Istanbul Orban conquer Hungarian
Mehmet II conquering Constantinople, the capital of the Byzantine Empire. Source: Wikipedia Commons

By 1453, the Ottoman sultans tried to conquer the capital of the Byzantine Empire many times but without success. Constantinople was protected by three large and thick wall systems which made almost impossible to get into the city before firearms were invented. Mehmet II (1444-1446, 1451-1481) decided to conquer Constantinople at a young age, so he hired Master Orbán to build a massive cannon for him able to destroy the walls.

According to contemporary forces Master Orbán was born in the Szeklerland, in the Hungarian Kingdom, and first, he offered his services for emperor Constantine XI Palaiologos, the last Byzantine ruler. Constantine gladly hired him, but since the Empire was in a bad financial situation, he could not pay enough or provide fine raw materials for him – says. Therefore,

Orbán abandoned him and offered his knowledge for the Ottoman emperor, Mehmet II.

The sultan hired him, as well, and was able to provide him with an infinite quantity of gifts, quality material and a lot of money. In return, Mehmet asked him to build a cannon so huge and strong that it can bring down the walls of Constantinople, the city Mehmet wanted to conquer since the beginning of his reign. Mr Orbán lived in Constantinople before and had time to study the walls carefully, so the task was not impossible for him.

He calculated everything very carefully and built two huge furnaces able to endure even 1,000 Celsius degrees. He put copper, tin, bronze bells, gold and silver into the furnace and finally, the so-called Basilica was born.

Hungary Istanbul Orban conquer
The original blew up, but the Basilica looked similar to this cannon built in 1464. Source:

The prototype of the barrel was used first against a Venetian merchant ship because its captain did not want to pay for crossing the Bosporus. It sank immediately after the 270 kg cannonball hit it and its crew was executed when they reached the shore. Since the test was successful Mehmed II ordered an even bigger one with a length of 8 m and

able to fire even a 700 kg ball.

To avoid its explosion, its interior was covered with a 20 cm thick layer of bronze.

The Basilica needed 70 oxen and 1,000 people for towing until they reached Constantinople with a speed of 4 km per day. The super cannon was placed in front of the sultan’s tent, but they were not able to accurately target with it, and it needed to be washed with olive oil after each shot. Therefore, it could be used only seven times a day so the defenders could restore the holes it broke on the walls.

The siege lasted for 53 days until Mehmed was able to capture the city. Interestingly, the Basilica blew up after six weeks killing its creator, as well. 


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