The Martyrs of Otranto Killed By The

Ottomans In 1480



Otranto Cathedral, with reliquaries behind the high altar containing
the 800 skulls from the severed heads of a band of Puglian
Catholics martyred by Ottoman soldiery in the year of Our Lord
1480. They are commemorated in the Martyrology on August 14.
5 bob to: Shrine of the Holy Whapping
“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 theSiege 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 andVienna, 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)

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