It is the 23rd of October 2020. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org. I'm Dan van Voorhis.
The year was 1456.
The theme for today's show in this late medieval year is: "Things you've heard something about before." I'll try and give you a fact or two about many things that took place in this rather remarkable year.
First, it was the year that Gutenberg's Bible was first printed. We've talked about this landmark Bible before. It was the first book published in a modern press in the Western World. Gutenberg printed a total of 180. However, due to a lawsuit from a former business partner, he had to give over half of them. Most of them were published on paper, but about 30 were printed on "vellum" or animal skin. One of his Bibles' costs would be roughly equivalent to three years' wages for a standard clerk. Forty-two years ago, Christie's auctioned a complete version of the Gutenberg Bible for 2.2 million.
It was in 1456 that a French court cleared Joan of Arc of all charges against her. This was good news for her family; unfortunately, Joan had been found guilty 25 years prior and burned to death. Legally she was good, but physically, not so much.
It was in 1456 that Halley's Comet passed through the sky. The comet, named for English Astronomer Thomas Halley (rhymes with Valley), has passed through the sky about every 76 years. When it passed through the sky in this year, it coincided with the Ottoman siege of Belgrade. The Pope, seeing the comet as a portent of doom, had it excommunicated.
The hits keep coming, with 1456 being the year that Vlad the Impaler, also known as Vlad III of Dracul, returned to his home of Wallachia. With Hungarian support, he killed his cousin, Vladislav II, and take the ruling seat that was once his father's. The stories of Vlad and his cruelty would inspire Bram Stoker and countless others.
And speaking of famous names, 1456, and Christian/Ottoman relations, it was on this the 23rd of October in 1456 that San Giovanni da Capistrano, also known as St. John of Capistrano, died. Today, we will remember him as a fiery Franciscan preacher, a heresy hunter, and a septuagenarian soldier.
Born in 1386 in Capistrano in the Kingdom of Naples, John would become a member of the Franciscan order after an emotional conversion in jail. We only know he was in prison for a civil dispute. By 1426 his fame had spread as a preacher, and soon John would strike out on his own by founding an even more ascetic version of the Franciscans. In 1451 he was sent by the Pope to Austria in an attempt to suppress the Hussite movement. John had little impact against the Hussites, but while in Austria, he heard stories about the Ottoman's siege in Belgrade.
The battle that led to Halley's Comet's papal excommunication, fueled by Vlad the Impaler's political machinations, would be led by the 70-year-old John of Capistrano. Through his fiery apocalyptic preaching, John raised an army that was able to repel the Ottomans. However, inclement weather and poor sanitary conditions led to an outbreak of the plague that killed many Hungarian combatants and killed John. The man whose name would become synonymous with a Southern California mission and the town where 1517 began, died on this, the 23rd of October in 1456. He was 70 years old.
The reading for today is a quote from John of Damascus.
"In former times, God, who is without form or body, could never be depicted. But now when God is seen in the flesh conversing with men, I make an image of the God whom I see. I do not worship matter; I worship the Creator of matter who became matter for my sake."
This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 23rd of October 2020 brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org. The show is produced by a man who…
"whispered, "Farewell", in Capistrano
Twas the day the swallow flew out to sea"
…our very own sound man, Christopher Gillespie. The show is written and read by Dan van Voorhis. You can catch us here every day. Remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness, and the redemption of all things are true. Everything is going to be ok.