St. Antonio Primaldo and His Companions
Martyrs of Otranto
Relics of the Otranto Martyrs
|Died||14 August 1480|
|Venerated in||Catholic Church|
|Beatified||14 December 1771 by Pope Clement XIV|
|Canonized||12 May 2013, Saint Peter's Square, Vatican City, by Pope Francis|
|Major shrine||Cathedral of Otranto|
St. Antonio Primaldo and his companion martyrs (Italian : I Santi Antonio Primaldo e compagni martiri), also known as the Martyrs of Otranto, were 813 inhabitants of the Salentine city of Otranto in southern Italy who were killed on 14 August 1480 when the city fell to an Ottoman force under Gedik Ahmed Pasha. According to a traditional account, the killings took place after the Otrantins refused to convert to Islam.
Italian is a Romance language of the Indo-European language family. Italian descended from the Vulgar Latin of the Roman Empire and, together with Sardinian, is by most measures the closest language to it of the Romance languages. Italian is an official language in Italy, Switzerland, San Marino and Vatican City. It has an official minority status in western Istria. It formerly had official status in Albania, Malta, Monaco, Montenegro (Kotor) and Greece, and is generally understood in Corsica and Savoie. It also used to be an official language in the former Italian East Africa and Italian North Africa, where it still plays a significant role in various sectors. Italian is also spoken by large expatriate communities in the Americas and Australia. Italian is included under the languages covered by the European Charter for Regional or Minority languages in Bosnia and Herzegovina and in Romania, although Italian is neither a co-official nor a protected language in these countries. Many speakers of Italian are native bilinguals of both Italian and other regional languages.
Salento is a geographic region at the southern end of the administrative region of Apulia in Southern Italy. It is a sub-peninsula of the Italian Peninsula, sometimes described as the "heel" of the Italian "boot".
Otranto is a town and comune in the province of Lecce, in a fertile region once famous for its breed of horses.
The Ottoman ambitions in Italy were ended. Had Otranto surrendered to the Turks, the history of Italy might have been very different. But the heroism of the people of Otranto was more than a strategically decisive stand. What made the sacrifice of Otranto so remarkable was the willingness to die for the faith rather than reject Christ.
The siege of Otranto – with the martyrdom of the inhabitants – was the last significant military attempt by a Muslim force to conquer southern Italy. The slaughter was remembered by Risorgimento historians (like Arnaldi and Scirocco) as a milestone in European history,because as a consequence of this sacrifice the Italian peninsula was never conquered by Muslim troops.
The contemporary Turkish historian Ibn Kemal indeed justified the slaughter on religious grounds. One modern study suggests it may have been a punitive measure, devoid of religious motivations, exacted to punish the local population for the stiff resistance they put up, which delayed the Turkish advance and enabled the King of Naples to strengthen local fortifications. Intimidation, a warning to other populations not to resist, may also have entered the invaders' calculations.They were beatified in 1771 and were canonised by Pope Benedict XVI on 14 May 2012. They are the patron saints of the city of Otranto and the Archdiocese of Otranto.
Şemseddin Ahmed (1468–1536), better known by his pen name Ibn Kemal or Kemalpaşazâde, was an Ottoman historian, Sheikh ul-Islam, lawyer and poet.
Beatification is a recognition accorded by the Catholic Church of a dead person's entrance into Heaven and capacity to intercede on behalf of individuals who pray in his or her name. Beati is the plural form, referring to those who have undergone the process of beatification.
Canonization is the act by which a Christian church declares that a person who has died was a saint, upon which declaration the person is included in the list of recognized saints, called the "canon". Originally, a person was recognized as a saint without any formal process. Later, different processes were developed, such as those used today in the Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, Oriental Orthodox Church and the Anglican Communion.
On 28 July 1480 an Ottoman force commanded by Gedik Ahmed Pasha, consisting of 90 galleys, 40 galiots and other ships carrying a total of around 150 crew and 18,000 troops, landed beneath the walls of Otranto. The city strongly resisted the Ottoman assaults, but the garrison was unable to resist the bombardment for long. The garrison and all the townsfolk thus abandoned the main part of the city on 29 July, retreating into the citadel whilst the Ottomans began bombarding the neighboring houses.
A galiot, galliot or galiote, was a small galley boat propelled by sail or oars. There are three different types of naval galiots that sailed on different seas.
According to accounts of the story chronicled by Giovanni Laggetto and Saverio de Marco (and presented by author Ted Byfield) the Turks promised clemency if the city capitulated but were informed that Otranto would never surrender. A second Turkish messenger sent to repeat the offer "was slain with arrows and an Otranto guardsman flung the keys of the city into the sea".At this the Ottoman artillery resumed the bombardment.
A messenger was dispatched to see if King Ferdinand of Naples could send assistance. As time went on "Nearly seven-eights of Otranto's militia slipped over the city walls and fled."The remaining fifty soldiers fought alongside the citizenry dumping boiling oil and water on Turks trying to scale the ramparts between the cannonades.
Ferdinand I, also called Ferrante, was the King of Naples from 1458 to 1494. He was the son of Alfonso V of Aragon and his mistress, Giraldona Carlino.
On 11 August, after a 15-day siege, Gedik Ahmed ordered the final assault, which broke through the defenses and captured the citadel. When the walls were breached the Turks began fighting their way through the town. Upon reaching the cathedral "they found Archbishop Stefano Agricolo Stefano Pendinelli, fully vested and crucifix in hand" awaiting them with Count Francesco Largo. "The archbishop was beheaded before the altar, his companions were sawn in half, and their accompanying priests were all murdered." After desecrating the Cathedral, they gathered the women and older children to be sold into Albanian slavery. Men over fifteen years old, small children, and infants, were slain.
According to some historical accounts, a total of 12,000 were killed and 5,000 enslaved, including victims from the territories of the Salentine peninsula around the city.
Eight hundred able-bodied men were told to convert to Islam or be slain. A tailor named Antonio Primaldi is said to have proclaimed "Now it is time for us to fight to save our souls for the Lord. And since he died on the cross for us, it is fitting that we should die for him."To which those captives with him gave a loud cheer.
On 14 August they were led to the Hill of Minerva (later renamed the Hill of Martyrs). There they were to be executed with Primaldi to be beheaded first. After the blade decapitated him "his body allegedly remaining stubbornly and astonishing upright on its feet. Not until all had been decapitated could the aghast executioners force Primaldi's corpse to lie prone."Witnessing this, one Muslim executioner (whom the chroniclers say was an Ottoman officer called Bersabei) is said to have converted on the spot and been impaled immediately by his fellows for doing so.
Between August and September 1480, King Ferdinand of Naples, with the help of his cousin Ferdinand the Catholic and the Kingdom of Sicily, tried unsuccessfully to recapture Otranto.Seeing the Turks as a threat to his home Alfonso of Aragon left his battles with the Florentines to lead a campaign to liberate Otranto from the Ottoman invaders beginning in August 1480. The city was finally retaken in the spring of 1481 by Alfonso's troops supported by King Matthias Corvinus of Hungary's forces. The skulls of the martyrs were placed in a reliquary in the city's cathedral.
On 13 October 1481 the bodies of the Otrantines were found to be uncorrupted and were transferred to the city's cathedral.From 1485, some of the martyrs' remains were transferred to Naples and placed under the altar of Our Lady of the Rosary in the church of Santa Caterina a Formiello - that altar commemorated the final Christian victory over the Ottomans at Lepanto in 1571. They were later moved to the reliquary chapel, consecrated by Benedict XIII, then to a site under the altar where they are now sited. A recognitio canonica between 2002 and 2003 confirmed their authenticity.
In 1930 Monsignor Cornelio Sebastiano Cuccarollo O.F.M. was made archbishop of Otranto, and as a sign of affection and recognition to his old diocese he gave some of the relics to the Sanctuary of Santa Maria di Valleverde in Bovino, where he had been bishop from 1923 to 1930, where they are now in the crypt of the new basilica. Other relics of the martyrs are venerated in several locations in Apulia, particularly in Salento, and also in Naples, Venice and Spain.
A canonical process began in 1539. On 14 December 1771 Pope Clement XIV beatified the 800 killed on the Colle della Minerva and authorised their cult.
In view of their possible canonization, at the request of the archdiocese of Otranto, the process was recently resumed and confirmed in full the previous process. On 6 July 2007, Pope Benedict XVI issued a decree recognising that Primaldo and his fellow townsfolk were killed "out of hatred for their faith".On 20 December 2012 Benedict gave a private audience to cardinal Angelo Amato, S.D.B., prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, in which he authorized the Congregation to promulgate a decree regarding the miracle of the healing of sister Francesca Levote, attributed to the intercession of the Blessed Antonio Primaldo and his Companions.
The martyrs were canonized on 12 May 2013 by Pope Francis. The announcement of the canonisation was made on 11 February 2013 by Pope Benedict XVI in the consistory in which Benedict also announced in Latin his intention to resign the papacy.
Some modern historians, such as Nancy Bisaha and Francesco Tateo have questioned details of the traditional account.Tateo notes that the earliest contemporary sources describe execution of up to one thousand soldiers or citizens, as well as the local bishop, but they do not mention conversion as a condition for clemency, nor is martyrdom mentioned in contemporary Italian diplomatic dispatches or Turkish chronicle. Bisaha argues that more of Otranto's inhabitants were likely to have been sold into slavery than slaughtered.
However, other historians, such as Paolo Ricciardi and Salvatore Panareo, have argued that in the first year after the martyrdom there were no information about the massacres in the contemporaneous Christian world and only later – when Otranto was reconquered by the Neapolitans – it was possible to get details of the massacre from the local survivors who saw it.
The 1480s decade ran from January 1, 1480, to December 31, 1489.
Year 1480 (MCDLXXX) was a leap year starting on Saturday of the Julian calendar.
Gedik Ahmed Pasha was an Ottoman statesman and admiral who served as Grand Vizier and Kapudan Pasha during the reigns of sultans Mehmed II and Bayezid II.
The War of Ferrara was fought in 1482–1484 between Ercole I d'Este, duke of Ferrara, and the Papal forces mustered by Ercole's personal nemesis, Pope Sixtus IV and his Venetian allies. Hostilities ended with the Treaty of Bagnolo, signed on 7 August 1484.
Andrea Matteo Acquaviva, 8th Duke of Atri (1456–1528) was an Italian nobleman and condottiero from the Kingdom of Naples. Born in Conversano, Puglia, he was the second son of Duke Giulio Antonio Acquaviva and his wife Caterina Orsini del Balzo. She was a first cousin of Queen Isabella, the wife of King Ferrante of Naples.
The Ottoman invasion of Otranto occurred between 1480 and 1481 at the Italian city of Otranto in Apulia, southern Italy. Forces of the Ottoman Empire invaded and laid siege to the city and its citadel. According to a traditional account, after capture more than 800 of its inhabitants were beheaded. The Martyrs of Otranto are still celebrated in Italy. A year later the Ottoman garrison surrendered the city following a siege by Christian forces and the intervention of Papal forces led by the Genoese Paolo Fregoso.
The Basilica of Saints John and Paul on the Caelian Hill is an ancient basilica church in Rome, located on the Caelian Hill.
Palatias and Laurentia are martyrs venerated by the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches. According to tradition, Palatias or Palatia was an aristocratic Roman woman who was converted to Christianity by her wet nurse or slave Laurentia. They were executed for being Christians at Fermo, in present-day Italy, during the reign of Diocletian.
Turks in Italy are Italian citizens of Turkish origin. The term Turk or Turkish used in Italy may apply to immigrants or the descendants of immigrants born in the Ottoman Empire before 1923, in the Republic of Turkey since then, or in neighbouring countries once part of the Ottoman Empire that still have a population whose language is Turkish or who claims a Turkish identity or cultural heritage, in contrast to the many other peoples from present-day Turkey and the former Ottoman Empire, who identify with their own communities.
Beatrice of Naples, also known as Beatrice of Aragon, was twice Queen of Hungary and of Bohemia by marriage to Matthias Corvinus and Vladislaus II. She was the daughter of Ferdinand I of Naples and Isabella of Clermont.
Giulio Antonio Acquaviva was an Italian nobleman and condottiere. He was 7th Duke of Atri and 1st of Teramo, Count of Conversano and San Flaviano and Lord of Padula and Roseto.
The Terra di Otranto, or Terra d'Otranto, is an historical and geographical region of Apulia, anciently part of the Kingdom of Sicily and later of the Kingdom of Naples, which became a province of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies.
Andrea Cambini or Andreas Cambinus (1445/1460—1527) was an Italian historian, humanist and writer.
Otranto Cathedral is a Roman Catholic cathedral in the Italian city of Otranto, dedicated to the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary. It is the archiepiscopal seat of the Archdiocese of Otranto. The cathedral was consecrated in 1088. It is 54 metres long by 25 metres wide and is built on 42 monolithic granite and marble columns from unknown quarries. Its plan is a three-aisled nave with an apsidal east end. On either side of the west facade are two lancet windows.
Stefano Pendinelli was the Roman Catholic archbishop of Otranto, Italy. He was slain in 1480, along with all his priests, by the Ottoman force that invaded Otranto. He is among the 813 martyrs of Otranto canonized by Pope Francis in 2013.
The Portuguese expedition to Otranto in 1481, which the Portuguese call the Turkish Crusade, arrived too late to participate in any fighting. On 8 April 1481, Pope Sixtus IV issued the papal bull Cogimur iubente altissimo, in which he called for a crusade against the Turks, who occupied Otranto in southern Italy. The Pope's intention was that, after recapturing Otranto, the crusaders would cross the Adriatic and liberate Vlorë (Valona) as well.
Beheading was a standard method of execution in pre-modern Islamic law, similarly to pre-modern European law. Its use had been abandoned in most countries by the end of the 20th century. Currently, it is used only in Saudi Arabia. It also remains a legal method of execution in Qatar, Yemen, and was reportedly used in 2001 in Iran according to Amnesty International, where it is no longer in use.
Pirro Del Balzo was a southern Italian nobleman, a protagonist of resistance against the House of Aragon kings of Naples and Sicily.
Recently, though, historians have begun to question the veracity of these tales of mass slaughter and martyrdom. Francesco Tateo argues that the earliest contemporary sources do not support the story of the eight hundred martyrs; such tales of religious persecution and conscious self-sacrifice for the Christian faith appeared only two or more decades following the siege. The earliest and most reliable sources describe the execution of eight hundred to one thousand soldiers or citizens and the local bishop, but none mention a conversion as a condition of clemency. Even more telling, neither a contemporary Turkish chronicle nor Italian diplomatic reports mention martyrdom. One would imagine that if such a report were circulating, humanists and preachers would have seized on it. It seems likely that more inhabitants of Otranto were taken out of Italy and sold into slavery than were slaughtered.