countess", as some historians name her? Or was she a very well educated woman mastering several languages and seriously interested natural healer? Graceful person of fine taste and at the same time so rich, that she irritated many royal women with her original robes tailored for her in far Italy? Sadistic murderess, or a victim of former relationships full of dark intrigues, which were sewed by someone powerful, lusting for her fabulous fortune? Cruel merciless mistress or a vulnerable, lonely widow, perhaps both?
From the castle of Cachtice, which had a reputation of unconquerable mansion in all Middle East Europe, only ruins remained. Chateau of Cachtice under the keep disappeared entirely. There is only a small museum in a small village, owning the only portrait of former monarch of the whole region, Erzsebet. Not even her age is possible to determine from the portrait of very questionable quality. She voluptuously looks upon us with sad eyes, face of melancholy, strictly closed lips demonstrate, that she was an energetic woman, meanwhile her big eyes are revealing her boldness and sense of romance...
Michelangelo Merisi Da Caravaggio
"Everything in art is insignificant, unless it is taken from life."
Caravaggio (his favourite quote)
Michelangelo Merisi was born 28th of September 1573 in a village Caravaggio at Lombardi. He was not of humble origins as it was declared in a past century (probably in order to create and image of "social rebel"). His father was "leader of construction works", de facto constructor for local marquis.
After his fathers death, Caravaggio was sent by his older brother, who was convinced about his talent, to manufactory of Simon Peterzana in Milan, painter formally from Bergama. Caravaggio spend here four to five years. It is still unknown, what he was doing after leaving manufactory in 1588 until 1593, but it is admitted that he was living in a roman environment. Some historians say, that he killed one of fellow student from Peteryan’s manufactory. Although, today it seem, that this story is a part of legend about Caravaggio as "cursed" painter. It is certain, that the life he lived in Rome was very wild.
He was working in many manufactories, where he was artistically evolving when he came to Rome as a destitute young man, but still living among the poorest. Once when he became ill, poorhouse was his only shelter. After getting over illness, he began to work for a better-known painter, then were the others he worked before – it was Giuseppe Cesari. Although, he spent there only a short time, it is presumed that, this was the time when two of his early paintings were made – The boy with fruit bucket and The sick Bakchus (probably a self-portrait). He was released from Cesari’s bondage, who was known for exploiting young talents, when he was offered a shelter at house of prelate Fantin Petrignani. Almost all his biographers agree on a notion, that those were the times when paintings Bacchus, Wise woman, Rest on a runaway to Egypt, Magdalena and a boy bitten by a lizard.
His originality was displayed in selection of themes and also that he was serving reality in a completely new way. Half of a century after his death, ruled an opinion about choosing only askew themes for his paintings, which are seen only on a street and therefore offensive. With his uncompromising and vivid observing talent and his ability to embrace entirety and not only detail (in contradistinction to paintings which were sold during that time such as – "heads", "breast" or "half-figure") he seemed brutally original and unacceptable for roman quarters, who were determine taste of the era.
His early works are exceptional with exceedingly accurate presentation, coming out of careful study of structure and colors of all objects, which he had the opportunity to arrange in his atelier – seclusion of fruit and flowers, bottle of wine, furniture, clothes, swords; it is know about him that he had a couple of bird wings at home. All these objects we find in his paintings.
Painting a figure according to a live model was harder. Even if the selected models were posing in his atelier, it would be impossible to paint them in such a violent action. As experts noticed in 17th century, uncertainty during painting figures in movement was one of Caravaggio’s weaknesess. Protagonists of his paintings, in despite of exciting plot, appeal to be strangely calm, almost stiff.
Cavaraggio was a realits in choices of figures. His Magdalena’s and Catherine’s are ordinary roman girls dressed in contemporary clothes, which look like saintess only because of conventional atributes. More important is that Caravaggio left the tradition of displaying the saints as heroes. His saints have noteless clothes, they are robust, working people hardly surpass the crowd. Naturalism of this kind was according to then criteria disrespectful to religion, therefore it became usual that church authorities were returning ordered paintings to Caravaggio. On the other hand, he received many orders from churches and royalties repeatedly and he was one of the most religious painters of 17th century.
Today’s experts are lean to the opinion, that his roman period lasted untill 1596, when he probably painted his famous picture Bucket with fruit. He stylishly matured, but it did not mean that he received general recognition; his works were still hard to sell. Afterward, certain Valentino, professional tradesman with art, introduced him to cardinal del Monte, who had a exquisite taste. Painter financial trouble were over, he had a shelter and work at cardinals so he could devote himslef to work as he pleased. Probably for this patron he painted works like Fake players, Lute mussician and a shield with a threatning face of Medusa.
During period of time from 1598 till 1601 were created his famous paintings in Contranelli’s chapel in roman church San Luigi dei Francesi: St.Mathew with angel, Proffession of st. Mathew and Torture of st. Mathew. With these painting he introduced a new style. It is a monumental composition, where religious stories are told as actual events lived through by ordinarypeople, in addition captured with enourmous realism. Power of his paintings inherent in daring compositions and in very innovative play of shadows and lights, amplified by warm colors.
Simultaneously he receives a prestiguous order – paintings with religious motives for church of Santa Maria del Popolo: Crusifiction os st. Peter and Reversion of st. Paul.
Fundamental change has occured during that time. Representatives of Carracciio standing on one side and their rival Caravaggio on the other. Painters from Bologna have become founders of new "clasicism". Caravaggio stood against their decorative art with landscapes and conventional scenes with his spirit of free-liver and violator. Involuntarily, he became one of the first creators of baroque among painters, who stood in opponency against clasicism, bor in Bologna. It seems incredible, but these two counteracting tendencies have become mutually supplying each othetr.Enthusiasm reigned for creations of bologna school throughout 17th century, but it is undeniable, that the greatest painters of this era were following in certain way on Caravaggio’s work:Velásquez and Zurbarán in Spain, Rubens and Rembrandt in Northern Europe.
Although, Caravaggio became succesful at the break of century – great orders are incoming – and he was a very talented man, his biographers are often pointing out his unrestrained life. It was very hard to become his friend and not a single year has passed, in which he was not involved into some suspicious matter or some serious trouble. In 1605 he was sent to prison and once he got out, he injured a certain man, and that is why he run away from Rome and seeked refuge in Genoa. He returned afterwards but besides painting he resumed his violent way of life. In the same year he started to piant Death of Virgin Mary, the monks who he painted it for refused to take it.
The year of 1606 was fatal for the painter. He killed his associate in a street brawl, and he ran away from Rome again to seek refuge at the house of Marzio Colonna, brother in law of marqui da Caravaggio. Because he needed money, he painted Magdalena for his protector. Received rewards have allowed him to get to Naples.
Documents about his stay at Malta in 1608 we preserved as well. According to all available information that is where he painted two portraits of grand master Alof de Wignacourt, Sleeping Amor, St. Hieronym and Happines of st. John Baptist. All these works were probably a required in order to be accepted into Order of Knights of Malta. A note about his crime in Rome arrived, once he achieved it. He was arrested, but he managed to escape, for which he was immediately excluded from the order.
Faith have brought him to Syrakus, where he painted the funeral of st. Lucia for a church of st. Lucia. At the beginning of 1609 he stayed at Sicily in Messina, where he created paintings The bow of shepherds and Resurrection of Lazarus. It seems, that he was afraid of punishment from the Order of knights of Malta even in Messina, because he started to travel again. Next stop on his journey was Palermo. As a respected painter he immediately found work for - church of San Lorenzo he created painting of Birth of the lord with st. Francis and st. Laurence.
Inner restlessness brought Caravaggio back to Naples, but misfortune was awaiting him there as well. He was attacked and seriously injured in front of entrance to one German tavern. His state was so serious, that a notice about his death spread out in Rome. His supporters were saying a good word for him in Rome during first few months of year the 1610. In July of the same year he arrived on a small sailboat to Porta Ercole, Spanish port at the border of papal state. He was immediately arrested by mistake. He wanted to continue in sailing but the boat already sailed away. Not minding the enormous summer heat, stubbornly he waited all day long on seashore for another ship. He died probably on a heatstroke, alone and desolated on 18th of July 1610 at age of unfinished 37years. Thirty seven years of unrestrained, but yet enormously prolific life.
Huge response, which was caused by Caravaggio's work in art and mind of his contemporary fellows, leaded to an avoidable imitation. Even when Carraccio's and their ancestors created a group and school, artist influenced by Caravaggio were separating from each other so much, that their work is hardly summarized and evaluated.
His direct influence was so intensive, but short, limited to his direct ancestors, which most of them were foreigners creating in Rome. Although indirect influence of his creation towards European art was far reaching and unseen. Velásquez creating in Madrid and Georges de la Tour in Lotrinsk have created their most beautiful and feelingful creations in Caravaggio's style, although none of them have seen any Caravaggio's original.
Ferenc Nadasdy was born in 1555 in Sarvari in one of the most significant Hungarian families. His mother was Ursula Kanizsayi, his father was later palatine Thomas Nadasdy. At the age of twelve he left to royal manor in Vienna, he got married as a 20year old with 15years old Erzsebet Bathory. The idea of their marriage came out from their parents, property reasons were behind their decision. By the time of wedding were both orphans.
Engagement and wedding were taking place at Vranov in 1575. Newlyweds received precious gifts from ruler Maximilian and his family. There are no known details about the wedding, but 4 500 guest were reputedly present at the wedding. The wedding was probably very noble and long as it was customary at that time.
He was only 23years old when he became commander of Hungarian armies and he was already a advisor of the king himself. He was a robust person and violent person, which was even feared by Turks . They called him Black Beg. He was particularly exceeding in battles and his name was often mentioned in papers of Turkish notables. He imprinted himself into the history of Fifteen-year-old war as a very efficient commander of cavalry. He distinguished himself in battles in siege of Ostrihom, during attacking of Parkanyi (Sturovo), he was also a successful conqueror of Tata. By the age of 48 he became a commander of Danubian armies.
Nadasdy was not only a military practitioner, he gave his knowledge also a written form. In documents, which he left behind, he emphasized the need for protection of domestic people against severities of war, pointing out weak discipline which ruled among military camps. Big mistake, which he was often pointing out, was giving priority to plunder instead of final faze of victory, which in consequence often lead to reverse of situations in several battles.
His marriage with Erzsebet lasted almost 30 years, but their first baby, which grow to adulthood, was born 10 years after their marriage. Nadasdy spent most of his life far away from his wife and he died in native Sarvari in 1604. He left Erzsebet enormous wealth during time when Hungarian war against Turks was raged for 13 years and domestic political situation slowly headed to civil war.
King Mathias II.
King Mathias II. of Habsburk was born in 1557 in Vienna. Born as third son has predicated him a position in shadow of his older brothers. Succession order automatically devolved to Rudolph and second Ernest was coming into consideration in case of unexpected change of heir. Mathias was almost excluded. After the start of Fifteen-year-old war against Turks had Spanish king Filip II. called Ernest into Netherlands. This opened possibility for Mathias to apply himself in politics. Rudolph gave him a title of the highest military commander. After Ernest`s sudden death he was executing several honorable positions. As a regent of Seven-castles and also in battles against Turks in Hungary he achieved considerable achievements.
Dissatisfaction in the country and Rudolph`s inability to rule forced Habsburk`s to relieve the ruler of his powers. Representatives of Austrian and Moravian estates stood openly against Rudolph at the Hungarian parliament in Bratislava in January 1608. He in favor of Mathias recanted Hungary, Austria and Moravia. Mathias as the king of Hungary must agreed on several conditions of royalty, among other to renew the office of palatine, give religious freedom to Austrian, Czech and Silesian coats. Magnates of protesters religion have become palatines, at first Stephan Illeshazy and then Juraj Thurzo.
He got married late as 54 year old, he took his cousin Anna, but he did not have any offspring. Successor-ship had to pass to Ferdinand Stajer from a younger Tyrollean stem of Habsburks. He died in Vienna, a year after Ferdinand`s coronation in 1619.
Juraj Thurzo was born in 1567 at castle of Lietava. He came from a family of Thrzo, which were originally tradesman during 15th century, later they became mining contractors. His father died when he was just a child, he spend part of his childhood at the manor of arc-prince Ernest. His first wife was Sofia Forgac, he remarried after her death to Erzsebet Czoborov. Castle of Bytcany was his principal residence. He was very educated man of his era - he spoke latin, greek, german, hungarian and slovakian. Slovakian language was used as a official language on his manor. He created Bytca a center of humanistic intelligence, supporting schools, art and churches.
Despite his humanitarian interests he was also a hero of wars against Turks, in which he personally fought many battles. He suffered serious injury during victorious battle at Székekesfehérvári.
As a 31 year old he became an advisor of king Rudolph II., in 1602 a main commander of Front-danubian armies and a main captain of newcastle fortress.
His economic influence grew with his political power. The peak of Thurzo`s life career was his election for Hungarian palatine in December 1609. Palatine was the first man in the countray after the king during that time and he had enormous political, military, economical and court power. One of his duties was to be a rightful judge to all without regarding their origin and title of subjects. Erzsebet Bathory was his first serious case, which he was suppose to solve, never reached court. Tendency to destroy Erzsebet was, according to then conditions, probably motivated by passion for her enormous wealth. Even, after her death in 1614, Thurzo secretly supported efforts of Gabriel Bethlen for gaining of Bathory possessions, which caused several staged processes, where allegations from witchcrafts were used. The main motive of Thurzo`s actions during 17th century was a conflict with Bathory family and antagonism against it. Although he never gained their possessions. He lived only two years longer than Erzsebet, died in 1616. Five years later died his only son, and the family of Thurzo died out.
References about Cachtice pastor in historical documents were only mentioned in one connection. John Ponicky was the author of letter to Elijah Lanyi in 1611, where he accuses Erzsebet from cruelty and murders. But the information were not received directly, he got them from preaching of Nadasdy`s preacher Magyari in Sarvari church. Content of announcement is very doubtful, because not even Ponicky knew when Magyari died and he even wrote that Bathory is following him in a shape of a black cat. According to historians Ponicky`s letter acknowledges, that this Lutheran pastor could not stand Calvinistic countess Erzsebet. He had conflicts with other local nobleman- which declares that he suffered a certain form of frustration.
Cardinal Francis Forgac
Provincial and ecclesiastic dignitary, his date of birth is not exactly known, it was probably sometime around 1560. He died in 1615.
He served many ecclesiastic and government functions during his life: Ostrihom capitulary (1586), Bishop of Vestpremy (1587), Bishop of Nitra and Zupan (1587), Archbishop of Ostrihom, Zupan and a cardinal (1607), king’s chancellor (1606), kings governor (1607).
He was a prime representative of prohabsburks side and re-catholization in Hungary, although he was from evangelical family. He operated on a Polish royal manor as a young man, under the influence of this experience and his uncle Francis he converted to Catholic faith a studied theology in Rome. Jesuits, who leaded him as a member of significant and powerful family to apply for high-church functions, influenced his further orientation.
In 1604 he spend 3 months defending castle of Nitra from Bockaj`s rebels, but when the castle crew stood against him, he decided to give the castle to rebels and left to Györu. Later he took part in peace hearings between Bockaj and Osmanian realm. In 1608, he crowned King Mathias II. for king of Hungary.
He established a board of Jesuits in Trnava and establishment for education of priesthood by Jesuit residence in Sali.
In consequence of his re-catholization efforts he got into a dispute with king Mathias II. Who must accept certain compromises against Protestants royalty and that was the very thing, which Forgac opposed.
Peak of these re-catholization efforts was supposed to be a council by the end of August 1611 in Trnava. His acquisitions (renewal of strict celibacy, acceptance of sub-both etc. was suppose to renew church discipline, necessary for battle against reformation. He realized these plans only partially, his ancestor Peter Pazman continued in his work.
Gabor Bethlen, prince of seven-castles, was born in 1580 in a royal family, which never belonged to the highest royalty. His reign, lasting for 16 years, is indicated as golden age of Seven-castles. He took reign ship in 1613 – at that time only 33 years old –after Gabor Bathory. During the long Thirty-year-old war in 1620 had a parliament in elected him as a king f Hungary. When Habsburks were in 1620, strengthen their position in Europe, Gabor’s power was pushed back to East of Slovakia. Luck in war has turned in his favor: he regained most of Slovakia and strengthens his position. He was a great warlord, worse capacities of army was balanced by his diplomacy and cleverness. Thanks to marriage to Katalin, he became a brother-in-law of Swedish King Gustav Adolf II. He died suddenly in 1629.
Miklós Zrínyi was a husband of Erzsebet’s daughter Anna. However, there are only few records about him in historical recordings. His exact date of birth is unknown – it is estimated, that it could be closely or in 1570. He died in1625. His first wife was Anna Nadasdy, after her death (1615) he remarries to Anna Szechy. None of his wifes gave him a offspring, he died childless.
He was probably not executing any high functions at court, only lived on his properties and managed them. It is highly possible that he accompanied Ferenc Nadasdy to battles of Fifteen-year-old war according to his date of birth. However, this information is not historically proven.
In history of Hungaria was a much more significant character his brother Gyorgi VII, who was a miner of Croatia and a father of Miklos Zrinyi.
Erzsebet Czoborov, was after Sophia Forgac, which died in 1590 during giving birth a second wife of palatine Thurzo. She got married similarly young just like Erzsebet Bathory, some notes say in age of 14 and some say that she was nineteen. In difference to Thurzo, who was a very educated man of his time she was not originaly able to read or write, Thurzo taught her. Letter filled with love remained after their relationship. They had 8 children together, but only one son who died shortly after his father. Erzsebet Czoborov died in 1627 in poverty, when all possessions Thurzo family ended up in hands of their enemies.
Nephew of Erzsebet Bathory was bor in 1589 in Varadin, where he lived first years of his life. Later his parents moved to a family castle Somlyo, after a few years they had to escape to Poland. After their return from Poland a death of his father was Stephan Bathory from Ecsed established as his guardian, who was a local judge (brother of Erzsebet Bathory) and left him enormous riches, library, treasures and weapons. He also ensured him education, his teacher was varadine chancellor, graduate of University in Padova, Wittenberg and Heidelberg. In 1605 he came to court of his relative – Stephan Bockai, and throughout the year of 1607 he got married with Anna Horvath.
In 1608 he gained a throne of Seven-castle princedom. Seven-castles was during that period of time a buffering territory between Turks and Hungaria. Although it formally belonged to Hungary, it had a high amount of self sufficiency and therefore political influence of prince.
Within political negotiations he did not hesitate to act as a member of Protestants chucrh, other times as Catholic.
Bathory and his advisers in years 1609 - 1610 were reasoning about uniting unoccupied territories by Turks at the east of Hungary. These plans were not very realistic. The situation in Seven-castles escalated. He suffered a serious defeat at Brasov, he became a little more successful in next couple months but he was relieved of lordship in 1613 by a sultan and Gabor Bathlena was established as a new prince.
He died of after effects of assassination in 1613.
Reputedly, he excelled with enormous strength (is said that he could brake a horseshoe with his hands), he was a great at battle disciplines, according to some he was a tyrant with hands of blood, who agitated with his unrestrained life. Among his sworn enemies was Gabor Bethlen, who tried to gain Seven-castle throne. He fought against him with many allegations, for example with abuse of someone else wife and virgin, there have been even accusations from miserliness, injustice, even incest relationship with his own sister, violation of city rights, killing of townsman and many other misdeeds.
In general, there was not very short period of his rule in comparison to lordship of other Seven-castle princes no bloodier, but it responded to cruel war times and philosophy of the era.