“Would that all believed in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and were ready to die a thousand times for him.” – Blessed Antonio Primaldo
On August 14, 1480, 800 survivors of the Siege of Otranto were martyred by the Muslim armies of Mohammed II (also known as Mehmed II), the Ottoman leader who had conquered Constantinople 28 years earlier. Their crime? They refused to renounce their faith in Christ. It is amazing how much of our own history that we in the West are ignorant of, even geeks like myself. I know the story of the fall of Constantinople and the seemingly miraculous victories at Lepanto and Vienna, but this is the first time I’ve ever heard of Otranto. Thanks to Alfredo Mantovano‘s article this story of how Muslim armies invaded Italy seeking to capture Rome and crush Christendom in the West gives me something to start with for further study on my own. Otranto appears to have been the Thermopylae or Alamo of the late 15th century. Picture this: a very large Muslim army lands at the city gates bent on conquest. Only 400 guards man the walls, most of whom slip away and flee in terror leaving the city’s inhabitants to defend themselves which they did quite spiritedly. After a long siege, the Muslims successfully breech the walls and slaughter most of the people left inside. The surviving males above the age of 15 are given the choice of converting — tempted to do so by an apostate Catholic priest who abandoned the faith to save his skin — or death. 800 souls chose the latter and were martyred. Their sacrifice gave the bickering and divided Italians the time to regroup and save their own lands, arguably all of Christian Europe as well, from being conquered. A fascinating and inspiring story and while some folks might find the comparison to be extreme, Mantovano compellingly exhorts the West to draw a lesson from this massacre:
When the inhabitants of Otranto found themselves facing the Ottoman scimitars, they did not find in the disinterest of their kings a reason to quit themselves; strong in the culture in which they had been raised, although many of them had never learned the alphabet, they were convinced that resisting and not abjuring the faith was the most natural choice. Try talking today with a Western soldier who has returned from a mission in Iraq or Afghanistan: what one hears most frequently is their amazement at the discussions and the endless disagreements over our presence in those regions. For these soldiers, it is natural that they should go to help those in need of support, and guarantee the security of reconstruction against terrorist attacks.
In Otranto in 1480, no one displayed rainbow pacifist flags, nor invoked international resolutions, nor asked for a meeting of the municipal council so that the zone might be declared as demilitarized; no one chained himself beneath the city walls to “construct peace.”
For two weeks, the fifteen thousand inhabitants of the city boiled oil and water, until they had none left, and poured it over the walls onto the assailants. And when the eight hundred adult men still alive were captured, they went willingly to meet the same fate that the Iraqis, Afghans, Americans, English, Italians, and others meet in Iraq and Afghanistan when they are kidnapped by terrorists. Eight hundred heads were cut off one after another, with no politically correct newsmen to censor the account. If today we have thorough knowledge of this extraordinary event, it is because those who described it were objective and rigorous. (Chiesa)
— John (Average Gay Joe)