Posted by: frroberts | February 18, 2015

The holy martyrs of Otranto

In 1480 the Ottoman Turks invaded the Italian city of Otranto unprovoked as the first step in attempt to conquer all of Italy.  After a fifteen day-long siege, they breached the walls and made for the cathedral, where they met the Archbishop Stefano Agricolo and bishop Stefano Pendinelli, his auxiliary.  The Turks beheaded the Archbishop before the altar and hacked his assistant to pieces with scimitars.  Then they proceeded to kill all men over 50 in the city as well as many of the women and children.  Some of the women and children under 15 were sold into slavery into Albania, a recently-conquered Ottoman possession in central Europe.

800 men under the age of 50 remained, whom the Turks gave the choice either to convert to Islam or be beheaded.  When they refused to renounce their faith, they were decapitated one by one on what later came to be known as the Hill of the Martyrs.  These 800 were canonized by Pope Francis on May 12, 2013.


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