Cover of Tinódi's first song, published in Kolozsvár in 1554. The old-fashioned text reads: "Chronicle authored by Tinódi Sebestyén. In the first part, all battles and perils on this side of the Danube with Transylvania, since the death of King János until this year, have been gathered in brief with music into beautiful songs. The other part has stories from other times and other countries."
Right-hand page: The beginning of one of Tinódi's songs, which he details thus: "Testament of King János; Emperor Suleiman's setting out; His seeing the king's son; Occupation of Buda, rich in treasure; The flight and hiding of the Queen; The fickleness of Frater György; His attack on the king's son." This is followed by musical notation and the beginning of the words to his song.
Tinódi Lantos Sebestytén, Minstrel of Turkish Times
The one thing certain about his birthplace is that it was called Tinód – but whether it was located in Fejér County, near Sárbogárd, or in Baranya County, is debated. He was born around 1510, and came from what we would call a middle class family. He studied at Pécs, spoke Latin and was also familiar with musical notation. Until 1541, he was at Szigetvár, in the service of Török Bálint, a nobleman and large landowner, who became one of the chief military commanders in the fight against the Turks. Invited to a banquet in Buda that year by Sultan Suleyman, during which the Turkish janissaries entered Buda without resistance, Török Bálint was taken captive and carried off to Istanbul, where he died in 1550.
Tinódi’s first surviving work seems to indicate that he was also among the knights fighting the Turks, but was wounded in battle, making him unfit for further military service. After the capture of his master, Török, he became a political poet emphasizing, from then on, unity and the necessity of determined fighting against the Turks. To escape the ever-spreading Turkish rule, he moved to Kassa, in Upper Hungary, where he settled and started a family. It was from there that he visited the various sessions of the national assembly and the battlefields.
Incorporating into poems the information he gathered, he also composed the lute accompaniment, and performed these songs when the occasion arose. Often, though brave, many of these soldiers were illiterate but would gladly listen to a sung performance. They often learned about events elsewhere in the country only through his songs, which acquired the status of historical sources.
Tinódi’s works have much greater historic than literary value. He described his purpose in the preface to his Cronica (possibly his first rhymed chronicle) dealing with the battle fought by Werbőczi Imre against the army of Kászon on the field of Kozár on March 25th, 1542. He said he intended to ”provide a lesson for the fighting Hungarian defenders forced into fortresses, on how to withstand, survive honestly and fight the pagan enemy”.
He covered Hungary’s history between 1541 and 1552, and all that he wrote and that could be verified has proven to be accurate. His objectivity and accuracy make Tinódi Lantos Sebestyén – Sebastian the Lutanist from Tinód – the first significant historian in the Hungarian language.