Sandro Magister today provides what he calls some Summer Reading about the 800 martyrs of Otranto, whose memorial is today. They died on August 14, 1480, defending Italy against an invasion by the Ottoman Turks. After conquering Constantinople, the Turks landed in Italy and attacked the easternmost city of Otranto in the course of their ambition to conquer Christian Europe. The city's two-week resistance is seen by historians as key to defending southern Italy, allowing the city of Naples enough time to prepare for the ensuing attack.
After the Turks prevailed in Otranto, the 800 men were killed on the orders of one Ahmed because they refused to convert to Islam. From an early manuscript with an account of the incident, one of the 800 is reported to have said:
"My brothers, until today we have fought in defense of our homeland, to save our lives, and for our earthly governors; now it is time for us to fight to save our souls for our Lord. And since he died on the cross for us, it is fitting that we should die for him, remaining firm and constant in the faith, and with this earthly death we will earn eternal life and the glory of martyrdom."
"Otranto teaches us that a culturally homogeneous civilization – or even one predominantly animated by realistic principles – is capable of reacting in a substantially unified manner in defense of its own peace, and can do this without trampling upon its own identity and dignity."