The Siege of Vienna of 1683 was one of the great turning points of European history. On September 12 of that year an Austrian-led multinational army lifted the siege which came within a whisker of taking Vienna and likely causing the entire Austrian Empire to fall under Muslim rule. The Christian victory marked the beginning of the end of the Turkish domination of South-eastern Europe, as for the next two centuries the Ottomans progressively lost European territory, never to threaten Central Europe again.
For the pious, it represented the divine salvation of Christianity over the aggression of the infidel. The Austrian Emperor Leopold I became the de facto temporal leader of the Catholic cause (while the true hero was the Polish king, Jan III Sobieski, whose timely intervention saved the day). This was something of an embarrassment for the Spanish monarch, Carlos II, who as the head of the senior branch of the Habsburg family and master of a global empire, considered himself the true prime guardian of Catholicism. Spain had scarcely contributed to what was the greatest Christian victory of the modern era. Consequently, upon hearing the news of the lifting of the Siege of Vienna, the court of Carlos II was presented with a PR problem that could only be counteracted by a grand public spectacle that showcased the Spanish king as the supreme Catholic ruler.
The work commences by giving a brief, yet engaging, account of the celebrations that broke out in Rome following the receipt of the news of the victory at Vienna on September 23, 1683 (pp. 1-3). Pope Innocent XI held a thanksgiving mass, while wild street celebrations broke out across the city, notably at Piazza Navona.
Next, is an account of the formal audience that Carlos II granted the ‘Conde de Mansfeldt’, being Heinrich Franz Graf von Mansfeld (1641 – 1715), the Austrian Ambassador to Spain, at the Buen Retiro Palace on November 7, to mark the momentous victory at Vienna (pp. 3-4).
The highlight of the work is one of the authoritative and most richly detailed accounts of the elaborate procession that Carlos II and his most senior courtiers made from the Buen Retiro Palace to the Royal Convent of Our Lady of Atocha, on November 8 (pp. 5 -14). The cavalcade was an elaborate Baroque spectacle, following strict protocols, that was intended to portray Carlos II as the true and prime defender of the Catholic faith. It was meant to be watched by the people of Madrid, marking a rare public appearance by the monarch, to instill upon them a sense of wonderment as to his piousness and regal dignity.
The present work was published by Lucas de Bedmar y Baldivia, the king’s official printer, upon the initiative of the royal court as a tasteful promotional piece.
A Note on Rarity
The present work is very rare. We can trace only 3 institutional examples, at the Biblioteca Nacional de España; Universitat de Barcelona and the Österreichische Nationalbibliothek.
Rejoice and Jealousy: Spain and the Siege and Vienna (1683)
While the present work is one of the authoritative contemporary accounts of the elaborate ceremony that was carried out in Madrid to celebrate the end of the Siege of Vienna (1683), so glorifying Carlos II, it tells only the official story. The reality was far less elegant.
Carlos II and the Spanish royal family comprised the senior branch of the House of Habsburg, that also ruled Austria. While Spain was traditionally the leading temporal defender of Catholicism globally, it was, as of late, off its game.
Spain was suffering huge financial problems, as its American colonies were becoming a burden, in the place of their former role as a source of virtually unlimited wealth. Spain was also being outmatched on the battle field by Louis XIV’s France (which was also an enemy of Austria, as well as an ally of the Ottoman Empire).
As the Turkish armies commenced their Siege of Vienna in July 1683, Spain was engaged with maintaining the ‘Flanders Wall’ against Louis XIV’a armies in the Spanish Netherlands, during the War of the Reunions (1683-4). It could not spare any men for the epic fight in Austria, and Carlos II was only able to send Leopold I 125,00 gold escudos to buy arms.
When the Christian forces vanquished the Ottoman armies at the Battle of Vienna on September 12, 1683, Leopold I became the public hero of the Catholicism (even if Jan III Sobieski was the true saviour), while Carlos II stood on the sidelines of the faith’s greatest test of the century. While relieved by the victory in a sense, Carlos II risked looking impotent.
The grand cavalcade of November 8 was thus supposed to be the centre of an elaborate PR campaign to remind the Spanish Court and the people of Madrid that Carlos II was still the temporal leader of the True Faith.
However, the official planta (scheme) that mandated the order in which the members of the cavalcade were to follow the king, caused great offense to both the Austrian Ambassador, the Graf von Mansfeld, and the Cardinal-Nuncio Savo Mellini, the Vatican’s chief representative in Spain. They felt that their not so prominent places in the procession were an affront to Austria, the Holy See and the them personally. In the end, Mansfeld refused to participate in the procession, while Mellini agreed to take part, as he was, rather usually, given the privilege of presiding over the mass at the Atocha Convent.
As it turned out, everyone at the Madrid court moved on with their lives until the drama that occurred upon the Austrian victory over the Turks at Buda in 1686 – which required Carlos II to have another cavalcade!
References: Palau, no. 287471; Sándor Apponyi, Hungarica, no. 1067 (vol. II, p. 185); Biblioteca Nacional de España: VE/140/17; Universitat de Barcelona: 07 B-54/3/18-16; Österreichische Nationalbibliothek: 303439-B; OLCL: 864325360 (referring to the Madrid and Barcelona examples); Cristina Bravo Lozano, ‘Madrid as Vienna, Besieged and Saved: The ceremonial and political dimensions of the royal cavalcade to Atocha (1683)’, The Hungarian Historical Review, vol. 4, no. 2, Cultures of Christian–Islamic Wars in Europe (1450–1800) (2015), pp. 471-501; Cécile D’Albis, ‘L’écho d’un événement international: les thématiques des textes qui circulent au moment du second siège de Vienne (1683)’, Revue de l’Institut français d’histoire en Allemagne, no. 5 (2014), pp. 1-23.