Pope Francis in one weekend has canonized more saints than any other Pope in history and the single most in one day. By the time this is posted, Pope Francis will have canonized the 813 Martyrs of Otranto. I just learned about this group yesterday morning during one of my IPT classes.
800 > 300
The events surrounding the martyrdom of Antonio Primaldo and the other 800+ men is fascinating and relevant to events of today. On August 14, 1480, the northern Italian town of Otranto was besieged by a massive invading army of Ottoman Turks. Their leader, offered the men of Otranto the choice of converting to Islam or death. If you are having trouble visualizing this, think of the soldiers in 300 only these were just regular guys from the town, not soldiers. Primaldo, who is the only member of the martyrs whose name is known, is recorded as saying in :
My brothers, until today we have fought in defense of our country, to save our lives, and for our lords; now it is time that we fight to save our souls for our Lord, so that having died on the cross for us, it is good that we should die for him, standing firm and constant in the faith, and with this earthly death we shall win eternal life and the glory of martyrs. (Obtained from Catholic Answers)Last Man Standing
Primaldo was the first to be beheaded, but his body would not fall. This is portrayed in the painting above. One after another, each of the men of Otranto was told to convert to Islam and each declined All suffered the same fate as Primaldo of being beheaded, yet only his headless body remained standing despite the Turks' efforts to knock him over. Finally, when the last man from the city was slain, Primaldo's body fell to ground with his fellow martyrs. Some of the Muslim soldiers were so moved by the faith of the men that they converted to Catholicism.
Proof of Love
The Second Vatican Council in discussing the universal call to holiness, highlighted martyrdom as the "fullest proof of love." In Lumen Gentium they exhorted:
The Church, then, considers martyrdom as an exceptional gift and as the fullest proof of love. By martyrdom a disciple is transformed into an image of his Master by freely accepting death for the salvation of the world—as well as his conformity to Christ in the shedding of his blood. Though few are presented such an opportunity, nevertheless all must be prepared to confess Christ before men. They must be prepared to make this profession of faith even in the midst of persecutions, which will never be lacking to the Church, in following the way of the cross (LG, 42).Relics of the Martyrs
The remains of the men were collected and placed in various churches in the area. Many are encased in the walls of the Cathedral of Otranto.
|Otranto Cathedral with Relics of the Martyrs|