Sunday, August 31, 2014

800 Martyrs of Otranto Beheaded By The Ottomans In 1480

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, [Alfredo] Mantovano compellingly exhorts the West to draw a lesson from this massacre:

Ahmed condemned all the eight hundred prisoners to death. The following morning, they were led with ropes tied around their necks and their hands bound behind their backs to the Hill of Minerva, a few hundred meters outside of the city. De Marco writes:

“All of them repeated their profession of the faith and the generous response they had given at first, so the tyrant commanded that the decapitation should proceed, and, before the others, the head of the elderly Primaldo should be cut off. Primaldo was hateful to him, because he never stopped acting as an apostle toward his fellows. And before placing his head upon the stone, he told his companions that he saw heaven opened and the comforting angels; that they should be strong in the faith and look to heaven, already open to receive them. He bowed his head and it was cut off, but his corpse stood back up on its feet, and despite the efforts of the butchers, it remained erect and unmoving, until all were decapitated. The marvelous and astonishing event would have been a lesson of salvation for those infidels, if they had not been rebels against the light that enlightens every man who lives in the world. Only one of the butchers, named Berlabei, believed courageously in the miracle and, declaring himself a Christian in a loud voice, was condemned to be impaled.”

During the beatification process for the eight hundred, in 1539, four eyewitnesses spoke of the prodigy of Antonio Primaldo, who remained standing after being decapitated, and of the conversion and martyrdom of the executioner. This is the account of one of the four, Francesco Cerra, who in 1539 was 72 years old:

“Antonio Primaldo was the first to be slaughtered, and without his head he remained upright on his feet, nor could any of the efforts of the enemy knock him down, until all were killed. The butcher, stunned by the miracle, confessed that the Catholic faith was the true one, and insisted on becoming a Christian, and for this the pasha condemned him to death by impaling.”

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