Martyrs of Otranto: An Entire Village that Chose Death Rather than Renounce Jesus

The Holy Father canonized the 800 Martyrs of Otranto today.

These 800 people chose death rather than renounce Christ. Their courage and the resistance of their fellow citizens saved Rome from the fate of Constantinople, which had fallen to the Ottoman Turks in 1453.

These videos tell about their sacrifice then and canonization in Rome today. The second video also describes the canonization of two other saints.

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  • Fabio Paolo Barbieri

    “Their courage and the resistance of their fellow citizens saved Rome from the fate of Constantinople, which had fallen to the Ottoman Turks in 1453.”
    Not wanting to take anything away from the glory of these martyrs – which is impossible anyway. (And they come from the same region as my mother, which is coincidental this Mother’s Day.) But to say that their courage did anything to save Rome is ridiculously overblown. As your countrymen found out between 1943 and 1945, Italy is easy to invade (6000 miles of coastline make a long opening) but unbelievably hard to conquer – even if you are the second-mightiest armed force in the world (the Red Army was the mightiest at the time), backed by allies almost as mighty, and supported by the Italian population and by the Church. The Germans simply withdrew from hill to hill, always find a new fortified post from which to shoot. Italy is like that. Lightning invasions just don’t work. Even in circumstances where a crushing victory has already been won (for instance, the troops of Vespasian in 70 AD after the victory of Modena, and the Austrians of Radetzky in 1849 after the disaster of Novara), you still have to conquer it town by town and village by village. Otranto is the easternmost tip of Italy, three or four hundred miles in a straight line from Rome – three to four hundred miles of rocks, mountains, fortresses, swamps, and more and more fortresses. If the Turks hoped that taking Otranto would open them the way to Rome, they were out of their minds.

  • Pwlambson

    Their courage saved Rome from the same fate as Constantinople? This is insulting to the memory of tens of thousands of Orthodox Christian martyrs who fought the Ottoman hordes for several hundred years before Constantinople fell, and continued to suffer for their faith for the next four centuries…perhaps Constantinople would not have fallen had it not been attacked, brutalized, pillaged and greatly weakened by Catholic crusaders in 1204.

    • Fabio Paolo Barbieri

      Perhaps Constantinople would not have fallen if, one, the reigning family had not ordered at least FOUR general massacres of Latin Christians between 1180 and 1200 (the Byzantine alternative to paying the debts owed to Venice and other countries), two, they had not thrown into jail and tortured a Venetian ambassador who just happened to become the Doge who led the assault in 1204 in spite of being old and blind, and, three, if the son of a deposed Emperor had not enlisted the Crusader army to restore his father with the promise of a fee he could not possibly pay. There may be something more stupid than to try and cheat 50,000 professional French and Venetian knights with the memory of the massacres of their fellow countrymen still fresh in their minds, under the command of the same fierce old man whom your own father had thrown into jail and had tortured when he should have been protected by the status of an ambassador, but offhand I can’t think of any. The Angeloi were the dumbest set of bastards who ever ruled an empire, and everything that happened was entirely their own fault.

      Plus, what is offensive about the fact that Italy managed to defend itself where Greece did not? Was it not a Greek courtier who said aloud, “Better the turban of the Turk than the mitre of the Pope?” The Byzantines chose their own fate.

      • hamiltonr

        I’m going to stop this fight right here. I didn’t see it earlier or it would never have gotten this far.

        First, there is nothing insulting about the survival of Christians anywhere at any time. The fall of Constantinople was a unmitigated disaster which has resulted in the on-going of persecution of Christians a large part of the world.

        There were a lot of reasons for why it happened, but the split in Christianity and the way BOTH sides behaved certainly contributed.

        What we do NOT need to do is to carry a thousand year old fight forward into our future. Christians everywhere need to support one another.

        We need to do it now.

        As for ancient fights that happened a thousand years ago … they happened a thousand years ago.

        Drop it.

        I will delete any further comments that attack people on either side of this utterly ridiculous and destructive argument. Grow up children.

  • Pwlambson

    I am very happy that the Catholic Church has finally canonized the 800 martyrs, as they are most certainly worthy. My point is that to state that “their courage and the resistance of their fellow citizens saved Rome from the fate of Constantinople” insinuates that the Orthodox Christians who also resisted the Ottomans and were martyred for their faith during the Ottoman conquest (and for the next four centuries that they were enslaved by them) were some how less courageous and able than their Catholic brethren to prevent Constantinople from falling into the hands of the Turks. Byzantium acted as a bulwark for Rome and Western Europe against the Muslim threat; if it wasn’t for the Byzantines constantly fending off successive waves of Arab, Seljuk and Ottoman tribes arriving in Anatolia from the east for the 6-7 centuries prior to 1453, Rome most certainly would have fallen no matter how much resistance the Italians would have put up. Combined with the fatal blow that the Latin Crusade of 1204 inflicted on the Byzantine Empire, it’s actually amazing that they were able to fend off Ottoman attacks for another 250 years.

    • hamiltonr

      I certainly did not mean to imply or infer or otherwise give the impression that I think the Ottoman martyrs were less courageous than those who died at Otranto. I don’t know this as a fact, but after reading about it, I think that part of the determination the people at Otranto demonstrated came from having seen the slaughter at Constantinople and the subsequent destruction of Christianity.

      When I was at the Hagia Sophia, I was almost dumbstruck with sadness because of bloodshed there and the great loss that occurred.

      If Christians had stood together as they should have, I don’t think Constantinople would ever have fallen. However, it did fall and now it is up to us to lay down old grievances against one another and unit in our common faith in Jesus Christ to defend Him once again.


      • Fabio Paolo Barbieri

        I don’t care if you don’t publish this, I want to say it for the sake of my country’s honour. First, the Byzantines never did anything, and could not do anything, to protect Italy. A couple of posts ago I gave a potted account of some of the Muslim assaults against Italy between the eighth and the sixteenth century. The Byzantines had almost nothing to do with the breaking and blunting of these waves of attack, which was in nearly every occasion accomplished by the locals, occasionally led by the Pope. (One or two of those Dark Age Popes proved way better with the sword than with the crozier.) They geographically could not, since, the offensive came almost always from North Africa and Sicily, and Italy faced the enemy directly for all of its medieval and modern history. In fact, for much of the period between 850 and 1050, the Byzantines were ATTACKING Italy, biting off bit after bit of our South, until the mercenaries they themselves had imported – the Hauteville or Altavilla family from Normandy – turned against them and drove them out of Italy. At the same time, the Hautevilles also freed Sicily, which the Byzantines had never done in three centuries. Second, it is bullshit to say that the West did not shed its blood trying to rescue Byzantium as it was falling. The flower of French cavalry fell at Nicopolis, and even at the end – AFTER, mind you, the Byzantines had walked out of the Council of Florence, deliberately rejected unity, and made a saint of the man who led that defection, Mark of Ephesus – there still was a Genoese army in Constantinople in 1453 to fight and die to the last man for the remains of the empire. After which, what was left of Byzantine culture took refuge in the Venetian empire, which stretched as far as Cyprus. As for the Greek idiot who said “Better the turban than the Pope’s mitre”, he paid for it in the most atrocious possible way. The new Turkish emperor invited him to dinner and explained to him that he, the Emperor, found his teen-age sons very attractive.; The horrified Greek refused, and the Turk calmly had his children murdered before his eyes… to make sure everyone understood exactly what it meant to have “the Turkish turban” as your boss instead of that oh-so-dreadful papal tyranny. This is all history, and neo-Byzantine self-regard can only whistle “la la la I can’t hear you”.

      • Pwlambson

        Agreed, and thank you for the clarification.