October 26, 1689 – General Piccolomini burns Skopje to the ground

Modern historyOctober 26, 1689 - General Piccolomini burns Skopje to the ground

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On October 26, 1689, the Austrian general Piccolomini led a campaign against the Ottomans in Kosovo, Bosnia and Macedonia. In this campaign, he destroyed the Macedonian city of Skopje.

Piccolomini (ca.1640-1689) was an Italian nobleman with roots in Siena, Italy.

During the offensive, the city of Skopje (today’s capital of the Republic of Macedonia) was hit by cholera epidemics.

To prevent the outbreak of the disease or, according to other reports, to take revenge for the siege of Vienna, General Piccolomini ordered the city to be burned down.

Some accounts of these events say that Piccolomini destroyed Skopje because his armed forces were unable to occupy and rule a city that was so far from his headquarters.

General Piccolomini burns Skopje

That day the Skopje fire started; it destroyed much of the city. Only a few stone structures such as the fortress and some churches and mosques were relatively undamaged.

Piccolomini’s intention was not to go further south and take Macedonia, but rather to take Durres and Albania and reach the sea. But to demonstrate the strength of his army and destroy this important Turkish fortress, he decided to burn Skopje down.

Another reason for his decision was the raging cholera epidemic in Skopje. From the slopes of Mount Vodno, Picolomini watched the fire and said:

I decided, although it was not easy, to burn the city to ashes. I’m sorry for the houses I didn’t see at all in this war. The mosques are made of marble and porphyry of the highest quality and adorned with thousands of lamps on a gilded holder, to which the same attention would be paid in Rome. I feel sorry for the beautiful antiques, gardens and amusement parks. I give all of this to the flames so as to leave nothing for the enemy to use.

Picture of old Skopje

The fire, which had catastrophic impact on the city, raged for two days and Skopje was completely destroyed except the massive stone buildings.

The population decreased from around 60,000 to around 10,000 inhabitants and the city lost its regional importance as a trading center for a while.

General Piccolomini fell ill with the plague himself in Skopje. His army was defeated without his leader.

Short Bio

Enea Silvio Piccolomini (born around 1640, died November 9, 1689) was an Italian nobleman from a well-known family from Siena, Italy, who served in the Habsburg army.

General Piccolomini came from the traditional noble family Piccolomini in Siena, Italy. To this family also two popes belonged: Pius II. (Née Enea Silvio Piccolomini) and Pius III. (born Francesco Todeschini Piccolomini). Last but not least, the Field Marshal (Generalfeldmarschall) General Ottavio Piccolomini also belonged to the Piccolomini family.

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