Monday, September 12, 2016

Holy Name of Mary & Vienna 1683AD

Today is the Feast of the Most Holy Name of Mary.  It was instituted by Blessed Pope Innocent XI to honor the name of she who said Fiat to the angel Gabriel and accepted the Divine Will in bringing about the Incarnation of Christ for the Salvation of Mankind.

You might read here for some more specifically on the feast: Old Catholic Encyclopedia: Feast of the Holy Name of Mary


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The Virgin in Prayer by Giovanni Batitsta Salvi da Sassoferrato (+1685AD)

Before I move to recall the great historical event and battle that inspired the feast, you might enjoy this polyphonic setting of the Ave Maria by Tomas Luis Victoria:




The origin of having this commemoration of the Name of Mary on 12 September dates to the 17th century.  The feast was instituted by Blessed Innocent XI in gratitude to Our Lady for the victory given to Christian arms at the Austrian city of Vienna, which, in 1683AD, was harried by the conquering forces of the Islamic Ottoman Empire.

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Blessed Pope Innocent XI (reigned 1676-1689AD)

Coming into the campaign against Vienna, the Ottoman Sultan, Mehmed IV, ruling a rejuvenated      Empire and looked to crush the Christian world.  His military commander and Grand Vizier, was Kara Mustafa.  Aside from their own forces, the Ottomans could rely on Protestant Hungarian rebel allies.  Standing in the way of their goals of conquest was the Holy Roman Empire, under Leopold I, and the Commonwealth of Poland-Lithuania, under John III Sobieski.  In the campaign that would take place in 1683, Charles, Duke of Lorraine, commanded the Imperial forces, Sobieski the Poles, and Count Ernst von Starhemberg commanded the garrison of Vienna.
In May 1683, a massive Ottoman army of 100,000+ sat in Belgrade when Mehmed IV gave Kara Mustafa leave to begin an invasion.
By July, the Ottomans were at the border of the Empire and the Duke of Lorraine withdrew his forces rather than give battle at their first meeting in Hungary.  Lorraine only had about 22,000 troops with which to confront the massive Islamic force.  The Duke of Lorraine fell back to Vienna – and Emperor Leopold I along with 60,000 residents evacuated the capital on 7 July.  At that point Ottoman raiders in the vanguard of their army were within 40km of the city.  The main army was not far behind, and on 11 July a pile of heads of the councilmen of the town of Hainburg rolled at the feet of Mustafa -- this army was leaving destruction in its wake.  The Imperial forces held a council on 12 July, and it was decided that the main force under Lorraine would withdraw further (in order to wait for anticipated reinforcements) while Count von Starhemberg would remain in the city with but 12,000 troops.  On 13 July Kara Mustafa first beheld the city and St. Stephen’s Cathedral.  The siege and bombardment began the next day after Von Starhemberg declined the request to accept Islam. (The Ottomans deployed 20,000 to the siege, and left 70,000 to protect their force against a relief attack)  So it begins.  Meanwhile, elsewhere, a rebel Hungarian army (with 25,000) attempted to reach Vienna to help the Turks, but the outmatched Charles of Lorraine (with 10,000) beat them at the Battle of Pressburg (Bratislava) on 30 July.  The Duke of Lorraine called for help and reinforcements from the Emperor, Bavaria, Saxony, and Poland.

St. Stephen's Cathedral exterior, Vienna, Austria.  Watercolor by Jakob Alt, 1847.
Meanwhile, in Vienna, the siege of horrific.  The Turks elected not to outright storm the city, but to lay siege to it.  The cannons weren’t the best, and Vienna had good defenses – including a ravelin in front of the main city walls.  The Turks dug a series of trenches to approach the walls, and then, on 23 July, early in the morning, they detinated a mine to demolish the city walls.  The Austrians would begin countermining on 26 July.  By August the mining was quite intense.  12 August saw double mines go off that filled in a section of the moat – the Ottoman assault that followed was fierce, but resisted, with the ill Count von Starhemberg leading his forces in person.  The pattern of the siege was this: artillery in the morning, mines in the later afternoon, assault, and night repairs.  Occasionally, as on 25 August, the     Austrians made sorties out of the city.
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The Battle of Vienna, 1683.  Artist unknown.

September started grimly – a section of wall collapsed from mining on 2 Sept, and on 4 Sept the Turks launched a major assault.  The city held, however.  A double mine attack on 8 Sept weakened another section of the wall – and the situation for the Austrian cause was becoming critical.  Vienna had only 4,000 fit men left in its garrison.  Then, that very night, rockets were seen in the forests to the northwest – the relief army was approaching.  It consisted of: the Duke of Lorraine (now with 18,000 men), John George III of Saxony (9,000), Bavaria (20,000), and John III Sobieski with his Polish force (37,000).  They were in position to attack the Turks on 11 Sept from the heights to the west of Vienna(Kahlenberg).  On 12 September, the battle was on – a field fight outside the city.  The Battle cry: Jesus and Mary Help!  The Imperial German forces formed the left wing of the relief army, while the Poles formed the right wing.  The Christian armies launch their attack at 8:00AM – the Poles on the right took longer to emerge from the woods and swing into the battlefield, and did so at 2:00PM to cheers, and by 6:00PM the Turkish army, despite counter strikes, was exhausted and in full retreat.  They were defeated and Vienna was saved!  Jan III Sobieski wrote to Blessed Pope Innocent XI:  "Venimus, Vidimus, Deus vicit"   "We came, we saw, God conquered."  On 14 September 1683, John III met Emperor Leopold I and the two heard Mass at St. Stephen’s Cathedral.

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Jan III Sobieski meeting Emperor Leopold I by Artur Grottger (+1867AD)

The war with the Turks would continue, but they never again threatened central Europe.  On Christmas, 1683, Kara Mustafa was strangled with a silken cord for his failure.

St. Stephen's Cathedral interior, Vienna, Austria.
["Stephansdom Wien 2" by Aconcagua - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons]

Trivia: The Croissant is thought to have come from the siege of Vienna, as a reminder of who caused the bread shortage.  Also, the Austrians captured coffee from the Turks, and John d’Aviano, a Capuchin chaplain added milk and honey to sweeten it: this is said to be the origin of cappuccino!  Also, the cannons of the Turks were melted to make the largest bell of the cathedral: the massive Pummerin.

Go ahead, take a listen to the bell Pummerin:




Recommended Source: Vienna 1683 by Simon Millar and Peter Dennis.

Live Well!

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