This last Sunday, Pope Francis canonized a group of over 800 15th-century Italian martyrs who died for their Catholic Faith at the hands of Ottoman raiders outside the town of Otranto, Italy. Officially, they are St. Antonio Primaldo and his companions.
These Turks were those of Mehmet II (reigned 1451-1481), the Ottoman sultan that seized Constantinople in 1453 and met defeat at Belgrade in 1456.
Otranto seen from the castle.
Right at the end of the reign of Mehmet, in 1480, a naval raiding party of Turks attacked the city of Otranto in the heal of Italy. After seizing the town, the Islamic raiding party offered the men of the town the choice of Islam or death. With Antonio Primaldo speaking on their behalf, the men choice Christ, and the martyr's death.
For more information, you might note:
and in Italian:
Here is a link to the article about the canonization:
Speaking of these martyrs, at their Canonization, Pope Francis noted:
"Today, he said, 'the Church proposes for our veneration a host of martyrs, who were called together to the supreme witness to the Gospel.' The more than 800 Martyrs of Otranto, when faced with the choice of renouncing Christ or death, remained faithful to the Gospel. It is precisely their faith, the Pope said, that gave them the strength to remain faithful. He prayed, 'As we venerate the martyrs of Otranto, let us ask God to sustain those many Christians who, in these times and in many parts of the world, right now, still suffer violence, and give them the courage and fidelity to respond to evil with good.'"
Their feast day is 14 August.
The facade of the Cathedral of Otranto, where the martyrs are dramatically housed.
A number of the martyrs are, rather dramatically, housed behind the altar of the Cathedral of Otranto, as pictured below. The following site, the official of the city, features the cathedral: http://www.comune.otranto.le.it/monumenti/dettagli_ing.php?id_elemento=3&nome_modulo_corrente=monume...
The high altar of the Cathedral of Otranto, along with the city's martyrs.
What we are now, they once were. What they are now -- bones and dust -- we shall soon be. Are we prepared for death? Go to confession.
Live well so as to die well!