He, who has faith in God, has strength!

St Spyridon - Chiesa Santa Maria Assunta, Villa Badessa (icon).

THE TURKISH SIEGE OF CORFU, 1716 : THE MIRACULOUS INTERVENTION OF SAINT SPYRIDON THAT SAVED THE WEST AND CHRISTIANITY

 

1. INTRODUCTION

Towards the end of the 14th Century, after years of the Venetian attempt to annex the Island of Corfu (Kerkyra)[1] from the Byzantine Empire, the Venetians made a successful attack and gained control of the island on 20.03.1386, which lasted to 1797 when it was ceded to the French.

After the fall of Constantinople in 1453 and the subsequent occupation of Greece, Corfu was the only part of the country that never came under Turkish rule. The Ottomans made several attacks over the years including a great siege which began on 29.08.1537, when they landed 25.000 troops on the island. Notwithstanding the destruction wrought on the countryside, the city castle held out in spite of repeated attempts over twelve days to take it, and the Ottomans finally left the island unsuccessfully because of poor logistics and an epidemic that decimated their ranks, but not without taking 20.000 christian hostages as slaves.

Thirty-four years later, in August 1571, Ottoman forces returned for yet another attempt to conquer the island. Having seized Parga and Mourtos from the Greek mainland side of Epirus, they attacked and ravaged the Paxi islands. Subsequently, they landed on Corfu's southeast shore and established a large beachhead all the way from the southern tip of the island at Lefkimi to Ypsos in Corfu's eastern midsection. These areas were thoroughly pillaged as in past encounters. Nevertheless the city castle stood firm again, a testament to Corfiot-Venetian steadfastness, as well as the Venetian castle-building engineering skills. It is also worth mentioning the strength of some old Byzantine castles, specifically Angelokastro (Greek: Ἀγγελόκαστρο meaning Angelo's Castle and named for its Byzantine owner Angelos Komnenos), situated on the northwest coast near Palaiokastritsa (Greek: Παλαιοκαστρίτσα meaning Old Castle place) and located on particularly steep and rocky terrain - a tourist attraction today - which also held out.

These defeats in the east and the west of the island proved decisive, and the Ottomans abandoned their siege and departed. Two years later (1573) they repeated their attempt. Coming from Africa after a victorious campaign, they landed in Corfu and wreaked havoc on rural areas. However, the Venetian-Corfiot forces counter-attacked and drove them back to their ships.

After the sieges in 1571 and 1573, the Venetians undertook to work faster in building the fortifications of Corfu Town including New Fort, Avramios Fort, and The Savior’s Fort (San Salvatore).

In 1683, the Turks were defeated at the Second Siege of Vienna basically ending their expansion plans into Europe, but were their plans of expansion truly ended? Corfu was still a thorn in their side and the Turks eyed it like a hawk eyes its prey.

The Seventh Ottoman-Venetian War started in 1714 and gave the Ottomans another opportunity to capture Corfu from the Venetians. In 1715, the Turks conquered the Peloponnese (known then as the “Morea”), a major possession of the Venetians, which was a crushing blow. They next turned their sights on the Ionian Islands, including Corfu, and a victory there would give them a base for an invasion into Europe, and the spread of Islam.

On 08.07.1716, the Turkish fleet carrying 33.000 men sailed to Corfu from Butrinto on the Albanian coast opposite to the city of Corfu[2] and established a beachhead in Ypsos with landings of some 4.000 Janissaries and 6.000 other troops. On the evening of the same day, however, a Venetian squadron commanded by Andrea Cornaro arrived unexpectedly and attacked the Ottoman fleet commanded by Canim Hoca Mehmed Pasha, despite having only 27 ships to the Ottomans' 62. The ensuing naval battle was indecisive, but the sudden Venetian attack forced the Ottoman ships to cut their anchors and temporarily abandon their anchorage and interrupt their ferrying of the Ottoman troops. On 10 July, the Ottoman ships recommenced landing troops, a process which continued without the Venetians making any attempt to interrupt it. Clashes continued over the next few days, as reinforcements started arriving for the defenders and the Ottomans alike. Corfu was defended by 8.000 land troops led by Field Marshal John Mathew von der Schulenburg, an Austrian general in Venetian employ, and naval forces were commanded by the Venetian noble Andrea Pisani. From July 19 to August 8 1716, the Turks captured several forts and laid siege to the town attempting several assaults, but they did not succeed to breach the main fortifications. On August 9, an intense storm destroyed the Turkish camps and panic spread among the Turkish soldiers. There were also rumors spreading among the Turks that many of their soldiers saw Saint Spyridon as a monk threatening them with a glittering sword and that helped increase their panic. The siege was broken on August 11 and after another intense storm on 20.08.1716, the following day the Turks abandoned their camps and withdrew their forces in such haste that they left behind many supplies and equipment, including siege guns, animals and even soldiers[3]. Corfu was saved.

 

2. WHO IS SAINT SPYRIDON

Saint Spyridon, Bishop of Trimithous or Tremythous (Greek: Ἅγιος Σπυρίδων; c. 270 – 348) is a saint honored in both the Eastern and Western Christian traditions. Spyridon was born in Askeia, in Cyprus (a village in the Famagusta district of Cyprus now under Turkish occupation). He worked as a shepherd and was known for his great piety. Upon the death of his wife, Spyridon entered a monastery and later became Bishop of Tremythous (today called Tremetousia), in the district of Larnaca. He took part in the First Ecumenical Council of Nicaea (325), where he was instrumental in countering the theological arguments of Arius and his followers. He reportedly converted a pagan philosopher to Christianity by using a potsherd to illustrate how one single entity (a piece of pottery) could be composed of three unique entities (fire, water and clay); a metaphor for the Christian doctrine of the Trinity. As soon as Spyridon finished speaking, the potsherd is said to have miraculously burst into flame, water dripped on the ground, and only dust remained in his hand (other accounts of this event say that it was a brick he held in his hand). After the Nicaea Council, Spyridon returned to his diocese in Tremithous. He later fell into disfavor during the persecutions of the emperor Maximinus, but died peacefully in old age. When the Arabs took Cyprus, Spyridon's body was disinterred and taken to Constantinople. The relics were found to be incorrupt[4], and contained a sprig of basil, the "royal plant," both of which were taken as a sign of divine confirmation of his sanctity. When, in 1453, Constantinople fell to the Ottomans, Spyridon's relics were removed again; this time, to the island of Corfu by a Corfiote monk called Kalohairetis (Καλοχαιρέτης), where they remain to this day, in Saint Spyridon Orthodox Church. Spyridon is the patron Saint of potters (from the miracle of the potsherd) and also of the island of Corfu where he is called: "Ἃγιος Σπυρίδων ὁ πολιοῡχος", ("Saint Spyridon, the Keeper of the City") for the miracle of expelling the plague (πανούκλη) from the island (1629 and 1673–1674). He is depicted, in the Orthodox iconographic tradition, wearing, out of humility, a shepherd's cap.[5]

 

3. SAINT SPYRIDON’S DIVINE INTERVENTION

The Ottoman armies were concentrated at the far walls of the city. The two senior Venetian commanders, Count Matthias Johann von der Schulenburg of the land forces, and Andrea Pisani of the navy, were anxiously anticipating the oncoming enemy. At daybreak on August 11, 1716, St. Spyridon the patron Saint of the island appeared in front of the enemy lines holding a glistening sword in his right hand. His austere and grandiose appearance horrified the muslim aggressors who began to recede. The Ottomans, panic-stricken by the most awesome presence and fearless attack of the Saint, abandoned weapons, machinery and animals running for their lives. This great miracle became known to Christians and Ottomans alike.

Immediately after 22 August, a number of texts were published announcing the victory and attributing it not only to Schulenburg, Andrea Pisani and Pope Clement XI who played a fundamental role in the formation of an alliance between the Christian powers, but also to Heaven. According to “Diaria relazione dell’attacco della piazza di Corfu dall’armi ottomane l’anno 1716”, St Spyridon had been even more instrumental in the Christian victory. This report, written originally in French, was addressed to the secretary of the Duke of Orleans. The "Marciana Library" in Venice and the library of the University of Padua possess manuscripts of its Italian translation saying: “Was it because of a sudden revolt of the troops – which is not unusual to this barbarous, arrogant and uncivilized nation? Was there an explicit command by the chief of the army after an order of his sovereign who saw that all effort was in vain? It is more correct to attribute the victory to the almighty divine power and to the intercession of St Spyridon, patron of the town. This pious supposition has been confirmed by the testimony of some Turks who have been found in the countryside and taken as prisoners of war. These said that they saw an army of more than 60.000 men at the head of which was a monk with a torch and a sword in his hands; the monk chased the Turks away and threatened to beat them; this caused great confusion in the camp and forced them to retire from the island, leaving everything behind them”.

After Corfu's deliverance from the Ottoman siege, Andrea Pisani, the governor and captain-general of Corfu who belonged to the Latin Catholic Church, wished to do something in order to thank the saint for his great benefaction concerning the aforementioned deliverance. He consulted a papist theologian and Cardinal of the island, Francisco Frangipani, as to what he should do. Frangipani advised him to erect a catholic altar in the Orthodox Church of St. Spyridon, so that they could perform a Latin mass inside ; and "your Excellency can hear the mass in your own language when you are present there", he said. However, St. Spyridon appeared to Pisani in a dream saying : “Why are you bothering me? The altar of your faith is unacceptable in my Temple”! Naturally, Pisani reported this to the papist Cardinal who answered that it was nothing but an evil fantasy of the devil who wanted to nullify the “noble deed”. After this, Pisani was very much encouraged, so he ordered the necessary materials to commence construction of the altar. The materials were piled up outside of the temple of St. Spyridon. When the Orthodox priests of the temple and the Greek leaders of the island realized this, they were cut to the heart. They asked to meet with Pisani to beg him to put a stop to this. Pizani’s response was quite disheartening. He bluntly said : “As the ruler, “I will do whatever I please!” At that moment, the Orthodox community of the island turned their eyes to their Saint beseeching him to put a stop to this abomination.

That same night, St. Spyridon appeared to Pisani as a monk and told him : “I told you not to bother me. If you dare to go through with your decision, you will surely regret it, but by then it will be too late”! The next morning Pisani reported all this to the papist Cardinal who now accused him of being not only faithless but “yellow”. Again, after this, the ruler mustered up enough courage to order the construction of the altar. The Catholics of the island were celebrating their triumph while the Orthodox were deeply grieved. Their grief could not be comforted and with tears they begged for the Saint’s intervention to save them from the Papist abomination. The Saint heard their prayers and intervened dynamically.

At around midnight on November 12th, the day on which the craftsmen expected to start their work, a terrible storm broke out unleashing a barrage of lightings and thunderbolts on Fort Kasteli, the headquarters of Pisani and his ammunition barracks. It was then that the guard of the governor's residence saw a monk approaching him holding a lit torch in his hand. The guard asked him once, and then twice : "Who are you? Where are you going?" And as he did not receive an answer, he lifted his musket in order to kill the visitor. But then the monk answered : "I am Spyridon". As soon as he said this he grabbed the guard by the arm and threw him out without a single scratch into Spianada Square, near the church of Crucified in the city of Corfu. There the guard found himself standing upright on both feet holding his gun as he had been before. Immediately following this, the saint lit the store house of the castle on fire. The entire fort ended up in a holocaust. Nine hundred catholic soldiers and civilians were instantly killed from the explosion, but not a single Orthodox - who were not allowed in the fort after dark- was harmed. Pisani was found dead with his neck having been crushed between two wooden beams in such a way that it was as though they had been placed there for that purpose. The body of the papist Cardinal was found thrown outside the walls of the citadel in a ditch, into which all the squalor of the city sewer drained and flowed, holding his private parts in his hand. That same night, a large silver oil lamp that the governor had hung as an offering before the saint's relics in the orthodox temple fell to the ground and its base broke into pieces, in spite of having been hung with a very strong chain. None of the numerous other oil lamps fell or suffered anything similar. But the most amazing fact is that the same night and at the same hour another storm struck in Venice, hundreds of km away from Corfu, targeting the compound of Pisani, burning his portrait that hung on the wall. Strangely enough nothing else was damaged. The extreme heat caused the buildings that were inside the governor's palace and everything around it to collapse.

Following these events, the rest of the Latin laymen and clergy gave the command that the aforementioned building materials be taken away from the Saint's church. They made use of the materials elsewhere, save the marble slab which had been cut for the altar. This was taken to their so-called "duomo", that is the cathedral of their own metropolis, into the great altar. It can still be seen there today resting low on its side. The soldier, who had been the guard at the castle on that day, was roused and crying out in a loud voice, declaring, "Saint Spyridon did these great and fearful things". And he would tell the whole story in great detail. Therefore, the Latins, not wanting to bear the shame, sent him away to Italy three days later.

 

4. THE AFTERMATH

Afterwards, as a result of Austria renewing its alliance with Venice, the Turks declared war against Austria and the Ottomans were forced to abandon their design on capturing any further Venetian possessions. In 1718 the Treaty of Passarowitz was signed and although the Turks kept the Peloponnese (Morea), it showed that the Ottoman Turks were on the defensive and their desire of conquest of the Europe, through the Ionian Islands, especially Corfu, ended.

Corfu was saved, but in reality, the West and Christianity were saved. When the Ottoman Turks were repulsed at the Battle of Vienna (1683), and their play for Europe blocked, their only avenue to the West was through the Ionian Islands. If Corfu had fallen to the Turks, the Italian coast was only a mere 60 miles and Europe lay open to conquest and the spread of Islam. It was at Corfu, in 1716, that history was changed.

The repulse of the Ottomans was widely celebrated in Europe, Corfu being seen as a bastion of Western civilization against the Ottoman tide. Today, however, this role is often relatively unknown or ignored. After the victorious outcome of the battle, Venice honored Schulenburg and the Corfiotes for successfully defending the island. The great composer Antonio Vivaldi was commissioned to write an opera, “Juditha triumphans”, in celebration of the victory.[6]



[1] Corfu or Kerkyra (in Greek: Κέρκυρα, romanized: Kérkyra), is a Greek island in the Ionian Sea, of the Ionian Islands, and, including its small satellite islands, forms the margin of the northwestern frontier of Greece.

[2] Buthrotum (Albanian: Butrint; Latin: Buthrōtum; from Ancient Greek: Βουθρωτόν, translit. Bouthrōtón) was an ancient Greek of the Greek tribe of the Chaonians and later a Roman city in Epirus. It entered into decline in Late Antiquity, before being abandoned during the Middle Ages after a major earthquake flooded most of the city. In the following centuries, the area was a site of conflict between the Byzantines, the Angevins of southern Italy, and the Venetians, and the area changed hands many times. The dogal Republic of Venice purchased the area including Corfu from the Angevins in 1386. The area was seized by the Ottoman Turks in 1655 and 1718, before being recaptured by the Venetians. Under article 5 of the Treaty of Campo Formio of 1797 and the abolishment of the Republic of Venice, Butrinto came under French sovereignty. In 1799, the local Ottoman governor Ali Pasha Tepelena reconquered it and it became a part of the Ottoman Empire. In modern times, it is an archeological site in Vlorë County, Albania, located on a hill overlooking the Vivari Channel, some 14 km south of Saranda and very close to the Greek border. The Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev visited the ruins in 1959 and suggested to the communist government of Enver Hoxha to turn the area into a submarine base. It is accessible from Saranda, along a road first built in 1959 for the visit of Nikita Khrushchev.

[3] The precipitated Turkish withdrawal presented an ideal opportunity for a Venetian attack, but Pisani refused to do so, contenting himself withdrawing his ships up in a line to block the southern exit of the Channel. When he did try to attack on the 23rd, contrary wind prevented him from coming close to the Ottoman fleet, and on the 24th he returned to passively keeping watch over the southern exit of the Channel. This allowed Canim Hoca Mehmed Pasha to move his fleet north to Butrint, and thence exit the Channel from the north and then sail south along the western coast of Greece and return to the safety of the Dardanelles.

[4] Inside the Church of Saint Spyridon in Corfu there is a crypt, where his relics are kept in a double sarcophagus, and are on view to the public twice a day. On his Feast Day, 12 December in the Eastern Orthodox Church, 14 December in the West, the relics are carried through the town. The church warden says that on some occasions there is no key to open the coffin. Then the priests know that the saint is not there, that he travels the island.

The relics, which are said to have the temperature of a living body, and flesh which has remained supple, have been studied and examined by many scientists from around the world, none of them has an explanation for this phenomenon.

Saint Spyridon is known as “The walking Saint”, his silk slippers need to be replaced frequently as it’s said they wear out as he walks the world performing miracles, his coffin has a removable bottom, to make things easier when replacing his shoes, which is done on his feast Day.

[5] Along with being patron Saint of the island of Corfu and the potters, St Spyridon is the patron Saint of the Tolstoy family, chosen by Andrei Tolstoy after the Grand Prince of Muscovy, Basil II, gave him a gold cross containing relics of Saint Spyridon in around 1430; this still exists and is now the property of Nikolaï Tolstoy, the family’s most senior member.

[6] The Ottomans lost some 15,000 dead in Corfu, along with 56 cannons and 8 siege mortars, and large quantities of materiel, which they abandoned.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

SOURCES

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_Spyridon

https://www.academia.edu/45112923/Mediterranean_Historical_Review_Local_religion_in_Corfu_sixteenth_to_nineteenth_centuries_Theodossios_Nikolaidis

The Great Miracle of St. Spyridon on August 11, 1716 | MYSTAGOGY RESOURCE CENTER (johnsanidopoulos.com)

https://www.corfuhistory.eu/?p=379

http://netcastle-webgis.eu/%CE%B9%CF%83%CF%84%CE%BF%CF%81%CE%B9%CE%BA%CE%BF%CE%AF-%CF%87%CE%AC%CF%81%CF%84%CE%B5%CF%82/

https://orthochristian.com/89163.html

https://www.impantokratoros.gr/stspyridon-miracle.en.aspx?

http://www.hellenicaworld.com/Greece/Religion/en/SaintSpyridon.html

https://greekerthanthegreeks.com/2017/12/saint-spyridon-of-corfu-greece-his.html


 

 

 

The Greek island of Corfu seen from the International Space Station on April 17, 2001, at 13:54:44 GMT, at a height of 383 kilometers. Source : https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Corfu_from_ISS.jpg
The Venetian admiral Andrea Pisani in 1716. Source : https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Andrea_Pisani,_1716.png
Matthias Johann von der Schulenburg, Reichsgraf; Graf; Dt. Heerführer; Feldmarschall im Dienste der Republik Venedig. Source : https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Arolsen_Klebeband_01_431.jpg
Historical map depicting the explosion of the ammunition barracks at fort Kasteli in Corfu with St Spyridon holding a lit torch. Source : http://netcastle-webgis.eu/
The orthodox temple of St. Spyridon, Corfu.
The double sarcophagus of St Spyridon.
The sarcophagus & holy relics of St Spyridon.
The holy relics of St. Spyridon.
The silk slippers of St Spyridon.
Museum of Byzantine Culture, Thessaloniki, Greece.
Святитель Спиридон Тримифунтский.
Святитель Спиридон Тримифунтский.

Écrire un nouveau commentaire: (Cliquez ici)

123website.be
Caractères restants : 160
OK Envoi...
Voir tous les commentaires

Commentaires

08.01 | 18:39

Grand merci pour la leçon d'histoire.
Nguyen Van Kiet

...
29.09 | 17:00

remarquable de précisions et donne l'idée générale de la ruse de guerre pour mieux répartir ses forces.

...
02.02 | 10:40

Texte très bien pensé et structuré. Félicitations.

...
11.10 | 11:19
WHO WON WWII ? a reçu 1
Vous aimez cette page