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St. John of Capistrano and the Siege of Belgrade

January 3, 2007


Wikipedia: Siege of Belgrade

After the fall of Constantinople in 1453, Ottoman sultan Mehmed II was rallying his resources in order to subjugate the Kingdom of Hungary. His immediate objective was the border fort (Hungarian végvár) of the town of Belgrade (in old Hungarian Nándorfehérvár). John Hunyadi, a nobleman and warlord of Vlach lineage, who fought many battles against the Ottomans in the previous two decades, expected just such an attack….

His one ally was the Franciscan friar, Giovanni da Capistrano, who preached a crusade so effectively that the peasants and yeomanry, ill-armed (most of them had but slings and scythes) but full of enthusiasm, flocked to the standard of Hunyadi, the kernel of whose host consisted of a small band of seasoned mercenaries and a few banderia of noble horsemen…

By some accounts, the peasant crusaders started a spontaneous action, and forced Capistrano and Hunyadi to make use of the situation. Despite Hunyadi’s orders to the defenders not to try to loot the Turkish positions, some of the units crept out from demolished ramparts, took up positions across from the Turkish line, and began harassing enemy soldiers. Turkish spahis (provincial cavalry) tried without success to disperse the harassing force. At once more Christians joined those outside the wall. What began as an isolated incident quickly escalated into a full-scale battle.

John of Capistrano at first tried to order his men back inside the walls, but soon found himself surrounded by about 2,000 Crusaders. He then began leading them toward the Ottoman lines, crying, “The Lord who made the beginning will take care of the finish!”

Pope Calixtus III on Hunyadi’s Victory at Belgrade:

Oh admirable empire of our Saviour! The insane Turks, burning with anger and with a most powerful army, occupied the plains and the mountains. They pressed hard upon the fortress of Belgrade which is the key to the Hungarian Empire. They destroyed the walls and other defences and thought themselves to be in possession of the fortress. If this fortress had been lost, the very existence of the entire Christian republic would have been in danger. Them would the way be open, and the Turks could have entered Hungary without opposition. In this case the Turks would have gained the opportunity to put to the test the entire Christian world.

But the Supreme Lord did not allow his religion to be covered with such darkness. Neither did he permit such a shame to be showered upon the true faith The barbarians were routed by the most powerful Athlete of Christ, Prince John Hunyadi, and a small army of plebians and unarmed soldiers With joy in our hearts we were in a state of exaltation after this memorable victory. We lost our old apathy which had been caused by the inaction of the Christian princes. And we gave thanks and honour to God and ordered that all Christendom should pray and rejoice at this great victory…


American Catholic: St. John of Capistrano:

It has been said the Christian saints are the world’s greatest optimists. Not blind to the existence and consequences of evil, they base their confidence on the power of Christ’s redemption. The power of conversion through Christ extends not only to sinful people but also to calamitous events.

Imagine being born in the fourteenth century. One-third of the population and nearly 40 percent of the clergy were wiped out by the bubonic plague. The Western Schism split the Church with two or three claimants to the Holy See at one time. England and France were at war. The city-states of Italy were constantly in conflict. No wonder that gloom dominated the spirit of the culture and the times.

John Capistrano was born in 1386. His education was thorough. His talents and success were great. When he was 26 he was made governor of Perugia. Imprisoned after a battle against the Malatestas, he resolved to change his way of life completely. At the age of 30 he entered the Franciscan novitiate and was ordained a priest four years later.

His preaching attracted great throngs at a time of religious apathy and confusion. He and 12 Franciscan brethren were received in the countries of central Europe as angels of God. They were instrumental in reviving a dying faith and devotion.


On the saint’s tomb in the Austrian town of Villach, the governor had this message inscribed: “This tomb holds John, by birth of Capistrano, a man worthy of all praise, defender and promoter of the faith, guardian of the Church, zealous protector of his Order, an ornament to all the world, lover of truth and religious justice, mirror of life, surest guide in doctrine; praised by countless tongues, he reigns blessed in heaven.”

The Franciscan Experience: St John of Capistrano:

John Capistrano is considered one of the great apostles of Europe. He travelled widely, to Germany, Poland, Transylvania, Moldavia, Russia. When the sultan Muhammad II entered Constantinople in 1453, Europe was in dire peril. The Pope wanted to halt the advance of the Turks, who had penetrated into Europe and were going to attack Belgrade. Thus, in 1456, John Capistrano led a crusade against the Turks. But during the battle John’s health failed. He died in the friary of Ilok, in what is today Croatia, on 23 October 1456. He was canonised by Alexander VIII in 1690. Pope John Paul II declared John Capistrano as patron saint of military chaplains.

See also:
Janos Hunyadi: Champion of Hungary or Saviour of Europe?
Hungarian Saints: St. John of Capistrano
Plinio Correa de Oliveira: St. John of Capistrano
New Advent: St. John Capistran
Christ of Chaos: Nothing to Talk About
Wikipedia: St. Stephen’s Cathedral, Vienna

The outdoor pulpit at St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna where St. John Capistrano preached a crusade in 1454 to hold back Muslim invasions of Christian Europe:



From → Events, Portraits

  1. God love you for this work!

    I am praying you are getting a ton of exposure

    Have ideas…

  2. John Vondra permalink


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