We know, love can be the ultimate resolve to valor.
We see valor played out on battlefields across the pages of history. Countless acts of bravery some of which were not on a battlefield.
We will witness the powerful acts of valor through many stories of these brave souls.
King & Alfonso VIII of Castile
King Alfonso VIII, King of Castile
King Alfonso VIII of Castile was born November 11th, 1155, became king of Castile at the age of 3 in 1158, and died on October 5th, 1214.
“The Noble,” he is best remembered for his amazing victory over the Muslim Almohad army at the battle of Las Navas in 1212, which was one of the most significant battles in history.
(For several centuries all of the Christian kingdoms in Spain had been menaced by the Muslims of Al-Andalus, and particularly by the Muslim zealots of Africa, who at this time were known as the Almohad.)
The Battle of Las Navas de Tolosa, known in Arab history as the Battle of Al-Uqab took place on 16 July 1212 and was an important turning point in the Reconquista and in the medieval history of Spain.
The Christian forces of King Alfonso VIII of Castile were joined by the armies of his rivals, Sancho VII of Navarre, Peter II of Aragon and Afonso II of Portugal, in battle against the Almohad Muslim rulers of the southern half of the Iberian Peninsula. The Caliph al-Nasir (Miramamolín in the Spanish chronicles) led the Almohad army, made up of people from the whole Almohad empire. Most of the men in the Almohad army came from the African side of the empire.
King Alfonso VIII was married to Queen Leonore of England, the sister of King Richard the Lion Heart. They had eleven children, the eldest daughter was named Berenguera, and she eventually became the mother of King St Fernando III of Castile and Leon. Another of his daughters, Blanche, became the mother of King St. Louis IX of France and Blessed Isabelle of France.
The following excerpt is the exciting account of the battle by "Roman Catholic Saints",King Alfonso VIII, King of Castile":
[The King of Leon (King Alfonso VIII's cousin) and his army treacherously remained absent, he left the King of Castile alone to face almost certain annihilation..
"King Alfonso VIII and his knights fought magnificently, but they were eventually worn down and overwhelmed by the sheer number of the enemy.
Becoming completely surrounded, King Alfonso’s knights entreated their king to withdraw from the battle and save his life, but he would have none of it", preferring to die fighting.. "Recognizing the loss his death would mean to all of the Christian kingdoms, his remaining knights led him unwilling from the field. Still, he had to fight his way through, and when he reached the safety of Toledo, he had with him only twenty Castilian knights"..
"The battle was a horrendous loss for Castile"..
"The King of Leon attempted to take advantage of Castile’s weakened position by demanding land and castles from his cousin.
While the Muslim caliph celebrated his victory over the bodies of the Christian dead, the king of Leon actively encouraged the Almohad to continue the jihad and overrun Castile completely. If it had not been for a revolt that recalled the caliph to Africa, King Alfonso VIII might have lost his entire kingdom.
For King Alfonso, Christian chivalry was more than just a code of conduct or a set of rules to which he adhered; it was a pursuit of virtue meant to guide him in all of his thoughts and actions. In striving for the ideal of knighthood, he had attained a true nobility of character. Living a life of honor, he was a magnificent warrior who courageously defended the Church and his kingdom of Castile.
The battle raged on with catastrophic losses. Then the threat to Castile had been turned aside as the caliph and his army moved south, wintering at Cordoba for the remainder of the year.
King Alfonso VIII knew the caliph would return the following spring, and he was not the kind of man to cower in a darkened corner as death stalked him.
He and his ancestors had defied the invader for several centuries, and they would continue to do so until either they had all perished in the darkness of Islam, or the Muslims themselves were completely expelled from Spain.
Knights from all parts of Europe began to gather in Toledo the following Spring. Ten thousand knights and 100,000 foot soldiers, they were the strongest Christian army ever assembled during the whole of the Reconquest up until that time.
Yet, even with all the assembled might of Christendom, the odds were still strongly against the Christian army when it sallied forth to meet the Almohad army.
The Muslim caliph was not intimidated, as he boasted that he was strong enough to fight against all who adored the sign of the Cross.
The two armies met at a place near Las Navas de Tolosa, and there was fought what is considered to be one of the most important battles of the Reconquest. As has so often happened in throughout the ages, Mary, Help of Christians, would not leave her children unassisted:
"The king’s banners floated above the tempest that was but a churning sea of bodies, blades and bobbing helmets where they briefly cleared their way with deadly blows. No man bore either banner, for they were both now held in the invisible hands of angels. The banners moved, seemingly of their own accord, passing directly over the heads of the astounded enemy. They finally came to rest motionless in the air above Miramamolin’s own tent. The Africans fired arrows and threw stones at the banners, but try as they might, they could do nothing to harm the banners. Mary, Virgin Most Powerful, had claimed that camp, and there was nothing anyone could do to change it."
"Alfonso the Noble attacked furiously, killing some, wounding others, and terrifying the rest into a panic-stricken flight. To the proud cry of “Santiago!” Don Alvaro and the knights of the military orders lowered their lances and surged forward into the thick of battle".
"The Muslim horsemen stiffened, staring blankly at the unexpected assault. Horses screamed as they reared and threw their riders, and the racing steeds crashed and trampled through the formerly unbreakable line".
"A wail of despair rose to the skies, while desert warriors scattered and leapt aside to avoid the flailing hooves. King Alfonso had seemingly come from nowhere to burst upon the very point on which the whole battle turned. The valorous king was prepared to die rather than be conquered as his smoldering eyes gave evidence. It seemed to the Moors that an avenging angel had sped down to earth from the heavens, and like men gone mad with terror, they cast down their spears and began to flee in all directions, running wildly into each other".
"Seeing their sovereign fighting like the knight that he was, the enthusiasm of the Castilians rose so that nothing could stop their impetuous advance"...
(excerpt taken from, Saint Fernando III, A Kingdom for Christ by James Fitzhenry)
He was a great influence on his own family, and he also affected the religious, political, and social order of at least three kingdoms for decades to come.
Ultimately, through his grandsons, King St. Fernando III of Castile and Leon and King St. Louis IX of France, the social reign of Our Lord Jesus Christ became a reality.
In 1587, on the orders of King Phillip II, the sepulcher of Alfonso VIII was uncovered:
King Alfonso’s body was found to be whole and incorrupt, and he was still seated upright on the royal throne. His clothes were in perfect condition, as if they had just been made.]
Bohemond I of Antioch
Bohemond I (c. 1054 – 3 March 1111) was the Prince of Taranto from 1089 to 1111 and the Prince of Antioch from 1098 to 1111. He was a leader of the First Crusade.
Excerpt from Roman Catholic Saints:
"Bohemond, prince of Taranto, and Raymond IV, Count of Toulouse, are knights famous for their participation in the First Crusade that successfully recaptured Jerusalem from the Muslims. What is less well known is that they also captured the fortified city of Antioch, located about half way from Constantinople to the city of Jerusalem, and the many miracles that occurred at Antioch. Their amazing accomplishments are told at greater length in Defenders of Christendom.
The First Crusade was the Catholic response to centuries of Muslim aggression against Christians. The Emperor of the Byzantine Empire requested aid from Christian Europe to hold his empire. In addition, Catholics in Europe were appalled at the treatment Christians received at the hands of Muslims, who were constantly attacking Christian lands and subjecting Christians to all manner of outrages including pillage and slavery. Once Jerusalem was taken, the Holy Land was cut off from Christian pilgrims, who were often killed trying to visit the holy places...
It was Pope Urban II who finally called on knights and warriors to travel in an armed pilgrimage to the Holy Land, taking up arms simply because they would doubtlessly have to defend themselves against Muslim attack.
For the Crusaders, this was an expensive proposition as well as a fearsome journey, for there was a great probability of death. Consider that about half the men who joined the Crusade died in battle or of starvation along the way. The Crusaders also often performed difficult devotions during the long pilgrimage...
Bohemond I encountered a Muslim army over 10 times the size of his own force. Undaunted, he attacked the enemy. God rewarded his courage, as He miraculously multiplied Bohemond's force, turning 700 Latins into a force of 2,000 men. The Turks were amazed, and turned in flight, which led to a Christian victory and a great slaughter among the enemy...
Even secular historians admit that what happened during that battle can only be explained as a miracle. Raymond recorded: “In the beginning of the march out to battle, the Lord sent down upon all his army a divine shower, little, but full of blessing. All those touched by this were filled with all grace and fortitude, and despising the enemy, rode forth as if nourished on the delicacies of kings. This miracle affected our horses no less.”
An eyewitness who fought in that battle later wrote: “There came out of the mountains also countless armies with white horses whose standards were all white. And so, when our leaders saw this army they were entirely ignorant as to what it was and who they were until they recognized the aid of Christ, whose leaders were Saints George, Mercurius, and Demetirus. This is to be believed, for many of our men saw it.”
Many said that there were armies of angels and saints, as well as the spirits of fallen comrades, fighting alongside Bohemond and his troops. Against all odds, the Christians won a miraculous victory, and Antioch remained in Christian hands."
El Cid Campeador, Rodrigo Diaz
Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar (c. 1043 – 10 July 1099) was a Castilian nobleman and military leader in medieval Spain. The Moors called him El Cid , which meant the Lord, and the Christians, El Campeador, which stood for "Outstanding Warrior" or "The one who stands out in the battlefield". (El Cid meaning The Lord, or Master, and Campeador meaning The Champion, an honorable title rarely given to a man during his lifetime).
He was born in Vivar, a town near the city of Burgos. After his death, he became Castile's celebrated national hero and the protagonist of the most significant medieval Spanish epic poem, El Cantar de Mio Cid.
(Excerpt from the book El Cid, God’s Own Champion by James Fitzhenry)
“The clash began as the Africans went about the city pounding their oppressive drums, while shrieking and shouting and filling the air with their bellowing as they fired huge numbers of arrows at Rodrigo and his men. The sound of their drums seemed to rend the earth asunder.
Rodrigo, stout of heart as ever, comforted and strengthened his troops in a manly fashion and constantly prayed devoutly to the Lord Jesus Christ that He would send divine aid to his people. He knew now how he might defeat the enemy, but he would have to hold on for awhile to do it.
There had never truly been any doubt in Rodrigo’s mind about the outcome of battle, for when he saw Jimena pale with fear upon hearing the Almoravide drums for the first time, he told her that in two weeks he would lay them at her feet, and then make them a votive offering to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Day after day the conflict went on in a similar manner with the Africans making attacks on the city, and each day the fighting was renewed with unabated vigor, but everywhere the dauntless Cid was to be found, encouraging his men, in the words of the Christian chronicler, by the natural fortitude of his heart and urging one and all to keep on praying to the Almighty for help. The Cid remained on the defensive for ten days, never once making any kind of assault against the Africans. By this time the Almoravide were convinced that they had Rodrigo frightened and completely intimidated into inaction, and so finally committed their entire force to a ground assault against the city.
This was the opportunity for which Rodrigo had been waiting.
Suddenly one of the gates of Valencia opened wide, and there for a moment the massed Almoravide looked upon a single knight mounted upon a great warhorse.
Who he was they soon learned, as he raised his lance and shouted, “In the name of the Creator and the apostle St. James, smite them, O knights, with right good will! For I am Rodrigo Diaz, the Cid from Vivar!”
To the fierce cry of “St. James and at them!” the Christian knights erupted from the gate with almost berserk fury…”
Dieudonné de Gozon
Dieudonné de Gozon was the Grand Master of the Knights of Rhodes from 1346 to 1353. He was born to a noble family in Languedoc, France. He carried the nickname Extinctor Draconis which means "The Dragon Slayer" in Latin.
There was a dragon in the island of Rhodes, Greece, hiding in the local swamp, and killing the cattle of the local farmers, including their shepherds. Despite the orders of the previous Grand Master not to disturb the beast, Gozon slew the dragon, and hung the head on one of the seven gates of the medieval town of Rhodes.
Excerpts from Roman Catholic Saints:
"In a gallant effort to rid the island of the creature, one valiant knight of St John after another rode out to slay the dragon, though each only died in the attempt. It seemed there was no way for them to succeed, for the scales covering the dragon were said to be completely uniform and harder than steel, invulnerable to the arrows, spears and swords of a knight.
Finally, after the loss of many good knights, the Grand Master, Helion de Villeneuve, forbade any of his knights from risking their lives in a futile attempt to kill the dragon. Whatever the fearsome creature was, it seemed beyond a knight’s power to subdue.
A young Knight of St John by the name of Dieudonne de Gozon, knew the entire truth of the existence of the dragon. Once he himself had ridden out against it, though upon facing the horror of the serpent-eyed monster he had become frozen with fear and turned away from the quest. Returning to the priory with his life but without his honor, Gozon soon found that it was impossible to live with his shame...
In returning to challenge the dragon, Gozon at least had the advantage of having actually seen the horrible monster. With its sharp fangs and lashing tail, it was unlike anything Gozon had ever encountered before. The young knight’s warhorse had also reacted instinctively at the time, fighting the reins as he seemed to stagger from the creature’s foul stench, effectively repulsed from the dragon’s very presence. If not for Gozon’s excellent horsemanship, he would not have been able to remain in the saddle.
In the days that followed Gozon found himself constructing a detailed likeness of the dragon. Fashioned from common materials, the knight worked steadily, closely following the image of the winged serpent in his mind’s eye. Although nothing more than a statue when it was finished, he had managed to capture the dragon’s fearsome aspect. Appearing immensely powerful, with talons and fangs several inches long, Gozon’s warhorse shied away even from this image of the monster.
If the dragon had any weakness at all, it would be to its underside, for Gozon had seen enough to know that the overlapping scales did not protect it there. The problem, of course, would be getting past the snapping jaws and swiping tail of the monster, either of which could kill in an instant...
Gozon filled the hollow underside of the “dragon” with food, thus training the aggressive mastiffs to run under the creature to obtain the reward. At the same time, the knight set his lance and charged his warhorse directly at the monstrous statue, doing so again and again until he felt confident his mount would charge the real dragon...
Galloping easily down the slope in pursuit of his huge dogs, the young knight felt his heart leap as the dragon burst from the tree line. Fierce and terrible to behold, its eyes fixed on Gozon. The mastiffs growled and bounded toward the monster, momentarily distracting the enormous reptile as Gozon set his lance and raced across the open field toward his objective, praying for the opening he sought.
Gozon was charging at full speed as he approached the dragon, though the creature had turned away to confront the dogs’ vicious attack. Rather than charge a second time, Gozon drove at what he believed must be a vital area, thinking that the scales could not resist the point of a lance driven by the weight of his heavy warhorse.
The lance struck, shattering into dozens of splinters at the moment of impact, seeming to do no real injury to the dragon. Howling with rage, the creature wheeled on Gozon, and straightaway the terror-stricken horse bolted and bucked in fear. The agile knight was forced to dismount, leaping from the saddle lest he be cast to the ground in a heap.
Standing now before the onrushing dragon, Gozon drew his sword, hoping only to strike a blow before he died. The mastiffs had not left their master, however, and seemed to have no fear of the thundering dragon. Pouncing and biting, they deftly avoided its tooth-filled maw, again furnishing a valuable distraction to aid their master.
Seizing the opportunity, the knight swiftly moved in. Striking at the monsters neck with all his might, Gozon’s sword rang as the blow was deflected by the overlapping scales. Ducking and rolling to one side to avoid a swipe of a massive claw, Gozon knew his efforts were useless unless he could somehow reach and pierce a vulnerable spot.
Suddenly the dragon’s tail whipped around without warning and struck Gozon full in the body, sending him flying as the dragon turned quickly upon him. He lay stunned by the blow, though he had not completely lost consciousness. As the monster reared up over him, Gozon found he still held his sword clenched in his right hand.
Gozon stood unsteadily, nearly overwhelmed by the stench of the dragon, bent beneath the creature as it bellowed in triumph with a deafening roar. Shaking his head to clear his muddled wits, Gozon observed blood running freely from fresh wounds on the monster’s belly where the mastiff’s fangs had torn its flesh. Now was his chance!
With all his remaining strength, Gozon thrust his sword into the wounds, noting with grim satisfaction that the blade bit deeply into the soft underbelly. The dragon thrashed and kicked, sweeping him off his feet, though the struggling knight refused to release the weapon which impaled the monster. Twisting and turning the blade, Gozon hung on as the beast finally stilled and fell forward, shuddering as it died...
One might think that the battle was over with the death of the awful monster, but such was not the case...
HOWEVER, the victory was short lived as the knight was chastised for disobeying orders from the Grand Master; that of not slaying the dragon by reason of so many loss of deaths before.
"Villenueve closely watched the chastised knight as he departed. He could only guess what was going on in the young knight’s heart and soul, but certainly he seemed to be accepting his fate with humility. Gozon had said nothing in his own defense, even with the crowd strongly on his side. He had not become angry or defiant, even when publicly accused. Now he walked away slowly, silently. There was no evidence of injured pride. Good signs, to be sure.
The Grand Master’s behavior might seem harsh, but he had not lived to his old age without learning wisdom. He had seen the same pattern often repeated. He knew that frequently the first challenge for a knight was to conquer his own fears. Then, having done so, he would be enabled to conquer his foes. Finally, and most difficult of all, the victorious knight must learn to conquer his pride, in essence conquering himself. Pride was always the greatest danger.
Grand Master Villenueve called Gozon’s name, firmly ordering him to return. Gozon stopped, turned with his eyes downcast, and retraced his steps. In a moment he knelt again before the Grand Master, who unexpectedly extended his hand to him.
Gozon looked up questioningly as Villenueve closely scrutinized his features. The Grand Master smiled as he observed that there was no resentment, no sullen spirit, no heat of anger in the young knight’s eyes.
Gozon took Villenueve’s hand and kissed it, becoming once again a Knight of St. John. The Grand Master then raised Gozon to his feet and embraced his victorious knight, who had just won his second victory of the day, and a much greater one than his earlier victory over the dragon. Through his humility, Gozon had driven a spike though the heart of the ancient dragon."
© James Fitzhenry 2011 (From a forthcoming book on the Knights of St John, the Knights Hospitaller.)
Note: Some may not believe that there were dragons and some may believe that this is just a fable; however, others say this may have been a humongous crocodile. Nether the less, a dragon is indeed a dragon, no matter what his name.
St Ferdinand III of Castile
St Ferdinand III of Castile (1199/1201 – 30 May 1252) His Reign was 31 August 1217 – 30 May 1252. St Ferdinand III of Castile was the grandson to Alfonso VIII of Castile.
In 1225, he held back Islamic invaders; prayed and fasted to prepare for the war. He was extremely devoted to the Blessed Virgin. Between 1234-36, Ferdinand conquered the city of Cordoba from the Moors.
He founded the Cathedral of Burgos and the University of Salamanca. He died after a long illness, and was buried in the habit of his secular Franciscan Order.
He was canonized by Pope Clement X in 1671.
Ferdinand was a great administrator and a man of deep faith. He founded hospitals and bishoprics, monasteries, churches, and cathedrals during his reign.
Alonso Pérez de Guzmán
Throwing the Dagger, by Salvador Martínez Cubells (1883)
Alonso Pérez de Guzmán (1256–1309), known as Guzmán el Bueno ("Guzmán the Good"), was a Spanish nobleman and hero of Spain during the medieval period, the founder of the line from which the dukes of Medina Sidonia descend.
Excerpts from Roman Catholic Saints
"It was at the end of the glorious 13th century when Sancho IV was king of Castile, Leon, and Galicia in the land that is now known as Spain. He was the latest in a long line of kings stretching back hundreds of years, kings who had engaged themselves in a noble effort to recapture their land from their Muslim oppressors.
This movement has become known as the “Reconquista,” or reconquest, beginning when Pelayo formed the tiny kingdom of the Asturias with 300 valiant men, and would not end until King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella finally defeated the Kingdom of Granada and unified the Iberian Peninsula in 1492.
Until that reconquest was achieved, Spain was largely a land of merciless brutality and constant warfare. Muslim raiders frequently invaded the Catholic kingdoms, killing and taking slaves, burning crops and looting as they went.
Those who resisted were killed, as were the elderly, who were considered useless. Families were torn apart as the young and strong were taken as slaves, while the most beautiful were taken to fill a sultan’s harem.
The Muslims, or Moors, as they were known in Spain, engaged in a slave trade so extensive that no other similar event in history remotely compares to it. If one were unfortunate enough to fall under Muslim rule, in a condition other than slavery, it meant a life of severe discrimination, and to our modern minds, unimaginable oppression"....
A STORY OF TRAGEDY & SACRIFICE:
"Don Alonso Perez de Guzman, an honorable knight and nobleman who lived with his family in Leon, volunteered to take over the command of the castle of Tarifa, and to defend it against the Moors to the last extremity..
Guzman moved with his family to Tarifa, except for his son, who had already been placed under the care of Don Juan, the king’s brother. It was the custom of that age that noblemen would have their children sent to live as pages as part of the king’s household where they would learn manners and customs and be raised to become knights.
Don Juan eventually turned against his brother.. and joined forces with the Muslim king... Don Juan never intended to obtain Tarifa by force... Instead, he expected to use treachery and blackmail, which he found to be much more reliable tools.
Suddenly appearing before the gates of Tarifa with his army, Don Juan stepped forward leading a small boy who stood with his wrists tied together.
The defenders of Tarifa angrily responded with shouts and threats as they recognized the boy to be Don Alonso de Guzman’s eldest son. Now, the boy was being used as a pawn by the dishonorable prince to help him gain the castle he could never take by storm...
“Alonso Perez de Guzman!” The prince shouted, ignoring the threats. “Know that unless you yield this stronghold to me immediately, you shall behold the death of your own son at my hand!”
In which Alonzo Perez de Guzman responded, "I did not beget a son to be made use of against my country, but that he should serve her against her foes. Should Don Juan put him to death, he will but confer honour on me, true life on my son, and on himself eternal shame in this world and everlasting wrath after death."
(Guzman reportedly threw down his knife for the besiegers to use in killing his son.)
Don Alonso Guzman said nothing as the moments passed and Don Juan studied his face with a grim satisfaction, looking for any sign of weakness or indecision.
It is true that Don Alonso’s eyes filled with tears as he looked upon his son, though otherwise his outward expression remained as serene and unmoved as if his features had been chiseled in stone. Nowhere on his countenance could be seen the agony which passed in his soul.
Don Alonso knew he could not act impulsively, for if he betrayed his king’s trust, then not only would he fail in his duty as a knight, but the way would be made open for the Muslims to re-enter Spain in force.
He would live to witness the sight of innumerable families having their sons and daughters ripped away from them to be made slaves.
Still, this was his firstborn, a son he loved, and the one who was meant to inherit his name and his property, though Don Alonso could not save him...
Don Alonso Guzman stood and returned to his men, who sorrowfully informed him that Don Juan had murdered his son by cutting his throat in an unmanly transport of wild rage.
The Moors were not prepared to lay siege to a stronghold as powerful as Tarifa, but even if they had been, they were themselves so disgusted by what they had just witnessed that they severed their alliance with the treacherous Don Juan.
Dishonored and disgraced, unacceptable in any Christian land, the wicked prince slunk away to find refuge living among the Moors at the court of Granada.
A horrific & brutal story for sure; however, this reminds us of another Father who gave his only begotten Son for the salvation of the world. Don Alonzo gave up his son for Christians and their families.
Don Alonso Guzman lived to an old age, and his descendants include a long list of generals, dukes, and viceroys. Don Alonso Perez de Guzman spent his entire life faithful to the highest expectations of the Medieval Code of Chivalry and Knighthood, all the while giving glory to God and doing great honor to himself, his nation, and to his family name."
The White Knight of Wallachia
John Hunyadi, Hungarian, 1406 – 11 August 1456) was a leading Hungarian military and political figure in Central and Southeastern Europe during the 15th century. According to most contemporary sources, he was the son of a noble family of Romanian ancestry. He mastered his military skills on the southern borderlands of the Kingdom of Hungary that were exposed to Ottoman attacks. Appointed voivode of Transylvania and head of a number of southern counties, he assumed responsibility for the defense of the frontiers in 1441.
EXCERPTS FROM "ROMAN CATHOLIC SAINTS":
"In the year 1453 all of Christendom was stunned to learn of the fall of Constantinople to Mehmet the Conqueror, great-grandson of Bayezid. The Byzantine Empire, which had survived for over 1,000 years keeping at bay all of the nomadic tribes of Asia, was a bulwark which was now suddenly gone. Emperor Constantine had died fighting, thousands had been slain, and tens of thousands more were sold into slavery.
The Muslim conquest of Constantinople was a remarkable achievement that proved the power of the Ottoman Empire. The great and ancient city, once the seat of the Roman Empire, became the new seat of Ottoman government. Entering the city in triumph, Mehmet saw himself as the successor to the Caesars, and ordered that a splendid palace be built there for his private residence where he would live from that time on.
The Christian kingdoms that bordered the Ottoman Empire suddenly realized that they were now vulnerable to further Turkish aggression. Iskander and the Albanians, as well as Hunyadi and the Hungarian people, prepared for the impending assault they knew would soon come"...
"In 1456 Mehmet II attacked Hunyadi at Belgrade with an army of 160,000 men. Hunyadi was on his own with only 4,000 soldiers to resist this huge army, but due to the preaching of St John Capistrano, perhaps as many as 30,000 men, mostly peasants, flocked to Hunyadi’s banner. Most armed only with farming implements, and having no military training, they were eager enough, though seemingly ill-matched to go up against the Ottoman infantry.
Heavy cannon fire had demolished the formidable walls of Belgrade in several places when the Turks finally entered the city in force. The desperate fighting flowed from street to street, but despite their superior numbers, the Janissaries were outdone by the incredibly fierce determination of St. John Capistrano and his devoted followers. Not satisfied with merely holding their city, the Christian’s trailed behind St. John through the open breaches as he held the crucifix aloft. Taking the fight to the Turks, the Christians put them to flight, while the sultan himself was wounded and carried from the battle.
The siege of Belgrade was perhaps Hunyadi’s greatest victory, though he didn’t long outlive it. A few days after the battle, having accomplished many great deeds to preserve Christendom, Hunyadi took ill and died. Mehmet II gave praise to Hunyadi upon learning of his passing, saying, “Although he was my enemy I feel grief over his death, because the world has never seen such a man.” Pope Callixtus III lamented, “The light of the world has passed away.” They were fitting tributes to the White Knight, whose efforts had helped save Christendom."
Queen Isabella I of Castile
Isabella I (Spanish: Isabel, 22 April 1451 – 26 November 1504) reigned as Queen of Castile from 1474 until her death. Her marriage to Ferdinand II of Aragon became the basis for the political unification of Spain under their grandson, Charles I.
After a struggle to claim her right to the throne, she reorganized the governmental system, brought the crime rate to the lowest it had been in years, and unburdened the kingdom of the enormous debt her brother had left behind.
Her reforms and those she made with her husband had an influence that extended well beyond the borders of their united kingdoms. Isabella and Ferdinand are known for completing the Reconquista, ordering conversion or exile of their Muslim and Jewish subjects, and for supporting and financing Christopher Columbus's 1492 voyage that led to the opening of the New World and to the establishment of Spain as the first global power which dominated Europe and much of the world for more than a century.
Isabella, granted together with her husband the title "the Catholic" by Pope Alexander VI, was recognized as a Servant of God by the Catholic Church in 1974.
"Queen Isabella I, Queen of Castile and Leon, was born April 22nd, 1451, and died November 26, 1504. She is frequently referred to as “Isabel the Catholic,” an honorary title she received from the pope himself. Her husband was Ferdinand II of Aragon, and with him she set about completing the Reconquista, concluding the re-conquest of the Iberian Peninsula by taking Granada back from the Muslims. It was an enormous task, and it is recorded that during one difficult period she left Granada to visit the tomb of her ancestor, Saint King Fernando III, sitting upon his throne as she sought inspiration to go on. Granada was finally taken in 1492, the same year she sent Columbus sailing to the new world." - Editor, "Roman-Catholic-Saints"
Joan of Arc
Miniature (15th century)
Martyr and "Holy Virgin"
Born: Jeanne d'Arc 1412
Domrémy, Duchy of Bar, Kingdom of France
Died: 30 May 1431 (aged approx. 19) Rouen, Normandy
Venerated in Roman Catholic Church, and Anglican Communion
Beatified: 18 April 1909, Notre-Dame de Paris, by Pope Pius X
Canonized: 16 May 1920, St. Peter's Basilica, Rome by Pope Benedict XV
Patronage: France; martyrs; captives; military personnel; people ridiculed for their piety; prisoners; soldiers, women who have served in the WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service); and Women's Army Corps
Joan of Arc (1412 – 30 May 1431), nicknamed "The Maid of Orléans". Warrior, Military Leader (c. 1412–1431).
Joan of Arc, when 18 years old, led the French army to victory over the English during the Hundred Years' War.
She was captured a year later, and burned at the stake as a heretic. She was canonized as a Roman Catholic saint more than 500 years later, on May 16, 1920.
Joan of Arc was born the daughter of poor tenant farmers: Jacques d’ Arc and his wife, Isabelle. Joan learned piety and domestic skills from her mother. Never venturing far from home, Joan took care of the animals and became quite skilled as a seamstress.
Joan of Arc began to have mystical visions encouraging her to lead a pious life. Over time, they became more vivid, with the presence of St. Michael and St. Catherine designating her as the savior of France.
The Burgundians took her captive, 1430.
She was turned over to church officials who insisted she be tried as a heretic. She was charged with 70 counts, including witchcraft, heresy and dressing like a man.
She protected herself, when she was in a military prison along with the men prisoners, by tying her soldier's clothes tightly together with dozens of cords.
She was 19 nineteen years old when she was burned at the stake . One legend surrounding the event tells of how her heart survived the fire unaffected. Her ashes were gathered and scattered in the Seine.
"I am the drum on which God is beating out his message." ~ Joan of Arc
Pelayo, King of Asturias
Pelagius (Spanish: Pelayo, Asturian: Pelayu; c. 685 – 737) was a Visigothic nobleman who founded the Kingdom of Asturias, ruling it from 718 until his death. Through his victory at the Battle of Covadonga, he is credited with beginning the Reconquista, the Christian reconquest of the Iberian peninsula from the Moors. He established an independent Christian state in opposition to Moorish hegemony.
Excerpts from Roman Catholic Saints:
"When the Muslims came to conquer Spain, he rode with the army of the Catholic King Roderick to defend his homeland. Defeated, his king killed, Pelayo returned home to the Asturias.....
Pelayo risked everything and escaped. If he were found in this suddenly hostile and foreign land, he would be slain. Somehow he avoided the search parties that were sent to recapture him, and after many dangerous and harrowing adventures, managed to complete his escape.
There were others who were inspired by his resistance, and Pelayo soon found himself with a small army of three hundred men. They lived together as free men in the Cantabrian Mountains, and Pelayo was made their king....
With the Muslim army, or Moors, as they were known in Spain, was a Catholic bishop who was apparently unworthy of his high office. ...
Pelayo was on Mount Auseva with his people, and the army arrived and pitched their innumerable tents at the entrance of the cave. Upon a mound facing the holy cave, Bishop Oppas spoke: “Pelayo, Pelayo, where are you?”
Whereupon Pelayo, from an opening in the cliff, responded: “Here I am.”
The bishop continued: “I believe that you understand how the entire army of the Goths cannot resist the force of the Muslims; how then can you resist on this mountain? Listen to my advice: abandon your efforts and you will enjoy many benefits alongside the Moors.”
Pelayo responded: “Have you not read in Sacred Scripture that the Church of the Lord is like the mustard seed, which, small as it is, grows more than any other through the mercy of God?”
The bishop responded: “Truly, so it is written.”
And Pelayo said: “Our hope is in Christ; this little mountain will be the salvation of Spain and of the people of the Goths; the mercy of Christ will free us from that multitude.”...
Amid the mountainous crags of Pelayo’s realm there is a cave that is now known as St. Mary of Covadonga. There, Pelayo and his men prayed to the Blessed Virgin Mary for her assistance and intercession before God as the power of Islam was about to be unleashed against them. Her favor they obtained, in a very remarkable way.
The following day the Moors advanced to kill Pelayo and destroy any last vestige of resistance to their rule in Spain. As soon as they were within range, the Moors began to fire arrows and other projectiles at Pelayo and his men. The arrows and stones turned, however, and came crashing down upon the ones who fired them. Pelayo’s men sent boulders down upon their enemy, and started avalanches that swept many of them away. Although they initially fled, the Muslims were not to be easily overcome, and soon regrouped for another attack.
As the Moors advanced a second time, again they were treated to a shower of rocks and boulders while the sky darkened at the approach of a thunderstorm bursting with lightning and heavy rain. At first the rain made the rocks treacherous and slippery, but as it continued it loosened the stones and cast them down upon the ill-fated Moors. Still, for every one who fell there were two to take his place.
Suddenly a strange light appeared in the cave of Covadonga, and in its midst the Mother of God appeared to Pelayo and his beleaguered men. She bore a red shield with a white cross, with the holy name of “Jesus” upon it. Speaking to Pelayo, she said, “Take courage. The Moors are wavering. Go out now and attack them in the name of Jesus Christ and you shall conquer.”
Having delivered her message, the Mother of God disappeared and the supernatural illumination faded. Had the Moors seen the light from the mouth of the cave? Were they so blind that they could not see that God was with Pelayo and his men? The very earth, sky and the elements themselves were full of enmity against them!
When Pelayo emerged from the darkness of the cave a moment later, his eyes blazed with resolve. Filled with newfound confidence, his men swept out from the cave to hurl the Moors from the slopes.
Thwarted by the fury of the thunder storm, their precarious hold on the mountain fast giving way beneath their feet, the Moors fled for their lives as they perceived their approaching doom. Pelayo’s men rushed upon them, and with renewed conviction sent down more arrows and boulders after them, and many more were carried away to their death. When the survivors reached the floor of the valley below, the River Deva had been turned into a raging torrent that swept still more away."
Excerpt from the book “El Cid, God’s Own Champion” by James Fitzhenry, © copyright 2008
George Kastrioti Skanderbeg, "Iskander"
Orthodox Christianity (by upbringing)
Islam (converted in 1423)
Catholicism (converted in 1443)
George Castriot (Albanian: Gjergj Kastrioti, 6 May 1405 – 17 January 1468), known as Skanderbeg, was an Albanian nobleman and military commander, who served the Ottoman Empire in 1423–43, the Republic of Venice in 1443–47, and lastly the Kingdom of Naples until his death. After leaving Ottoman service, he led a rebellion against the Ottoman Empire in what is today Albania and North Macedonia.
[George Kastrioti Skanderbeg (May 6, 1405 – January 17, 1467), is also known by his Muslim name of Iskander, (Lord Alexander). He was also known as the Dragon of Albania, and is the national hero of that country. His story is told at length in the new book Defenders of Christendom.
George was the son of an Albanian lord who had been forced to submit to Murad II, the sultan of the Ottoman Empire. He was still a young boy when he and his three brothers were turned over by his parents to the Muslim empire as part of the practice of devsirme. While his three older brothers were slowly poisoned when they staunchly refused to convert to Islam, George was allowed to live, as he was only a child.
Forced to conform to the practices of Islam, George was subjected to merciless training at which he excelled, proving himself to be both a physically powerful warrior and eventually also a brilliant field commander. Rising quickly through the ranks, he was made bey generalissimo, and entrusted to command a large Muslim cavalry unit. The Ottoman sultan himself honored him by bestowing upon him the name of Iskander, “Lord Alexander,” comparing him favorably to the Macedonian conqueror Alexander the Great.
The Hungarian commander Hunyadi was on campaign against the Ottoman Empire when he came face to face with Iskander at the city of Nish. Unknown to his commanders, Iskander had never truly accepted Islam or forgotten the murder of his heroic brothers. He had also been secretly communicating with Albanian noblemen from his own country, for the Muslim’s had failed to erase the memory of his homeland.
Upon learning of the death of his father, Iskander had decided that he would join the advancing Catholic army, and then fight the Turks to restore Albania. With three hundred Albanians who had been forced to serve the Turks, he defected and fought side by side with Hunyadi. Turning their swords against their Islamic oppressors, they easily defeated the Muslim army......
..At this point in his career Iskander was an impressive figure, “tall and slender with a prominent chest, wide shoulders, long neck, and high forehead. He had black hair, fiery eyes, and a powerful voice. So warlike was his nature that he truly needed to wage battle from time to time. He killed more than two thousand Turks with his own hands. He was a master of all weapons, swift and ingenious, a general with a quick and certain gaze, audacious and resolute. Naturally possessed of a fiery temper, anger would go to his head quickly and set his eyes ablaze. But he would dominate his anger, biting his lips until they bled. His courage in battle stemmed from this struggle over his evil passions. All in all, his customs were pure, his manner noble and elevated. Mary was his strength and inspiration."..
.......After the battle, Iskander went at once to kneel before the image of Our Lady of Scutari, thanking and publicly praising her for his success. “He was a hero formed in the same school as all those who derive their strength from their devotion to the Blessed Virgin. Like a new Saint Fernando, King of Castile, Scanderbeg was, under the guidance of Mary, as gentle in peace, as he was terrible in war. The good Christian prince was often seen at her feet to beg the protection of his Lady in his greatest afflictions"....
Physically exhausted from his labors, and sensing that his death was near, Iskander went one last time to visit Our Lady of Scutari at her shrine, and then retired to the city of Lesh to die. There, on his deathbed, he made his last confession, and received Holy Viaticum.
Mehmet had his spies in Albania, and was thus fully aware that Iskander was dying. He sent another large army into Albania to attack Lesh, expecting to conquer all of Albania once Iskander had died.
The sounds of battle, and the cries of despair coming from the startled populace reached Iskander. “Hearing the shouts, the dying man’s eyes opened. Color returned to his cheeks. The perspiration of agony disappeared. Iskander ordered his horse and weapons brought to him. Then, a great battle ensued at the gates of Lesh. The Dragon of Albania had pushed death aside and carried it instead to the enemies of Christendom.”...
The Muslims were routed and completely defeated after a bloody battle. Iskander gave thanks to the Blessed Virgin, and returned in triumph to his palace. Once there, he set aside his weapons and went back to his bed where he laid down and soon gave up his soul to God. He had ended his life as a powerful defender of the Catholic faith and of Christendom, and his battle-standard became the flag of his native Albania.]
GALLERY, Early Wood Cuttings:
Skanderbeg and other students Skanderbeg dueling a Tatar at the Ottoman court,
excerpts from Defenders of Christendom, James Fitzhenry 2011
Quotations from "The Mother of Good Counsel of Genazzano"
Sir William Wallace, Scottish Gaelic, born c. 1270, died 23 August 1305) was a Scottish knight who became one of the main leaders during the First War of Scottish Independence.
Along with Andrew Moray, Wallace defeated an English army at the Battle of Stirling Bridge in September 1297. He was appointed Guardian of Scotland and served until his defeat at the Battle of Falkirk in July 1298. In August 1305, Wallace was captured in Robroyston, near Glasgow, and handed over to King Edward I of England, who had him hanged, drawn and quartered for high treason and crimes against English civilians.
Since his death, Wallace has obtained an iconic status far beyond his homeland. He is the protagonist of Blind Harry's 15th-century epic poem The Wallace and the subject of literary works by Sir Walter Scott and Jane Porter, and of the Academy Award-winning film Braveheart. He was first cousin to Roger de Kirkpatrick. Roger himself was a third cousin to Robert the Bruce.
Excerpts from "the famous people":
"The English army, with 3,000 cavalry and 8,000 to 10,000 infantrymen vastly outnumbered the Scottish forces. However, the shrewd Scottish leader came up with a plan to outwit the English. To reach the Scottish forces, the English would have to first cross over to the north side of the river Forth using a narrow bridge.
The bridge was so narrow that only a few men could cross it at a time. Keeping this detail in mind, Wallace and Moray placed the Scottish forces strategically, and let about half of the English soldiers cross over, giving the English the false impression that it was safe to cross over the bridge.
The English fell into this trap, and as soon as the latter half of the soldiers began crossing, the Scots attacked them quickly and killed them as soon as they crossed. One of Wallace’s captains led a valiant charge that forced some of the English soldiers to retreat as others pushed forward on the bridge. The bridge gave way under the overwhelming weight of the English soldiers and many of them drowned in the river below. ...
This victory over the English boosted the morale of the citizens involved in Scotland’s struggle for independence. The humiliating defeat of the English forces ensured that Scotland was nearly free of occupying English armies for a while...
Around November 1297, Wallace invaded northern England and ravaged Northumberland and Cumberland counties. He was known for his brutality towards the English and he reportedly skinned a dead English soldier and kept his skin as a trophy....
By 1304 most of the Scottish leaders had submitted before Edward and had accepted him as their king. Edward meanwhile continued to pursue Wallace relentlessly. Wallace was back in Scotland by 1304 and successfully evaded arrest for a while. He was finally arrested on 5 August 1305 and was taken to Westminster Hall, where he was tried for treason and for atrocities against civilians in war....
After his arrest by the English, Wallace was put on trial for high treason and brutally executed on 23 August 1305. He was first stripped naked and dragged through the city at the heels of a horse. Then he was strangled by hanging, but released before he died so that further tortures could be inflicted upon him. His stomach was cut open; the bowels pulled out and burned before his eyes. Finally he was beheaded and chopped into four pieces.
After his gruesome death, his head was dipped in tar and placed on a pike atop London Bridge. His supreme sacrifice for his country however was not in vain as Scotland was able to achieve independence a few years later.
He is regarded a prominent national hero in Scotland and in 1869 the Wallace Monument was erected, very close to the site of his victory at Stirling Bridge."
"Braveheart", The Movie
Starring Mel Gibson
The 1995 movie, "Braveheart," was certainly a smash hit worldwide. It starred of course Mel Gibson in his portrayal of William Wallace, the legendary Scottish hero.