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Lion lost in a cornfield

SOME of Slovakia's monuments are well hidden from people's eyes. Such is the case with Vozokany's lion, a monument erected to commemorate the victory of the Hungarian Kingdom's troops over the soldiers of the Ottoman Empire and the death of four brave Esterházys, which is hidden in a cornfield.
The bronze, larger-than-life lion stands on a white stone pedestal and crushes the Ottoman flag, decorated by a crescent moon and a horsetail, with his paw.


A POWERFUL symbol of victory.
photo: Jana Liptáková

SOME of Slovakia's monuments are well hidden from people's eyes. Such is the case with Vozokany's lion, a monument erected to commemorate the victory of the Hungarian Kingdom's troops over the soldiers of the Ottoman Empire and the death of four brave Esterházys, which is hidden in a cornfield.

The bronze, larger-than-life lion stands on a white stone pedestal and crushes the Ottoman flag, decorated by a crescent moon and a horsetail, with his paw. The statue marks the spot where a significant battle with the Ottomans took place on August 26, 1652. On that day, a 4,300-man Ottoman force, led by Bashaw Mustafa, set out from Nové Zámky to loot and plunder villages in the Tekov region (near today's Topolčianky, Zlaté Moravce, Nové Zámky, and Vráble), then part of the Hungarian Kingdom. With about 186 captives they wanted to reach their fortress in Esztergom.

In an effort to stop the horde, Adam Forgáč, the captain of the Nové Zámky fortress, organised an army and asked the influential noblemen of Esterházy to help with their troops. The Ottomans, crossing the Pohronie area, clashed with the troops above Vozokany village. Forgáč's forces numbered only about 1,260 men, but a barrier built from common chariots protected them, and peasants with forks, flails, and axes came to help. Despite the odds, Forgáč and his troops managed to win, killing 800 Ottomans, among them 18 officers. The death toll of the victorious side numbered 100 people, including four members of the Esterházy family.

The victory meant the return of captured booty and the release of the captives. The region managed to escape any further significant Ottoman plundering until 1663. The Turks met their final defeat close to Vienna in 1683, but they were not pushed from Nové Zámky until 1685, when the territory of current-day Slovakia threw off the 150-year Ottoman yoke. It is said that the fruit-bearing service trees in this region are a reminder of the Ottoman stay.

Over 80 years later, Esztergom bishop Imrich Esterházy erected a sandstone obelisk at the place of the Tekov battle. In the late 19th century, count Mikuláš Esterházy replaced it with a statue of a lion, the symbol of strength, created by Budapest sculptor Béla Markup. The Esterházy coat of arms, bearing a griffin and a Latin inscription about the four brave Esterházy warriors, is engraved on the pedestal.

The easiest approach to the monument is from the south end of the village of Veľké Vozokany, which is close to Tesárske Mlyňany, the home of the well-known Mlyňany arboretum. Just before entering the village there is a rural road on the left on which it takes about 10 minutes to reach the statue.

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