This Week in History

Christendom Saved at Lepanto:

October 7, 1571

The following is an excerpt from our text, Light to the Nations I: The History of Christian Civilization. For information on ordering this or our other texts, please go here.

Sultan Selim II

The Council of Trent had been called to deal with a threat—Protestantism—that had arisen from within Christendom. Yet, throughout the 18 years of the council, all Christendom continued to face the common threat of the Ottoman Turks. Though the Ottoman Turks had been prevented from conquering Vienna, they had not gone away. That even Protestants felt this threat is indicated in the first lines of a “children’s song” by Martin Luther:

Lord, keep us in Thy Word and work,

Restrain the murderous pope and Turk,

Who fain would tear from off Thy throne

Christ Jesus, Thy beloved Son.

            It was Catholic and Orthodox Europe, however, that continued to bear the brunt of Turkish attack. When the Ottoman sultan Suleiman the Magnificent died in 1566, he was succeeded by his son, Selim II. Wanting to imitate his father’s conquests, Sultan Selim began in 1570 to launch ambitious plans to expand the Turkish Empire across Europe. By 1571, Ottoman forces had conquered the Orthodox island of Cyprus, where they killed thousands of Cypriot Christians and sold many of the women and young men into slavery. Continue reading

This Week in History

Napoleone Saves the Revolution: 13th Vendémiaire (October 5), 1795

This text comes from our book, Light to the Nations II: The Making of the Modern World. For ordering information on this and our other texts, please click here.

Louis Stanislas (Louis XVIII)

The government’s victory in the Insurrection of 1st Prairial was followed on May 31 by the return of the surviving Girondins to the Convention. The seating of these deputies who favored the bourgeoisie gave hope to the moderates and the Right that the Constitution of 1793 would be permanently set aside in favor of a more conservative plan of government. Others, the monarchists and royalists, hoped that the Convention would either simply restore the Constitution of 1791, with its National Assembly and king, or come up with a constitution similar to it.

But events worked against the plans of the monarchists and royalists. The first of these events was the forming of a new foreign coalition against the republic. Great Britain was determined to continue the war and formed a new alliance with Russia and Austria to reestablish the French monarchy and the ancient regime. Then the 10-year-old heir to the French throne, Louis XVII, who had for a year been kept in solitary confinement in the Tower of the Temple, died on June 8, 1795. This left Louis XVI’s brother, Louis Stanislas, the count of Provençe, as the heir to the throne. Louis Stanislas (or Louis XVIII) had led the émigrés’ resistance to the republic and wanted to reestablish the ancient regime. The Convention would never agree to making such an enemy of the republic the king of France.

Continue reading

This Week in History

Redshirts Invade St. Peter’s Patrimony: September 29, 1867

This text comes from our book, Light to the Nations II: The Making of the Modern World. For ordering information on this and our other texts, please click here.

Pope Pius IX

The pope’s army was very small—no more than four thousand men. It was only this small force that stood between him and the tens of thousands Italy could gather for an army of conquest. The treaty with Napoleon III, Pope Pius thought, would not restrain King Vittorio Emanuele.

Yet, after the departure of French troops from Rome, Pius IX carried on as if he had no enemy in the world. He continued, as was his wont, to visit hospitals and other charitable institutions. As before, he visited the neighborhoods of Rome to meet and speak with all his subjects. In 1867, for the eighteenth centenary of the martyrdom of Sts. Peter and Paul, the pope decided to hold a grand celebration in Rome. At his invitation, Catholic pilgrims from all over the world flocked to Rome.

About 500 bishops, 20,000 priests, and 500,000 laymen entered the holy city to show their devotion to Peter and his successor, the pope.

Continue reading

This Week in History

A Peasants Revolt, Led by a Priest: September 16-28, 1810

The following comes from our text, Lands of Hope and Promise: A History of North America. It continues the story of the firsts Mexican Revolution that we began last week and which you may read here. For ordering information on this and our other texts, please go here.

Don Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, by Clemente Orozco, the Government Palace, Guadalajara, Mexico

A group of creole intellectuals and army officers had been meeting secretly in Querétaro, about 200 miles northwest of Mexico City. Calling themselves the Academia Literaria (Literary Academy), the group’s aims were ostensibly literary; but their work was really political, for they were working for the overthrow of the gauchupines and a Mexico indepen­dent of Spain (though ostensibly at least still faithful to Fernando VII.) Among their number were the army officers Ignacio Allende and Juan Aldama, and a priest, the 57-year old cura of the nearby village of Dolores, Miguel Gregorio Antonio Ignacio Hidalgo y Costilla.

Continue reading

This Week in History

A Coup that Sparked a Revolution: September 15, 1808

The following comes from our text, Lands of Hope and Promise: A History of North America. For ordering information on this and our other texts, please go here.

It was not conditions in New Spain that finally precipitated revolution, but events across the Atlantic. The mother country, Spain, was rocked with civil war.

Joseph Bonaparte

Carlos IV, who had occupied the Spanish throne since 1788, had become inconvenient to France’s Emperor Napoleon, who had brought nearly all of Europe under his sway. An independent Spain did not serve Napoleon’s purposes; so, on May 6, 1808, he pressured Carlos IV and his son Fernando VII to relinquish all claim to the Spanish throne, and, in their place, made his brother, Joseph Bonaparte, king. Popular indignation broke out against the new king, and all over Spain, juntas were formed to oppose the French. At the end of September 1808, the juntas formed themselves into one body, called the Junta Central Gubernativa del Reino (Central Governing Body of the Kingdom) and formed a cortes (parliament) to represent both Spain and America.

Continue reading