Szigetvar (Hongrie): New claim on the whereabouts of Süleyman the Magnificent’s heart

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Sultan Süleyman died during the famous siege of the Szigetvar Fortress on Sept. 6, 1566, one day before the Ottoman Turkish army's victory over the Habsbourgs.

A Turkish scientist has announced that a recently discovered historical document points to a mosque complex in Szigetvar, Hungary, as the site where heart and internal organs of the Ottoman Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent were buried in 1566.

We unexpectedly discovered the document while we were studying the charter of the Sokollu Mehmed Pasha Foundation. It says the internal organs were buried in the garden near the ‘hanikah’ (dervish lodge) of the Süleyman Mosque in Szigetvar,” Mehmet Zeki İbrahimgil, a history professor at Gazi University, told Doğan News Agency.

İbrahimgil added that the Turkish authorities would soon release the details of the findings in an official announcement, before excavations at the site begin after Hungarian officials issue permission. He also stressed that the location of the burial site had been confirmed by the works of Ottoman chronicler Mustafa Selaniki, who died in 1600.

Sultan Süleyman died during the famous siege of the Szigetvar Fortress on Sept. 6, 1566, one day before the Ottoman Turkish army clinched victory. Pre-empting a possible revolt among the ranks of the army, Grand Vizier Sokollu Mehmed Pasha kept the Sultan’s death as a secret for 48 days, until Süleyman’s son Selim II came to the military camp to take the throne.

Temporarily mummified

Historical sources record that Süleyman’s body was temporarily mummified and buried under his bed at his imperial tent near the fortress, after his heart and internal organs were removed for the process. The body was then transferred to Istanbul, while the organs remained in Hungary.

Contemporary historians refute the legends that say the heart and internal organs, which were reportedly washed with “musk and amber,” were buried in a “golden bowl,” citing the apparent violation of Islamic tradition of such a burial. 

The shrine that Sultan Selim II built at the site of his father’s temporary tomb in 1577 was plundered and demolished by the invading Austrians in 1693, leading to the current confusion about its whereabouts. 

In 1913, the priest of Szüz Maria Church on the Turbek Hill, three kilometers northeast of the Szigetvar Fortress, claimed that the Süleyman shrine had once been there. As there was no sound evidence, many experts now say this claim might merely be an effort of political propaganda on the eve of World War I in which Austro-Hungarian Empire and Ottoman Empire would be allied.

Two theories: Church or lost village?

Scientific research and excavations are still continuing to discover Süleyman’s shrine. Hungarian scientists announced during a symposium in Szigetvar on Sept. 20, 2013 that they discovered “the lost Ottoman village” in the vineyards of Zsibot, which lies two kilometers northeast of Turbek Hill, arguing that it may be the town that developed around the shrine in the late 16th century. 

We are now certain that the shrine is not located in the church. Now we will obtain the required permits and excavate nearby the vineyard houses around Zsibot. We think it’s possible to find the shrine there by 2016, the 450th anniversary of Suleiman’s death,” Hungarian archeologist Erica Hancz told daily Hürriyet at the time.

Turkish experts, on the other hand, voiced their skepticism at the symposium, pointing to the inadequate evidence about “the lost Ottoman town” while arguing the church and the area around it should be excavated more thoroughly, although nothing has been found there since the 1970s.

The latest announcement from Professor İbrahimgil is surprising for many experts, as the Süleyman Mosque was previously never proposed as a possible site for the burial. If the claim is accurate, the internal organs should have been transported after the conquest, as the mosque is inside the fortress, while the Sultan died outside of it.