Holy League (1594)

The Holy League established in 1594 by Pope Clement VIII was a military alliance of predominantly Christian European countries (Holy League) aimed against the Ottoman Empire during the Long War (1591–1606). The aim of this alliance was to drive the Ottoman Empire out of Europe[1]

Holy League
FounderPope Clement VIII
LeadersHoly Roman Empire Rudolf II

Spain Philip II
Flag of the Cossack Hetmanat.svg Severyn Nalyvaiko
Wallachia Michael the Brave
Moldavia Aaron the Tyrant
Transylvania Sigismund Báthory

Jovan Kantul
Motivesexpulsion of the Ottoman Empire from Europe
Allies Holy Roman Empire

Transylvania Transylvania
Flag of the Cossack Hetmanat.svg Zaporizhian Sich
Serbian hajduks

 Papal States
OpponentsOttoman Empire
Battles and warsUprising in Banat

Serb uprising in Peć
Battle of Klis (1596)

Serb uprising of 1596–97

The coalition was led by Rudolf II, Holy Roman Emperor.[2] The Holy See took for granted that Poland would join the League, together with all most powerful neighbours of the Ottoman Empire, in spite of their mutual enmities.[3] The league expected an assistance of the Balkan's Christian population.[4][5]

The establishing of this Holy League was only partially successful,[6] while Holy League managed to halt further Ottoman conquests in Europe.[7]


Already in 1583 a group of Cossacks proposed to the Pope to initiate crusade against the Ottomans. Ten years later, Aleksandar Komulović convinced the Pope to support his ambitious plan which also involved Cossacks. His plan was to establish military alliance which would undertake three pronged attack on Ottoman Empire. The first attack would be organized by the army of Poland led by Zamojski, the second attack would be led by Francesco Sforza toward Constantinople through Albania, while the third army of combined forces of Moldavia, Wallachia and Transylvania led by Andrew Batory would attack the Ottomans with support of Cossacks and Russia.[8]

The established of this Holy League was initiated by the papacy already in 1592–3.[9]

With the outbreak of the Long War, Clement VIII sent missions to Emperor Rudolf II, Philip II of Spain, and other princes.[10] Clement VIII subsidized the Habsburgs with 600,000 scudi in 1594–95.[11] About three million florins of subsidies were secured by Clement VIII over next ten years, as well as Italian auxiliary troops and France's neutrality toward Holy Roman Empire.[12] The League was projected in grandiose scale, to also include Holy See, Spain and Venice.[13]

Clement VIII appealed to Spain and Venice in vain.[11] He also hoped that the Swedish king Sigismund II would fight the Ottomans in his role as king of Poland.[11] In 1597, Clement VIII sent a force under his nephew to Hungary.[11] He did it again in 1598.[11]

Mission of Aleksandar KomulovićEdit


At the end of January 1593 Petar Čedolini, a bishop from Hvar, sent a letter to the Pope inviting him to send envoys to Russia to forge a united Christian coalition against the Ottomans. In the same year a similar proposal was sent to the Pope by Komulović himself.[14] An anonymous report from 1593, attributed to Komulović by many scholars, lists predominantly Slavic regions that could be mobilized to fight the Ottomans: Herzegovina, Slavonia, Croatia, Dalmatia, Serbia, Moesia, Bosnia, Rascia, Požega and Temeşvar.[15] Dalmatian friar Francesco Antonio Bertucci and Ivan (Janko) Alberti went to Rome to propose to Pope to start anti-Ottoman campaign by Uskok attack and capture of Klis and Herceg Novi. Their proposal was accepted[16]

At the beginning of 1594, Clement VIII sent clergyman Aleksandar Komulović of Nona to central and eastern Europe with the purpose to persuade the rulers of Transylvania, Moldavia, Wallachia, and Muscovy to join an alliance against the Ottomans.[10] Komulović also tried to enlist the Zaporizhian Cossacks, who were important as frequent raiders of Ottoman territory.[10] Komulović was to appeal to the Serbs about liberation from the Ottomans.[10]

Members of missionEdit

The mission was led by Aleksandar Komulović who participated in the mission in its entire period between 1593 and 1597. Komulović and Giovanni Battista from Cres maintained extensive contacts with the Patriarchate of Peć.[17] Another member of Komulović's mission was Thommaso Raggio (1531–1599), who returned to Italy in 1595 while Komulović stayed in the Balkans until 1597 and submitted a detailed report to the Pope upon his return.[18] He travelled to Moscow and twice visited the court of the Russian emperor, in 1595 and in 1597, but failed to convince the Muscovites to accept his proposals.[19]

Countries, territories and people projected as membersEdit

This coalition was to include all Christian Slavs, including Orthodox Russia.[15] Komulović traveled via Venice, Trent, Innsbruck and Vienna to Alba Iulia. The purpose of this trip was to convince the Tsar of Russia, King of Poland (including Zaporozhian Cossacks), the Prince of Transylvania and Voivodes of Moldavia and Wallachia to join a western anti-Ottoman coalition. His aim was also to inspire Serbs to rise up against the Ottomans.[20] According to some sources he continued his journey to Ancona, Hvar, Dubrovnik, Venetian Albania, Kosovo, Macedonia, Bulgaria, and finally Moldavia.[21]


The burning of Saint Sava's relics by the Ottomans. Painting by Stevan Aleksić (1912)

In Pope Clement VIII's instructions to Komulović, the Serbs were explicitly praised as brave, while the neighbouring Bulgarians were said to be unwilling to fight.[22] It is possible that these instructions were composed by Komulović himself.[23][24] Still, the mission inspired a series of uprisings in Serb-populated territories, such as the Uprising in Banat and Uprising in Peć in 1594.[25] Clement VIII chose not to support the Serb Uprising of 1596–97.[26] Without appropriate support from other Christian countries all this uprisings were suppressed with heavy casualties for Serb civilian population. In an act of retaliation, Grand Vizier Koca Sinan Pasha ordered burning of the relics of Saint Sava, the patron saint of Serbia and Serbs. The Archbishop of Peć and Serbian Patriarch and the spiritual leader of the Serbian Orthodox Church Jovan Kantul who supported the uprising of Serbs was captured by the Ottomans and strangled in Istanbul.


Russia refused to participate using bad relation with Poland as justification.[27]


After the outbreak of the Long War in 1593, Rudolph II sent his envoy Count Eric Lasota to Zaporozhia.[28]

In 1594 and 1595 Cossacks plundered Moldavia and invaded Transylvania.[29]


In 1593 a strange letter in Italian language was sent to Pope in which "elders from Albania" requested the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire and King of Poland to "move" against the Ottomans.[30] Komulović was instructed to first travel to Venice to establish contacts with Albanians.[17] In Venice he stayed in the house of notable Thomasso Pelessa from Albania.[20] Komulović allegedly met representatives of "Albanians" in Venice.[31] The Popes instructions and several letters Komulović had sewed in a cushion.[32] When he left Venice he made tremendous mistake and forgot the cushion leaving behind three letters written in lingua Serviana by the "people of Albania".[33] The Venetian authorities got in possession of those letters and concluded they were forged by Komulović, which is also believed by modern Australian historian Zdenko Zlatar.[34]

In July 1594, an assembly was summoned in a monastery in Mat, by Albanian tribal chieftains, joined by some Venetian subjects, of whom Mark Gjin was elected their leader. In 1595 he visited Rome to receive the Pope's support.[35]

The Himara Revolt broke out in Albania in 1596, but it was easily suppressed after the Venetians convinced some of the chieftains not to join the rebellion.[36]

Republic of RagusaEdit

According to some rumours, the Republic of Ragusa was ready to expel Komulović because the Ottomans offered them some benefits if they did.[37] Ragusans were worried because of the anti-Ottoman actions of Ragusan Jesuits.

Holy Roman EmpireEdit

In 1597 Komulović began his return journey and stopped in Prague to propose to Emperor Rudolf II to re-capture Klis, which had a year earlier been briefly captured by the Uskoks.[20]

Result of Komulović's missionEdit

Komulović did not succeed in forming the anti-Ottoman coalition,[38] as none of the countries accepted the Pope's invitation.[39]

Treaty of allianceEdit

At the beginning of the Long War in 1593 Rudolph and Bathory prepared the strategy to include participation of Moldavia and Wallachia in the Holy League. In the summer of 1594 their emissaries, led by Giovanni de Marini Poli from Ragusa, easily convinced Aron Movila and Moldavian boyars to join the league.[40]

In November 1594 the Triple Alliance of the Three Voivods was established by creation of an alliance between the Prince Sigismund Báthory of Transylvania, Voivod Aron Tiranul of Moldavia, and Voivod Michael the Brave of Wallachia.[41]

Facilitated by the Pope, a treaty of alliance was signed in Prague by Emperor Rudolf II and Sigismund Báthory of Transylvania in 1595. Aron Vodă of Moldavia and Michael the Brave of Wallachia joined the alliance later that year. Clement VIII himself lent the Emperor valuable assistance in men and money.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Oțetea, Andrei; MacKenzie, Andrew (August 1985). A Concise history of Romania. R. Hale. p. 216. ISBN 978-0-7090-1865-0. These conditions were met in the late sixteenth century when the Holy League (the Habsburgs, the papacy, Spain, and some German and Italian principalities) formed a new alliance whose aim was driving the Ottomans from Europe.
  2. ^ Hentea, Călin (2007). Brief Romanian Military History. Scarecrow Press. p. 62. ISBN 978-0-8108-5820-6. The pan-Romanian front started to take shape in the winter of 1594–1595 when the Romanian rulers were practically fighting against the Ottoman Empire within the Holy League, the major anti-Ottoman coalition led by the Habsburg emperor Rudolph II.
  3. ^ The Polish Review. Polish Institute of Arts and Sciences in America. 1958. p. 14. In addition to the Transylvanians, Moldavians and Wallachians, the Cozaks were expected to help, and he emphasized that the Muscovites too should be invited to do so by the Holy See, taking it for granted that the Poles under their famous leader Zamoyski would certainly join. The idea that the three strongest land powers in the neighborhood of the Ottoman Empire should cooperate in such a league, in spite of the tensions between them, was not new indeed.
  4. ^ Oțetea, Andrei; MacKenzie, Andrew (August 1985). A Concise history of Romania. R. Hale. p. 216. ISBN 978-0-7090-1865-0. the participants in the League counted on the assistance of the Balkan peoples who had been constantly on the move during the last ...
  5. ^ MacKenzie, Andrew (1990). A journey into the past of Transylvania. Hale. p. 76. ISBN 978-0-7090-4125-2. ... the participants in the League counted upon the assistance of the Balkan peoples. This was necessary because the ...
  6. ^ Hsia, R. Po-chia (15 April 2008). A Companion to the Reformation World. John Wiley & Sons. p. 211. ISBN 978-1-4051-7865-5. Pope Clement VIII achieved partial success in establishing the Christian coalition during the Fifteen year war...
  7. ^ Bues, Almut (2005). Zone Di Frattura in Epoca Moderna: Il Baltico, i Balcani E L'Italia Settentrionale. Otto Harrassowitz Verlag. p. 241. ISBN 978-3-447-05119-4. Pope Clement VIII achieved a partial success in establishing the Christian coalition during the Fifteen Year War, halting further Turkish conquest
  8. ^ Gordon, Linda (1983). Cossack Rebellions: Social Turmoil in the Sixteenth Century Ukraine. SUNY Press. p. 158. ISBN 978-0-87395-654-3. In 1583 a cossack group had proposed to the pope an anti-Turkish crusade starring themselves.16 Now a decade later a Dalmatian priest, Alexander Komulovich,17 won over Pope Clement VIII to a similarly ambitious plan involving the cossacks. Komulovich had in mind a three-pronged military alliance against Turkey: Zamojski would lead the Polish army; the Cardinal Legate Sforza would march ...
  9. ^ MacKenzie, Andrew (1990). A journey into the past of Transylvania. Hale. p. 76. ISBN 978-0-7090-4125-2. The struggle for the union of Transylvania with Wallachia and Moldavia took place in a general European historic context within the framework of the anti-Ottoman coalition initiated by the Papacy in 1592-3 and patronized by the Habsburg Emperor Rudolf II. An anti-Ottoman coalition – the Holy League – set itself the aim of driving the Ottoman Empire out of Europe,
  10. ^ a b c d Kenneth Meyer Setton (1991). Venice, Austria, and the Turks in the Seventeenth Century. American Philosophical Society. pp. 9–. ISBN 978-0-87169-192-7.
  11. ^ a b c d e A.D. Wright (10 July 2014). The Early Modern Papacy: From the Council of Trent to the French Revolution 1564-1789. Routledge. pp. 209–. ISBN 978-1-317-89618-0.
  12. ^ Kontler, László (1999). Millennium in Central Europe: a history of Hungary. Atlantisz. p. 163. ISBN 978-963-9165-37-3. From 1594 on, Pope Clement VIII secured subsidies (about 3 million florins over ten years), and later also Italian auxiliary troops for the purposes of the war in Hungary, and with clever diplomacy he also ensured the benevolent neutrality of France towards the Habsburgs. The imperial, Austrian and Bohemian estates ... Most importantly, the Romanian principalities and Transylvania also defected from the Ottoman camp and joined the Holy League. In the absence of Istvan Bathori, ...
  13. ^ Pastor, Ludwig Freiherr von (1933). The History of the Popes, from the Close of the Middle Ages: Drawn from the Secret Archives of the Vatican and Other Original Sources. Kegan Paul. p. 273. The instructions for Borghese also stated that the anti- Turkish league, the centre of which was to be formed by the Holy See, Spain and Venice, was to extend to Eastern Europe, a project which it cannot be denied was a grandiose one. The aims of Clement VIII. were directed not only to the conquest of Transylvania, so important on account of ...
  14. ^ Stanojević, Gligor (1973). Senjski uskoci. Vojnoizdavački zavod. p. 147. Krajem januara 1593. hvarski biskup Petar Čedolini uputio je papi pismenu poruku kojom ga poziva u borbu protiv Turaka i uvjerava da je Turska slaba i da ne može odoljeti jednom hrišćanskom savezu.12' Iste godine sličan predlog je uputio papi i sveštenik Aleksandar Komulović
  15. ^ a b Jr., John V. A. Fine (1 January 2006). When Ethnicity Did Not Matter in the Balkans: A Study of Identity in Pre-Nationalist Croatia, Dalmatia, and Slavonia in the Medieval and Early-Modern Periods. University of Michigan Press. p. 396. ISBN 0-472-02560-0.
  16. ^ umjetnosti, Jugoslavenska akademija znanosti i (1962). Starine. p. 360.
  17. ^ a b (Zlatar 1992, p. 209)
  18. ^ (Zlatar 1992, p. 206): "While Raggio returned after a year, Komulovic stayed in the Balkans for three years...."
  19. ^ Just, Sister Mary; (Sister.), Mary Just (1954). Rome and Russia: a tragedy of errors. Newman Press. p. 52. Komulovic went to Feodor's court in 1595 . and again in 1597, but his zealous efforts in Russia proved fruitless.
  20. ^ a b c Setton, Kenneth Meyer (1991). Venice, Austria, and the Turks in the Seventeenth Century. American Philosophical Society. p. 9. ISBN 978-0-87169-192-7.
  21. ^ Krasić, Stjepan (2009). Počelo je u Rimu: Katolička obnova i normiranje hrvatskoga jezika u XVII. stoljeću. Matica Hrvatska. p. 132. ISBN 978-953-6316-76-2. Grgur XIII. ga je 10. siječnja 1584. imenovao vizitatorom za krajeve koji su bili pod Turcima.13 Komulović je iste godine preko Jakina, Hvara i Dubrovnika otputovao u Albaniju, zatim na Kosovo, u Makedoniju, Bugarsku i Moldaviju.
  22. ^ Jovanović, Alekan (1937). Spomenica dvadesetpetogodishnjice oslobodjenja Južne Srbije. p. 230. У тој инструкцији папа нарочито истиче да су Срби храбри, а да њихови суседи (према Тра- кији) Бугари нису за борбу.
  23. ^ American Contributions to the Fifth International Congress of Slavists, Sofia, September 1963: Literary contributions. Mouton. 1963. p. 175. In the instructions which Komulovic received (and perhaps dictated himself) in 1594,...
  24. ^ The Polish Review. Polish Institute of Arts and Sciences in America. 1958. p. 16. ...seemed to be fabricated by Komulovic himself. ...
  25. ^ Jovanović, Alekan (1937). Spomenica dvadesetpetogodishnjice oslobodjenja Južne Srbije. p. 230.
  26. ^ Ćorović, Vladimir (2001) [1997]. "Историја српског народа". Јанус.
  27. ^ Tadić, Jorjo (1948). Dubrovački portreti. Zadružna Knjiga. p. 366. ... али је Русија одбила да учествује изговарајући се лошим односима с Пољском.
  28. ^ Reddaway, William Fiddian (1941). The Cambridge History of Poland: From the origins to Sobieski (to 1696). Octagon Books. p. 507. ISBN 978-0-374-91250-5. When in 1593 war was waged between Austria and Turkey over Transylvania, the Emperor Rudolph II sent Count Eric Lasota to Zaporoze. Aided by Russian envoys, he easily induced the Cossacks to undertake to invade Turkey. His diary of his sojourn in Ukraine forms an important source of Cossack history.
  29. ^ Penson, Oskar Halecki, W: F. Reddaway, J. H. The Cambridge History of Poland. CUP Archive. p. 507. ISBN 978-1-00-128802-4. At the same time, independent of the Emperor, Clement VIII tried through his nuncio Komulovic" (Comuleo) to win the Cossacks over to the anti-Turk league. In 1594 and 1595, the Cossacks invaded Transylvania, plundered Moldavia and ...
  30. ^ The Polish Review. Polish Institute of Arts and Sciences in America. 1958. p. 16. A rather strange letter, this one in Italian, which unidentified "elders from Albania" had sent to Clement VIII a year before and which is preserved in the Vatican archives,17 a request to "move" against the Turks not only the Emperor, but also the King of Poland and that of ...
  31. ^ Zlatar, Zdenko (1 January 1992). Our Kingdom Come: The Counter-Reformation, the Republic of Dubrovnik, and the Liberation of the Balkan Slavs. East European Monographs. p. 212. ISBN 978-0-88033-239-2. ... several representatives of such "Albanians", above all Cavalier Pelessa..
  32. ^ Memoirs of the American Philosophical Society. 1991. p. 9. ISBN 9780871691927. Komulovic had sewed up his instructions and letters in a cushion which he inadvertently left behind upon his departure from the city. When discovered, they were turned over to the Signoria. While in Venice, Komulovic stayed with the well-known Albanian Tommaso Pelessa, who is said to have claimed that Komulovic was equipped with false seals and letters (ibid., pp. 47, 1 19), the significance of which seems to be unclear.
  33. ^ (Zlatar 1992, p. 212)
  34. ^ (Zlatar 1992, p. 212): "The impression by the Venetian government was that Komulovic had fabricated these letters, and there seems very little doubt indeed that this was the case.64 That is why I am inclined to believe that the above-mentioned letter sent by the elders of Albania" to Clement VIII was nothing but Komulovic's own invention, all the more since it contained no individual signatures and the seals were obviously false, "made in Rome", as the Venetians established."
  35. ^ Marović, Miodrag (1995). Balkanski Džoker: Albanija i Albanci : istorijska hronika nastajanja i razvoja albanskog pitanja. Kulturni centar. p. 54. ISBN 9788670040052.
  36. ^ Marović, Miodrag (1995). Balkanski Džoker: Albanija i Albanci : istorijska hronika nastajanja i razvoja albanskog pitanja. Kulturni centar. p. 54. ISBN 9788670040052.
  37. ^ (Zlatar 1992, p. 269): "The latter was rumoured to be ready to expel Komulovic, "due to its (Ragusan government's) benefits derived from the Turks""
  38. ^ Santich, Jan Joseph (1995). Missio Moscovitica: The Role of the Jesuits in the Westernization of Russia, 1582–1689. P. Lang. p. 96. ISBN 978-0-8204-2758-4. Komulovic carried out his missions (1593–1596), though with no success in forming the desired anti-Turkish league.
  39. ^ Stanojević, Gligor (1970). Jugoslovenske zemlje u mletačko-turskim ratovima XVI-XVIII vijeka. Istorijski institut. p. 105. Зато је почетном 1594. папа дао игаструкције Комуловићу за руоног цара.10 Ниједаа од оних звмаља ииије праосватила папин иозив за савез. Рат између Туроке и Ауотрије у Подуиављу бијвонио је свом же- сггином.
  40. ^ Laourdas, Vasileios (1975). Essays in Memory of Basil Laoudras. Gregoris. p. 353. As the anti-Turkish war began in 1 593 Rudolph and Bathory mapped a strategy designed to secure Moldavian and Wallachian participation in the Holy League. The staff of emissaries of subversion sent to Moldavia in the summer of 1594 under the direction of the Ragusan John de Marini Polli succeeded without much effort in winning over the ruler Aron Movila and the boyars of Moldavia.
  41. ^ Kohen, Elli (2007). History of the Turkish Jews and Sephardim: Memories of a Past Golden Age. University Press of America. p. 103. ISBN 978-0-7618-3600-1. In November 1594 at the urging of Pope Clement VIII the spirit of a new Crusade (La Sainte League, the Holy Alliance) inflamed the Balkans creating the Triple Alliance of the Three Voivods, the Transylvanian Prince Sigismond Bathory, the Moldavian Voivod Aron Tiranul (Tyrant in Roumanian, also named Zalim by the Turks) and Michael Viteazul (the Brave) Voivod of Wallachia.