William Caoursin's Obsidionis Rhodie Urbis Descriptio

A description of the 1480 siege of the city of Rhodes

was first published in 1480, in Rome, by Eucarius Silver (with no illustrations).
Eight more treatises were added including

De casu regis Zyzymy
The case of Sultan Cem (Djem)

Editions were published in different cities.
These are the illustrations from the 1496 edition printed in Ulm by Ioannem Reger:


Rest the mouse cursor over a thumb-nail to see the title. Click to see larger images.

In May of 1480 the Turkish galleys under the command of Sultan Mohamet (Mehmet) laid siege to the island of Rhodes, home of the Order of St. John. Forty thousand Turks strove to conquer it. The siege lasted three months and finally the Ottoman army was defeated, despite their numerical superiority, by the embattled Order of St. John. Tradition has it that in the last battle the victory was not inclined towards any of the two sides that fought bravely. The heavens opened and the figures of the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. John the Baptist (Patron of the Order) caused such terror to the infidel that the Christian troops put them to flight and managed to achieve the desired victory.

The Frenchman William of Cauorsin (c.1430-1501) Vice Chancellor of the Order of St. John was one of the knights who fought in the siege of Rhodes. As witness testified to the facts in his Obsidionis Rhodiae Urbis Descriptio


Frontis Piece. Caoursin presenting his work to Grandmaster d'Aubusson.
Folio 01v. Magister Rhodi. Guillielmus Caoursin Vicecancellarius Rhodi. Editio historiarum.
Master of Rhodes. William Caoursin Vice Chancellor of Rhodes. Historical account.

I Guillelmi Caoursin Rhodiorum Vicecancellarii:
obsidionis Rhodie Urbis descriptio.

William Caoursin Vice-chancellor of Rhodes:
Description of the siege of the city of Rhodes

Folio 03v. Classis in mari veniens
The fleet arriving by sea.

Folio 05r. Moles et turris sancti Nicolai dirupta: et pugna mari et terra.
Moles and broken Tower of Saint Nicholas: and the combat on sea and land.

Folio 06v. Turris diui Nicolai: et Ecclesia Sancti Antonti.
Tower of St. Nicholas, and the Church of St. Anthony.

Folio 08r. Obsidio Rhodie
The Siege of Rhodes.

Folio 09v. Seorius sit suspensus.
Seorius being hanged.

Folio 10v. Orator thurci: et Niles Therosolimitanus loquentes simul.
Turkish spokesman and Niles Therosolimitanus talking together.

Folio 12v. Pugna Thurcorum cum militibus et ciuibus Rhodiorum.
Combat of turks with soldiers and citizens of Rhodes.

Folio 13v. Navis Christianorum oppugnatur per viginti triremes Thurcorum
A Christian ship is attacked by twenty turkish galleys.

Folio 14v. Classis Thurcencio discedit.
The Turkish Fleet departs.

II Guillelmi Caoursin Rhodiorum Vicecancellarii
de Terremotus labe qua Rhodii affecti sunt.

William Caoursin Vice-chancellor of Rhodes:
of the earthquake disaster in which Rhodians were affected.

Folio 16v. Urbe Rhodia labefacta: Terremotu.
City of Rhodes demolished: Earthquake.

Folio 17v. Obitus magni Thurci.
Death of the Grand Turk.

III Guillelmi Caoursin Vicecancellarii oratio in Senatu Rhodiorum de morte magni Thurci habita pridie Kalendas Junias. M.cccc.lxxxi.
William Caoursin Vice-chancellor of Rhodes
Speech in the Rhodes Senate of the death of the Grand Turk the day before the first of June MCCCCLXXXI (1481)

Folio 20v. Zyzymus cum nonnulli thurcis equitans.
Zyzymus with several Turks riding.

IV Guillelmi Caoursin: Galli. Belge. Duacii: Rhodiorum vice cancellarii: de casu Regis Zyzymy: Commentarium incipit.
William Caoursin, French-Belgian from Douai, Vice-chancellor of Rhodes
the case of King Zyzymus: Commentary begins.

Folio 21v. Bagyazit et Zyzymi fratres more thurcorum nonnullis thurcis pugnantes
Brothers Bayezid and Zyzymus with several turks, fighting [each other] turkish fashion.

Folio 23r. Zyzymus equitans cum quibusdam Thurcis more fugientis.
Zyzymus fleeing on horse with some Turks.

Folio 24r. Zyzymus alloquens Soldanum Regem Babilonie et Egipti
Zyzymus addressing the Sultan, ruler of Babylonia and Egypt.

Folio 25v. Zyzymus equitans cum nonnullis thurcis.
Zyzymus riding with several Turks.

Folio 26v. Zyzymy prostratus ante pseudo prophetam Mahumetem apud lamecham.
Zyzymus, with Lamech, kneels before the false prophet Mohammed.

Folio 27v. Zyzymy et Cilicie Rex pedestres colloquentes.
Zyzymus and the Cilician Emir, on foot, conversing.

Folio 29v. Magister cum Baiuliuis e prioribus: e ante cum oratores more thucoru induti
The Master with Baiuliuis the prioribus: speakers to their front clothed turkish fashion.

Folio 30v. Navis Religionis rhodiorum et magistri zyzymum deferentes.
Order of Rhodes ship bringing Zyzymus to the Master.

Folio 31v. Zyzymy et Capitaneus classis rhodiorum colloquentes.
Zyzymus and the captain of the Rhodian fleet conversing.

Folio 33r. Magister cum baiuliuis e militibs: qui recipit zyzymy associatii turcis colloquut qe sit.
The Master with Baiuliuis the soldier, who receives turkish ally Zyzymus, converse about this.

Folio 35r. Magister et zyzymy sedentes in mensa simul.
The Master and Zyzymus sitting at the table together.

Folio 36v. Thurcorum rex: Rhodiorum pacem affectans.
Turkish Sultan: Rhodes wanted peace.

V Guillelmi Caoursin Rhodiorum Vicecancellarii de celeberrimo foedere: cum thurcos Rege Bagyazit per Rhodios inito: Commentarium lege feliciter.
William Caoursin Vice-chancellor of Rhodes: of the famous treaty entered into by Rhodes with the turkish Sultan Bayezid.
Memorandum fruitfully sent with a commission.

Folio 39r. Legati Rhodiorum sedentes ante tres Basias turci.
Rhodian ambassadors sitting before three turkish pashas.

Folio 40v. Legati rhodiorum colloquentes cum Rege thurcorum.
Rhodian ambassadors talking with the turkish Sultan.

Folio 41v. Legatus thurci colloquens ad magistrum.
Turkish ambassador speaking to the master.

Folio 43v. Zyzymus rex:ad Regem Sallie mittitur.
Sultan Zyzymus is sent to the ruler of Salletzium(?).

VI Guillelmi Caoursin Rhodiorum Vicecancellarii
de admissione regis Zyzymy in Gallias. & diligenti custodia asseruatione: exhortatio.

William Caoursin Vice-chancellor of Rhodes:
of the admission of Sultan Zyzymus into France. Diligent custody & observation: Exhortation.

Folio 47v. Angelus monet Turcum: vt manum dext tain Johannis bap magistro donar
An angel warns the Turk that the right hand of John the Baptist is a gift to the master.

VII Guillelmi Caoursin Galli Belge Duacii Rhodiorum vicecancellarii:
de translatione sacre dextre sancti ioannis baptiste christi precursoris: ex constantinopoli ad rhodios: comentarium lege feliciter

William Caoursin Vice-chancellor of Rhodes
of the transfer of the sacred right hand of St. John the Baptist, forerunner of Christ, from Constantinople to Rhodes.
Memorandum fruitfully sent with a commission.

Folio 51r. Orator thurcorum presentans manum Sancti Johannis baptiste.
Turkish spokesman presenting the hand of St. John the Baptist.

Folio 53v. Prior ecclesie Rhodi: processionaliter sacram manum deferens.
Prior church in Rhodes, in procession carrying the sacred hand.

Folio 55r. Rhodiorum Orator: literas Thurco porrigens.
Rhodian spokesman hands the letter to the Turk.

Folio 56v. Oratio Rhodiorum vicecancellarii: ad Summum pontificem.
Speech of the Rhodian vice-chancellor to the Supreme Pontiff

VIII Guillelmi Caoursin Rhodiorum Vicecancellarii
Oratoris: praecellentissimi Magistri Rhodi: ad summum pontificex Innocencium papam ad summus pontificex Innocencium papam octauum oratio.

William Caoursin Vice-chancellor of Rhodes:
The orator: His excellence the Master of Rhodes: An address to the high Pontiff, Pope Innocent VIII.

Folio 58v. Zyzymus per priorem aruernix summo pontifici presentatur
Zyzymus presented by prior Aruernix to the Supreme Pontiff

IX Guillelmi Caoursin Rhodiorum Vicecancellarii de traductione Zyzymy Suldani fratris magni Thurci ad vrbem. Commentarium.
William Caoursin Vice-chancellor of Rhodes:
Transfer of Zyzymus the brother of the great Turkish Sultan to the city. Commentary.

Folio 60r. Guillelmus Caonrsin Rhodiorum Vicecancellarius Historiam edidit.
William Caoursin, Rhodian vice-chancellor, writing his history



The Roman edition of Obsidionis Rhodiae urbis descriptio at the BnF
Löwen, 1480 edition at Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg
The extended and illustrated Ulm 1496 edition at Digitale Sammlungen Darmstadt - Universitäts- und Landesbibliothek available as a PDF.
Ulm 1496 edition at the Bibliothèque nationale de France
Venedig, Passau, and 1513 Strassburg (in German) editions at Munchener DigitaliserungsZentum Digitale Bibliothek
Source of small pictures in Spanish

Used as a source in Renaissance Armies: Military Orders by George Gush
Notes on, and drawings of, Hospitallers by Ian Heath:
Knight Hospitaller, 14th century
Knight Hospitaller, 1480
Knight Hospitaller In Habit, 15th century
Fra John Longstrother, 1471
Rhodian Greek Militiaman, 14th-15th centuries
Flags Of The Knights Of Rhodes


Ottoman Illustrations of Costume & Soldiers
Index of Illustrations of Costume & Soldiers