Third Mongol invasion of Poland

Third Mongol invasion of Poland
Part of Mongol invasion of Europe
DateDecember 6th, 1287 - early February, 1288[1]
LocationLesser Poland
Result Polish victory; Mongol invasion repulsed[2]
Golden Horde
Kingdom of Galicia–Volhynia
Kingdom of Poland
Kingdom of Hungary
Commanders and leaders
Nogai Khan
Duke Leo I of Galicia
Duke Volodymir of Volhynia
Duke Mstislav of Lutsk
Leszek II the Black
György of Sóvár


  • 20,000 in Talabuga's column
  • 10,000 in Nogai's column


  • 5,000 cavalry
  • 10,000 infantry
Casualties and losses
Heavy Moderate

The third Mongol invasion of Poland was carried out by Nogai Khan and Talabuga in 1287-1288.[5] As in the second invasion, its purpose was to loot Lesser Poland, and to prevent Duke Leszek II the Black from interfering in Hungarian and Ruthenian affairs. The invasion was also part of the hostilities between Poland and Ruthenia; in 1281, the Poles had defeated a Mongol force near Goslicz which had entered Duke Leszek's territory in support of Lev I.[6]


The invasion was undertaken by a force of 30,000 men, a mix of Mongols and Ruthenian vassals. The plan, devised by Nogai Khan, was similar to the one from 1259. The Mongol army was divided into two columns. 20,000 men attacked towards Sandomierz and northern Lesser Poland, while 10,000 men (all cavalry) headed towards Kraków. After looting the province, they were to unite north of Kraków.

Northern column

The northern column of the Mongol forces was supported by a large contingent of the Mongol vassals, Ruthenians, under Duke Mstislav of Lutsk, Duke Volodymir of Volhynia, and Duke Lev of Halicz. Leszek II the Black stood opposed to the Mongols with probably 15,000 strong. Furthermore, in comparison to the second invasion, several towns and cities had been fortified. Kraków in particular was described as having a castle made entirely out of stone, and was "protected by catapults and large and small crossbows.”[7] This was in sharp contrast to the first two invasions, when Kraków's citadel was made of wood.[8]

On December 7, 1287, the northern group of Mongol forces under Talabuga left a camp near Wlodzimierz Wolynski, and, after by-passing Lublin, the army tried to cross the Vistula near Zawichost. Since the river was not frozen, they had to find a ford, heading southwards. The invaders besieged and assaulted Sandomierz, but abandoned their siege after their storming attempt was beaten back.[9][10] They left Ruthenian units in the area of the city and changed their course.

Mongol forces were ill-prepared and failed to capture many fortified locations after the column dispersed into multiple detachments and raiding parties. Most likely, a major detachment attempted to approach the Łysa Góra Abbey. A few days after the unsuccessful siege of Sandomierz, this column was attacked by a Polish force of unknown but significant size under Duke Leszek near the Świętokrzyskie Mountains, and were defeated in the Battle of Łagów.[11] The defeat was quite severe, and after reaching the area of Kielce, the Mongol forces began a retreat, taking what loot they had already gathered with them. In January 1288, they reached their winter camp in Lwow. Leszek and his army then headed towards Kraków, to prepare the defense of the Polish capital.

Southern column

The southern group of Mongol forces, under Nogai Khan, on December 24, 1287 besieged Kraków. The Mongols launched an unsuccessful assault on the fortified city, suffering heavy casualties and losing several of their leaders in the process.[12][13] Nogai Khan decided to change plans, divide his army into multiple small units, and plunder the areas both north and south of Kraków. Some Mongol units plundered the villages around Kraków and the Duchy of Sieradz, while others besieged the towns of Podolínec and Stary Sącz.[14] The split of their forces allowed Leszek, his wife, and a small group of retainers to slip into the Kingdom of Hungary and request aid from King Ladislaus IV, who had defeated another Mongol invasion less than two years earlier.

At Podolínec, the Mongols devastated the settlement and the area around it after some skirmishes with the local militia. At Stary Sącz, the siege lasted roughly a month without bringing any tangible results. The town was well prepared, with strong walls, a good garrison, and huge stocks of food. Meanwhile, the Hungarian king had approved action against the Mongols, and tasked the noble György of Sovaru with leading the Hungarian expedition. His expeditionary force came up from Podolínec and Kežmarok. They completely surprised a small Mongol army of 1,000[15] men and nearly annihilated it at the Battle of Stary Sącz. This defeat effectively ended the Mongol invasion. After the other units engaged in a few skirmishes with both the Poles and their Hungarian allies, Nogai regrouped his troops and retreated from Poland with the remnants of his army. He arrived back in Ruthenia in late January, 1288.[16]


Compared to the first two invasions, the raid of 1287/88 was short and much less devastating. The Mongols did not capture any significant cities or castles and lost a significant number of soldiers. They also took fewer prisoners and loot than in the previous invasions.


  1. Jackson, p.205: "According to the fourteenth-century Vita of St. Kynga (Kunigunde, widow of Boleslav the Chaste), they were in the country from Dec. 6 to early February".
  2. Nicolle, p. 8
  3. Krakowski, p. 212
  4. Krakowski, p. 213
  5. Krakowski, p. 181
  6. Jackson, p. 202
  7. William of Rubruck. The Journey of William of Rubruck. In The Mission to Asia, ed. Christopher Dawson. London: Sheed and Ward, 1955. Page 131.
  8. Pow, p. 70
  9. Pow, p. 77: "The Mongols were able to destroy some fortresses and towns, but their siege of Sandomir failed."
  10. Jackson, p. 205: "Tole Buqa failed to take Sandomir, while Nogai headed a similarly unsuccessful attack upon Cracow, which the Polish annals place around Christmas".
  11. Krakowski, p. 209-210
  12. Chambers, p.165: "Nogai advanced against Cracow and Tole-Buka attacked Sandomir, but the Poles had learned by past experience. The garrisons were not tempted to engage the enemy in the field. They remained on the walls and both [Cracow and Sandomir] held out against the Mongol assaults".
  13. Pow, p.77: "Their attack on Krakow was also repelled with the loss of many of their leaders, and for their resistance, the citizens of Krakow received tax exemption".
  14. Krakowski, p. 209
  15. Jackson, p. 205: "The king had dispatched a corps of Hungarian troops under György to aid the Poles. György engaged a force of about 1,000 Mongols near Sandecz (now Stary Sącz), and killed their commander"
  16. Krakwoski, p. 218


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