14 August 2019

14 August

The Martyrs of Otranto

Victims of massacre made saints

More than 800 male inhabitants of the southern Italian city of Otranto were beheaded on this day in 1480 by soldiers of the Ottoman Empire.  Legend has it that these men - 813 in total from the age of 15 upwards - were the only male survivors after Otranto, a port city some 35km (22 miles) southeast of Lecce, was captured by the Ottomans at the end of a 15-day siege.  According to some accounts, a total of 12,000 people were killed and 5,000 mainly women and children were enslaved, including victims from the territories of the Salentine peninsula around the city.  The 813 were supposedly offered clemency in return for their conversion to Islam but all refused, taking their lead from a tailor called Antonio Primaldi, who 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."  As a consequence of their defiance, the 813 were led to the Hill of Minerva just south of the city and beheaded one by one, Primaldi being the first to be slain.  Otranto was recaptured the following year by Alfonso of Aragon, a condottiero who would later be crowned King of Naples. Read more…


Pope Pius VII

Compromise candidate elected by conclave-in-exile in Venice

Pope Pius VII was born Barnaba Niccolò Maria Luigi Chiaramonti on this day in 1742 in Cesena in Emilia-Romagna.  He was elected Pope in a conclave that was forced to meet on the island of San Giorgio in Venice in 1799 because Rome was occupied by the French.  He was crowned with a papier mâché version of the Papal tiara in 1800 because the French had seized the original.  It was the last conclave to be held outside Rome.  Chiaramonti was a monk of the order of Saint Benedict as well as being a distinguished theologian. He was granted the title, Servant of God, by Pope Benedict XVI in 2007.  Chiaramonti had joined the order of Saint Benedict at the age of 14. He was later ordained as a priest and went on to teach at Benedictine colleges in Parma and Rome.  After one of his relatives was elected Pope Pius VI, Chiaramonti had a series of promotions that resulted in him becoming a Cardinal.  When the French revolutionary army invaded Italy in 1797, Cardinal Chiaramonti advised people to submit to the newly-created Cisalpine Republic, set up to rule in northern Italy by the French.  Following the death of Pope Pius VI while he was in French captivity, Chiaramonti became the compromise candidate for the papacy after others in the running were unacceptable to the Austrian cardinals.  Read more…


Giorgio Chiellini - footballer

Juventus star renowned for defensive excellence

The footballer Giorgio Chiellini, renowned as one of the world’s best defenders, was born on this day in 1984 in Pisa.  Chiellini has played for much of his career at Juventus, winning an incredible eight consecutive Serie A titles from 2012 to 2019, as well as numerous other trophies.  He was Serie A Defender of the Year in 2008, 2009 and 2010 and in 2017 was named in Juventus’s Greatest XI of All Time.  He also earned 97 caps for the Italy national team before announcing his retirement from international football in 2017, establishing himself as an automatic choice in a back three or four under five different coaches.  All of Chiellini’s successes so far have been in domestic football.  He was considered too young and inexperienced to be part of Marcello Lippi’s 2006 World Cup squad and hung up his boots with the azzurri without winning a trophy.  He has also missed out so far on success in European club competitions. He missed the 2015 Champions League final, which Juventus lost to Barcelona in Berlin, and finished on the losing side in the 2017 Champions League final, when the Italian champions were thumped 4-0 by Read Madrid in Cardiff.  Read more…


Enzo Ferrari – car maker

Entrepreneur turned Ferrari into world’s most famous marque

Enzo Ferrari, the founder of the Scuderia Ferrari motor racing team and later the Ferrari sports car factory, died on this day in 1988 at the age of 90.  Known widely as Il Commendatore, he passed away in Maranello, a town in Emilia-Romagna a few kilometres from Modena, where he had a house, the Villa Rosa, literally opposite Ferrari’s headquarters, where he continued to supervise operations almost to his death. He had reportedly been suffering from kidney disease.  Since the first Ferrari racing car was built in 1947 and the Scuderia Ferrari team’s famous prancing stallion symbol has been carried to victory in 228 Formula One Grand Prix races and brought home 15 drivers’ championships and 16 manufacturers’ championship.  Always an exclusive marque, the number of Ferraris produced for road use since the company began to build cars for sale rather than simply to race is in excess of 150,000.  Born Enzo Anselmo Ferrari in 1898 in Modena, he attended his first motor race in Bologna at the age of 10 and developed a passion for fast cars rivalled only by his love of opera.  He endured tragedy in 1916 when both his brother and his father died in a flu epidemic.  Read more…


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