May 23, 1618 Thrown out of the Window

The first such defenestration took place back on July 30, 1419, when radical followers of the Protestant reformer Jan Hus were marching by the new town hall. Someone threw a rock out of the window at them, and they busted down the door.  The mob threw a judge, a Burgomaster and 13 members of the town council out of the window.

Défenestrer:  from dé- +‎ fenêtre +‎ -er.  The word is obsolete now, but in the old French, the root signified “window”.   “Defenestrate” then, combines with an object, meaning to throw a person or thing, out of  the window.

In 1840, a young politician found himself in a legislative minority, opposed to a payment to the Illinois State Bank.  In order to prevent a quorum,  a handful of Whigs attempted to leave the chamber.  Finding the door locked, our man stepped to a second-story window, and jumped out.  Abraham Lincoln would come to regret what he called his “window scrape”, but the future 16th President was far from the first politician to jump out of a window.  Voluntarily, or otherwise.

Jezebel, yeah that Jezebel, the unlovable Queen of Israel from the Bible, was executed by defenestration, in BC842.

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Defenestration of Jezebel by Gustave Dore

In 1617, the Kingdom of Bohemia included pretty much all of the modern-day Czech Republic, a principality in those days ruled by the Habsburg dynasty, and included in the Holy Roman Empire.

Ever since the Peace of Augsburg in 1555, the religious persuasion of all subjects was guided by the principle of “Cuius Regio, Eius Religio“:   the ruling Prince got to choose the religious practices of his subjects.

The system worked fairly well, and Emperor Rudolf II further guaranteed religious liberty in his “Letter of Majesty”, of 1609. Then came King Matthias, aging and without issue, who elected Ferdinand of Styria his heir in 1617. Now everything changed. A strong proponent of the Catholic counter-reformation, Ferdinand was not well disposed to the religious liberties of the Protestant majority. Before long, Bohemian officials were closing Protestant chapels.

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On May 23, 1618, “Defensors” appointed under the Letter of Majesty to protect Protestant rights called an assembly in Prague, trying and convicting the Imperial Regents of violating their religious rights. These Regents were Vilem Slavata of Chlum, and Count Jaroslav Borzita of Martinice. Having been found guilty, they, along with their secretary Philip Fabricius, were thrown out of the windows of Prague Castle. Literally.

It was 70-ft. down, to the street.

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This event, the Defenestration of Prague, signaled the beginning of the 30 years’ war, but this wasn’t the first time that someone had been thrown out of a Prague window.

The first such defenestration took place back on July 30, 1419, when radical followers of the Protestant reformer Jan Hus were marching by the new town hall. Someone threw a rock out of the window at them, and they busted down the door.  The mob threw a judge, a Burgomaster (“Master of the Town”) and 13 members of the town council out of the window.

These guys weren’t as fortunate as the victims of the second defenestration, 200 years later.  These guys died in the fall or were dispatched by the mob, below.

What happened to the victims of the second defenestration? Surprisingly, none of the three were seriously injured. Supporters claimed they were caught and protected from injury by holy angels.  Detractors attributed their salvation to a pile of horseshit.  Be that as it may, Phillip Fabricius was made a Noble by the Emperor, and granted a title:  Baron von Hohenfall.   (“Baron of Highfall“).

I swear I wouldn’t make that up.

 

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May 6, 1951 A Shepherd in Combat Boots

In the end, Father Kapaun was too weak to lift the plate holding the meager ration the guards had left for him. US Army records report that he died of pneumonia on May 6, 1951.  He was 35.

Emil Joseph Kapaun was the son of Czech immigrants, a farm kid who grew up in 1920s Kansas. Graduating from Pilsen High, class of 1930, he spent much of the 30s in theological seminary, becoming an ordained priest of the Roman Catholic faith on June 9, 1940.

download (64)Kapaun served as military chaplain toward the end of WWII, before leaving the army in 1946, and rejoining in 1948.

Father Kapaun was ordered to Korea a month after the North invaded the South, joining the 8th Cavalry Regiment of the 1st Cavalry Division, out of Fort Bliss.

His unit entered combat at the Pusan perimeter, moving steadily northward through the summer and fall of 1950. Kapaun would minister to the dead and dying, performing baptisms, hearing first confessions, offering Holy Communion and celebrating Mass from an improvised altar set up on the hood of a jeep.

Kapaun once lost his Mass kit to enemy fire. He earned a Bronze Star in September that year, when he ran through intense enemy fire to rescue a wounded soldier. His was no rear-echelon ministry.

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A single regiment was attacked by the 39th Chinese Corps on November 1, and completely overrun the following day. For the 8th Cav., the battle of Unsan was one of the most devastating defeats of the Korean War. Father Kapaun was ordered to evade, an order he defied. He was performing last rites for a dying soldier, when he was seized by Chinese communist forces.

Prisoners were force marched 87 miles to a Communist POW camp near Pyoktong, in North Korea. Conditions in the camp were gruesome. 1st Lt. Michael Dowe was among the prisoners, it’s through him that we know much of what happened there. Dowe later described Father Kapaun trading his watch for a blanket, only to cut it up to fashion socks for the feet of fellow prisoners.

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Father Kapaun would risk his life, sneaking into the fields around the prison compound to look for something to eat. He would always bring it back to the communal pot.

Chinese Communist guards would taunt him during daily indoctrination sessions, “Where is your god now?” Before and after these sessions, he would move through the camp, ministering to Catholic and non-Catholic alike. Kapaun would slip in behind every work detail, cleaning latrines while other prisoners argued over who’d get the job. He’d wash the filthy laundry of those made weak and incontinent with dysentery.

Screen shot 2012-04-30 at 6.50.19 AMStarving, suffering from a blood clot in his leg and a severe eye infection, Father Kapaun led Easter services in April, 1951. He was incapacitated a short time later. Chinese guards carried him off to a “hospital” – a fetid, stinking part of the camp known to prisoners as the “Death House”, from which few ever returned. “If I don’t come back”, he said, “tell my Bishop that I died a happy death.”

In the end, Father Kapaun was too weak to lift the plate holding the meager ration the guards had left for him. US Army records report that Fr. Kapaun died of pneumonia on May 6, 1951.

His fellow prisoners will tell you that he died on the 23rd, of malnutrition and starvation. He was 35.

Scores of men credit their survival to Chaplain Kapaun. In 2013, President Barack Obama presented Kapaun’s family with the Medal of Honor, posthumous, for his heroism at Unsan. The New York Times reported that April, “The chaplain “calmly walked through withering enemy fire” and hand-to-hand combat to provide medical aid, comforting words or the last rites of the Roman Catholic Church to the wounded, the citation said. When he saw a Chinese soldier about to execute a wounded comrade, Sgt. First Class Herbert A. Miller, he rushed to push the gun away. Mr. Miller, now 88, was at the White House for the ceremony with other veterans, former prisoners of war and members of the Kapaun family”.

Cmoh_armyPope John Paul II named Father Kapaun a “Servant of God” in 1993, the first step toward Roman Catholic Sainthood. On November 9, 2015, the Catholic Diocese of Wichita submitted a 1,066 page report on the life of Chaplain Kapaun, to the Roman Curia at the Vatican. A team of six historians reviewed the case for beatification. On June 21, 2016, the committee unanimously approved the petition. At the time I write this, Father Emil Joseph Kapaun’s supporters continue working to have him declared a Saint of the Roman Catholic Church, for his lifesaving ministrations at Pyoktong.

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May 1, B.C.62 Ladies Night

Scandal broke out on this day in 62BC, when the aforementioned meathead, the politician Publius Clodius Pulcher, dressed as a woman and sneaked into the festival for the Bona Dea, bent on seducing Caesar’s wife, Pompeia.

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To this day, we know her only as Feminea Dea (“The Women’s Goddess”)

The etymology website etymonline.com defines “pulchritude” as (n.) – “beauty,” c. 1400, from Latin pulchritudo “beauty, excellence, attractiveness”.

The word has fallen out of everyday usage, and the website indicates origin unknown.  Possibly, the term comes down to us from an individual, who may have been the greatest maniac if not the dumbest man, in Roman antiquity.  Either that, or a man so bull-headedly determined to get what he wanted, that he deserves to be remembered as one of the great Meatheads, of history.

In ancient Rome, women partook of a festival, strictly forbidden to Roman men.  So stringent was this line of demarcation that only women were permitted even to know the name of the deity, to whom the festival was dedicated.  For everyone else she was simply the “Good Goddess”. The Bona Dea.

The first of two annual festivals of the Bona Dea was held during the winter, at the Aventine Temple. The second rite took place every May, hosted by the wife of the current Pontifex Maximus and attended by an elite group of Roman matrons, female attendants and vestal virgins.

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Publius Clodius Pulcher

Eighteen years before the end of the Republic, the Pontifex Maximus was Julius Caesar. Scandal broke out on this day in 62BC, when the aforementioned meathead, the politician Publius Clodius Pulcher, dressed as a woman and sneaked into the festival for the Bona Dea, bent on seducing Caesar’s wife, Pompeia.

I’m not even sure how that was supposed to work but, of all the women in Rome, this guy set his sights on the wife of Julius Caesar.

Apparently, ol’ Pulcher was insufficiently pulchritudinous. He was found out and thrown out.  Thus vitiated, the rites of the Bona Dea were rendered null and void, necessitating repetition by the Vestals.  Meanwhile, the desecration of such rites carried a sentence of death.  The legal wrangling went on for two years.

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Pompeia, Granddaughter of Sulla, 2nd Wife of Caesar

In the end, Clodius was acquitted, a fact which Cicero put down to fixed juries and back-room dealings.  Pulcher’s populist politics would one day transform Clodius into “One of the most innovative urban politicians in Western history”.  His transvestite dalliance with the Bona Dea provided arch-rival Cicero with verbal ammunition, for years.

The verdict of the ages was quite unfair to Pompeia.  Nothing more substantial than gossip and rumor ever implicated her in the Bona Dea scandal.

Her husband, one of the most ambitious politicians of the era, divorced her anyway, claiming that “Caesar’s wife must be above suspicion”.

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March 17, 1621 First Encounter

Squanto would mediate between the settlers and the native tribes, teaching the Pilgrims to plant corn: several kernels in a mound, buried with a fish head to enrich the soil.  When planted together in a circle, the “three sisters” would support and thrive together, the corn stalks providing poles for the beans, and the squash leaves providing ground cover & holding in moisture, while keeping weeds at bay.

images (29)In 1620, the 60-ton Pinnace Speedwell departed Delfshaven, meeting with Mayflower at Southampton, Hampshire. The two vessels set out on August 15, but soon had to turn back as Speedwell was taking on water. Speedwell was abandoned after a second failed attempt, Mayflower setting out alone on September 16, 1620, with an estimated 142 passengers and crew.

66 days at sea brought the “Old Comers” up on the outer reaches of Cape Cod on November 11, near the present-day site of Provincetown Harbor.   There, the group stayed long enough to draw up the first written framework of government established in the New World, a “civil body politic” called the Mayflower Compact.

pilgrims_bwAs anyone familiar with the area will understand, a month in that place and time convinced them of its unsuitability.  By mid-December the Mayflower had crossed Cape Cod Bay and fetched up at Plimoth Harbor.

Words fail to describe the terrible conditions of that first winter.  Over half of these “Pilgrims” died during those first few months, eighty-two in all, of malnutrition, disease, exposure and starvation.  It was nearly as awful as the “starving time” of the Jamestown colony of ten years earlier, in which all but 60 of 214 colonists perished.

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Massasoit,

The morning of March 16, 1621 dawned fair and clear, warm for the season.  The settlers had long heard tales of their new neighbors, and even spotted a few back in November, at the modern-day “First Encounter Beach”, in Eastham.  There were wild stories of “cannibals” and “savages”, but none had yet been observed, at anything but a distance.  This morning, the newcomers realized that it was they who were being observed.

They were hurriedly arranging defenses when one of the “savages” approached the group, naked as the day he was born but for a leather fringe about his waist, holding a bow and two arrows.  Tall and straight with flowing black hair, the man walked straight up and introduced himself, to the astonishment of the group, in English.  He said his name was Samoset.

The following account appears in Mourt’s Relation (1622) written primarily by Edward Winslow and William Bradford:

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Samoset, “1st Friend” of the Pilgrims

Friday the 16th was a fair warm day….We were finishing our work, when a strange looking man, a man which caused us to be surprised becaused he seemed unafraid …. walked into the village. We stopped him. … He spoke to us in English, and was friendly. He said he had learned some English among the Englishmen that came to fish at Monhegan Island, and he gave us their names. He was a man who spoke freely and openly. We questioned him about many things. He was the first Indian we met. He said he was from Morattiggon (modern day Maine) and been 8 months in these parts…He asked for a drink and we gave him strong water and biscuit, and butter, and cheese, and pudding, and a piece of mallard (duck), all which he liked well. He said he had also eaten this food before with the English that had come before where he was from.

He told us the place where we now live was known as Patuxet by the Indians. Four years ago all the Indians who lived there died of a sickness and none were left, so they cannot hurt us, or to say the land where we now live belongs to them. All the afternoon we spent talking with him; we thought he would leave that night, but he did not leave. Then we thought to carry him on shipboard, and he intended to leave, but the wind was high and the water not deep enough so he could not return back that day. We lodged him that night at Stephen Hopkins house, and watched him.

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Southern New England tribal range, circa 1600

Samoset was a Sagamore (minor Chief) of the Abenaki tribe of modern-day Maine, visiting at that time with Ousamequin, the Pokanoket Sachem (leader) of the Wôpanâak (Wampanoag) and Massassoit (Great Sachem) of the Wampanoag Confederacy of southeastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

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This plaque is all that remains of the Pilgrim’s 1620 raid on the Nauset’s corn stash, in modern-day Truro, MA

Samoset warned the newcomers to beware the Nauset, later called “Cape Cod Indians”, a tribal unit of some one-hundred individuals sharing the Massachusett (Natick) language and occupying modern-day Cape Cod and surrounding islands. Small wonder.  Long before the large-scale colonization of the New World, European seafarers had kidnapped some twenty Nausets, and sold them into slavery, leaving in their wake diseases with which the native immune system was ill-equipped to deal.  It was a Nauset corn cache the Pilgrims themselves had plundered back in November, a stash laid up to take their people through the long, barren winter.

Samoset departed the following day, March 17, but returned on the 22nd with Tisquantum, (Squanto), one of the few surviving Pawtuxet.  A man who spoke better English than Samoset himself, Squanto would mediate between the settlers and the native tribes, including Massasoit.  Squanto taught the Pilgrims to plant corn: several kernels in a mound, buried with a fish head to enrich the soil.  When planted together in a circle, the “three sisters” would support one another and thrive together, the corn stalks acting as poles for the beans, and squash leaves providing ground cover & holding in moisture, while keeping weeds at bay.

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The Pawtuxet Squanto taught the Pilgrims what and where to plant, where to fish and how to hunt beaver

The newcomers reciprocated, teaching the natives about their own crops, with the aid of European farming tools.

“Days of Thanksgiving” took place in the New World as early September 8, 1565, when a group of Spaniards lead by explorer Pedro Menéndez de Avilé invited members of the Timucua tribe to a day of Thanksgiving in Saint Augustine, Florida.  Yet, the harvest feast of 1621, shared between the Pilgrims and the Pokanokets, is generally considered to be the basis for our own Thanksgiving holiday.

In the following months, the debt of corn was repaid to the Nauset people, who returned the favor by restoring a small boy to the colony, who’d been found lost and wandering in the woods.  The Nauset would become Christianized in the following years, turning out to be the European’s greatest allies.

Fairfield-WPA-Mural-Tomilson-High-School-FMHC_2014_Pano_Pequot_-800x272-1Years later, colonists would go to war against the Wampanoag people and ‘King Philip’, the English name for Metacomet, the son of Massasoit.  The Nauset would act as warriors and scouts against the Wampanoag people in King Philip’s War, a conflict which killed some 5,000 New England inhabitants, three quarters of whom were indigenous people.

In terms of the percentage killed of the overall population, King Philip’s War was over twice as costly as the American Civil War, and seven times that of the American Revolution.  But that must be a story for another day.

Feature image, top of page:  First Encounter Beach, Eastham Massachusetts

If you enjoyed this “Today in History”, please feel free to re-blog, “like” & share on social media, so that others may find and enjoy it as well. Please click the “follow” button on the right, to receive email updates on new articles.  Thank you for your interest, in the history we all share.

March 7, AD321 The Unconquered Sun

On March 7, AD321, Constantine I “The Great” decreed Dies Solis – Day of the Sun or “Sun-day”:  “On the venerable day of the Sun let the magistrates and people residing in cities rest, and let all workshops be closed”.

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The cithara or kithara (Greek: κιθάρα, kithāra, Latin: cithara) was an ancient Greek musical instrument in the lyra family of instruments

For two thousand years, a popular story has told the tale of Emperor Nero, playing the fiddle while Rome burned. Far be it for me to leap to the defense of a man who ordered the murder of his own wife and mother, except in the name of historical accuracy. The viol class of musical instruments, to which the fiddle belongs, didn’t come along until the 11th century. If Nero played anything it was probably a Cithara, a heavy wooden instrument with four to seven strings.

At least five versions come down to us about the Great Fire of 64AD, and the Emperor’s role in it. The Roman historian Tacitus tells us that Nero sang about the fall of Troy while the city burned, but admits there were no witnesses.

Cassius Dio and Suetonius ask us to believe, in their turn, that Nero a) secretly sent guys out to burn the city, b) openly did so and watched from the tower of Maecenas while singing and playing the lyre, c) the fire was started by an obscure religious sect called “Christians”, d) Nero sent his guys out after all, but sang and played his lyre from a private stage and e) the fire started by accident while Nero was thirty-five miles away at Antium, and the emperor rushed back to help the now-homeless people of Rome.

images (26)Be that as it may, three things are certain. First, The fire burned for six days, utterly destroying three of the 14 districts of Rome, and severely damaging seven others.  Next, Nero used the excuse of the fire to go after the Christians, having many of them arrested and executed. Last, the Domus Aurea (“Golden Palace”) and surrounding “Pleasure Gardens” which the emperor built on the ruins, would be the death of Emperor Nero.

Between AD65 and 68, Emperor Nero built a vast palace complex over an area of more than 200 acres, linking existing buildings on the Palatine Hill with the Gardens of Maecenas and other imperial properties on the Esquiline hills, and adding a grand colonnaded approach and vestibule surrounding an artificial lake.

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Reconstruction of the Domus Aurea, of Nero

One of the Great Wonders of antiquity, Nero’s “Golden house” was ruinously expensive, 300 rooms of dazzling white marble with pools in the floors and fountains splashing in corridors. There were jewel-encrusted walls and ivory clad columns.  An enormous vaulted ceiling lay underneath the dome of the main dining room, with an ingenious mechanism cranked by slaves, making the ceiling revolve like the heavens, as  rose petals dropped and perfume was sprayed on assembled diners.

Suetonius described the complex as “ruinously prodigal”. Nero himself would say nothing further on the palace’ dedication, save to say that he “had at last begun to live like a human being”.

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Artist’s rendering of the Colossus of Nero holds a rudder on the globe, symbolizing his dominion over land and sea.

At the center of it all, Nero built his Colossus Neronis, a giant gilded bronze statue – of himself.  Sources place the thing at 98′ to 121′ tall, roughly equal to the statue of liberty, from her feet to her crown.

With all of Italy “thoroughly exhausted by contributions of money” and “the provinces ruined”, the Emperor himself was roundly hated.  In June AD68, Nero learned that he’d been tried in absentia, and condemned to death as an enemy of the Roman people. Preparing himself for suicide, Nero muttered “Qualis artifex pereo” (“What an artist dies in me”).

Nero’s profligacy was a severe embarrassment to his successors.  Within a decade, the palace and its complex was stripped of its marble, jewels, and ivory embellishments.

Within forty years, most of the grounds were filled with earth and built over, replaced by the Baths of Titus, and the Temple of Venus and Rome. Vespasian drained the lake and built the Flavian Amphitheatre, but Nero’s Colossus, lived on.

In 69, Emperor Vespasian added a sun-ray crown and renamed the thing Colossus Solis, a dedication to the Roman sun god Sol Invictus (“Unconquered Sun”), patron of the legions and official Sun God of the later Roman Empire.

Around 128, Emperor Hadrian moved the statue from the Domus Aurea to just outside of the Colosseum, with a little help from the architect Decrianus, and 24 elephants. Emperor Commodus removed the head and replaced it with a likeness of his own, but the head was restored after Commodus’ death, and so it remained.

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The Arch of Constantine, the last and largest of the Triumphal Arches of Rome and dedicated in AD315, was carefully positioned to align with Sol Invictus, so that the Colossus formed the dominant backdrop when approaching the Colosseum via the main arch.

Six years later, March 7, AD321, Constantine I “The Great” decreed Dies Solis – Day of the Sun or “Sun-day” – as the Roman day of rest (Codex Justinianus 3.12.2):  “On the venerable day of the Sun let the magistrates and people residing in cities rest, and let all workshops be closed. In the country however persons engaged in agriculture may freely and lawfully continue their pursuits because it often happens that another day is not suitable for grain-sowing or vine planting; lest by neglecting the proper moment for such operations the bounty of heaven should be lost”.\

2000 years later Constantine’s day of rest remains, but the colossus of the Unconquered Sun is gone. The last known reference in antiquity dates back to the Calendar of 354, the earliest illuminated manuscript containing full page illustrations.

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Saint Bede of northumbria

It may have been destroyed during the Sack of Rome in 410, or perhaps it toppled in one of a series of 5th century earthquakes, its metal scavenged. There is evidence that Sol Invictus outlived the western Roman Empire and survived into the early middle ages. Bede the Venerable, an English monk from the monastery of St. Peter in Northumbria, wrote sometime circa 672–735: “As long as the Colossus stands, Rome will stand, when the Colossus falls, Rome will also fall, when Rome falls, so falls the world“.

Today, nothing remains of the Colossus of Nero, save for the foundations of its pedestal at the second location, near the ruins of the Colosseum.

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February 21, 1431 The Maid of Orléans

A National Heroine to the French, Joan of Arc was canonized a saint of the Roman Catholic Church, in 1920.  The only figure in history, to be both condemned and canonized by the church.  It was small consolation for this child who was set up for a fall by her enemies, and abandoned to be incinerated alive, by her friends.

The Hundred Years’ War began as a succession dispute over the French throne, pitting an alliance of Burgundians and English on one side, against a coalition of Royalists led by the Armagnacs on the other.

At this time Europeans were not far removed from the latest outbreak of the Black Death, as the scorched earth tactics of the English army laid waste to the countryside and devastated the French economy.

Charles, Dauphin and heir apparent to the French throne was up against a wall, when a teenage peasant girl approached him in 1429.

For the 14-year-old boy-king, even listening to her was an act of desperation, borne of years of humiliating defeats at the hands of the English army. Yet this illiterate peasant girl had made some uncanny predictions concerning battlefield successes.  Now she claimed to have had visions from God and the Saints, commanding her to help him gain the throne. Her name was Jeanne d’Arc.

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Siege of Orléans

The siege of Orléans was six months old at this time, when the Dauphin decided it couldn’t hurt to let her take part. Jeanne dressed herself in borrowed armor and set out, arriving on the 29th of April, 1429.

History has repeatedly demonstrated the truth of Taylor Owen’s admonition, on the subject of leadership: “An army of donkeys led by a lion is better than an army of lions led by a donkey.” So it was in the days following Jeanne’s arrival at Orléans.

Though repeatedly excluded from war councils, Jeanne managed to insert herself anyway, putting the French back on the offensive and handing them one victory after another.

Nine days after her arrival, Orléans turned into an unexpected victory for the French, despite Jeanne’s being shot through the neck and left shoulder by an English longbow, while holding a ladder at the siege of Tourelles.

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After the Dauphin granted her co-command of the army with Duke John II of Alençon, the French army enjoyed a string of successes, recovering Jargeau on June 12, Meung-sur-Loire on the 15th, and Beaugency two days later, leading to a humiliating English defeat at the battle at Patay on the 18th.

Several more Armagnac victories followed.  On July 17, 1429, Charles was consecrated King Charles VII of France, fifth King of the House of Valois, with Jeanne d’Arc holding her standard over his head.

Despite her loyalty to the King, court favorite Georges de La Trémoille convinced Charles that Jeanne was becoming too powerful.  The King’s support began to waver.  She was pulled from her horse during the siege of Compiègne in May, 1430, and her allies failed to come to her aid.  Left outside as town gates were closed, she was captured and taken to the castle of Bouvreuil.

Joan_of_arcSome 70 charges were made against her by the pro-English Bishop of Beauvais, Pierre Cauchon, including witchcraft, heresy, and perjury.

Representatives of the judge were dispatched to Jeanne’s home village of Domremy, to ascertain the prisoner’s virginity, character, habits and associations.

Nicolas Bailly, the man responsible for collecting testimony, reported that he “had found nothing concerning Joan that he would not have liked to find about his own sister”. This Bishop Cauchon character must have been some piece of work.  The report so angered the man, that he called Bailly “a traitor and a bad man” and refused to pay him for his work.

Jean Le Maistre, whose presence as Vice-Inquisitor for Rouen was required by canon law, objected to the proceedings and refused to appear, until the English threatened his life.

Interrogation of the prisoner began on February 21, 1431. The outcome was never in doubt. Transcripts were falsified and witnesses intimidated.  Even then, trial records reveal this illiterate peasant girl to be brighter than all her inquisitors, combined.

One example from her third interrogation, was the Question: “Do you know whether or not you are in God’s grace?”. The question was a trap.  Church doctrine stated that no one could be certain of being in God’s grace, yet a “no” answer would have been held against her.  “If I am not”, she said, “may God put me there; and if I am, may God so keep me. I should be the saddest creature in the world if I knew I were not in His grace.”

Joan_of_arc_interrogationAfter fifteen such interrogations her inquisitors still had nothing on her, save for the wearing of soldier’s garb, and her visions. Yet, the outcome of her “trial” was already determined.  She was found guilty of heresy, and sentenced to be burned at the stake.

On May 24, Jeanne was taken to a scaffold.  Threatened that she would be immediately burned alive if she didn’t disavow her visions and abjure the wearing of soldier’s clothing, Jeanne agreed to sign such an abjuration, but recanted four days later.

The death sentence was carried out on May 30, 1431, in the old marketplace at Rouen. She was 19.

When the fire burned down, the coals were raked back to expose her charred body.  No one would be able to claim she’d escaped alive. Her body was then burned twice more – there would be no collection of relics.  Her ashes were cast into a river.

Guillaume Manchon, one of the court scribes, later recalled of the maid’s incarceration: “[S]he was then dressed in male clothing, and was complaining that she could not give it up, fearing lest in the night her guards would inflict some act of [sexual] outrage upon her; and she had complained once or twice to the Bishop of Beauvais, the Vice-Inquisitor, and Master Nicholas Loiseleur that one of the aforesaid guards had tried to rape her.”

Jeanne’s executioner, Geoffroy Therage, later said that he “Greatly feared to be damned”.

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Blessed Sacrament-St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church, New Orleans, Louisiana, LA

An inquisitorial court authorized by Pope Calixtus III re-examined the evidence, 25 years later. The court exonerated her of all charges, pronouncing her innocent on July 7, 1456, later declaring her to be a martyr.

A National Heroine to the French, Joan of Arc was canonized a saint of the Roman Catholic Church, in 1920.  The only figure in history, to be both condemned and canonized by the church.  It was small consolation for this child who was set up for a fall by her enemies, and abandoned to be incinerated alive, by her friends.

 

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February 3, 1943  Greater Love Hath No Man Than This

As the ship upended and went down by the bow, survivors floating nearby could see the four chaplains.  With arms linked and leaning against the slanting deck, their voices offered prayers and sang hymns for the dead and for those about to die.

The Troop Transport USAT Dorchester sailed out of New York Harbor on January 23, 1943, carrying 904 service members, merchant seamen and civilian workers.  They were headed for the  the Army Command Base at Narsarsuaq in southern Greenland, part of a six-ship convoy designated SG-19, together with two merchant ships and escorted by the Coast Guard Cutters Comanche, Escanaba and Tampa.

Built as a coastal liner in 1926, Dorchester was anything but graceful, bouncing and shuddering her way through the rough seas of the North Atlantic.

German U-Boats had already sunk several ships in these waters.  One of the Cutters detected a submarine late on February 2, flashing the light signal “we’re being followed”.  Dorchester Captain Hans Danielson ordered his ship on high alert that night.  Men were ordered to sleep in their clothes with their life jackets on, but many disregarded the order.  It was too hot down there in the holds, and those life jackets were anything but comfortable.

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Some of those off-duty tried to sleep that night, while others played cards or threw dice, well into the night.  Nerves were understandably on edge, especially among new recruits, as four Army chaplains passed among them with words of encouragement.

They were the Jewish rabbi Alexander David Goode, the Catholic priest John Patrick Washington, the Reformed Church in America (RCA) minister Clark Vandersail Poling, and the Methodist minister George Lansing Fox.

At 12:55am on February 3rd, the German submarine U-223 fired a spread of three torpedoes.  One struck Dorchester amidships, deep below the water line.  A hundred or more were killed in the blast, or in the clouds of steam and ammonia vapor billowing from ruptured boilers.  Suddenly pitched into darkness, untold numbers were trapped below decks.  With boiler power lost, there was no longer enough steam to blow the full 6 whistle signal to abandon ship, while loss of power prevented a radio distress signal.  For reasons not entirely clear, there never were any signal flares.

druidartThose who could escape scrambled onto the deck, injured, disoriented, many still in their underwear as they emerged into the cold and darkness.

The four chaplains must have been a welcome sight, guiding the disoriented and the wounded, offering prayers and words of courage.  They opened a storage locker and handed out life preservers, until there were no more.  “Padre,” said one young soldier, “I’ve lost my life jacket and I can’t swim!”  Witnesses differ as to which of the four it was who gave this man his life jacket, but they all followed suit.  One survivor, John Ladd, said “It was the finest thing I have seen or hope to see this side of heaven.” Rabbi Goode gave his gloves to Petty Officer John Mahoney, saying “Never mind.  I have two pairs”.  It was only later that Mahoney realized, Rabbi Goode intended to stay with the ship.

size0Dorchester was listing hard to starboard and taking on water fast, with only 20 minutes to live.  Port side lifeboats were inoperable due to the ship’s angle.  Men jumped across the void into those on the starboard side, overcrowding them to the point of capsize.  Only two of fourteen lifeboats launched successfully.

Private William Bednar found himself floating in 34° water, surrounded by dead bodies and debris. “I could hear men crying, pleading, praying,” he recalled. “I could also hear the chaplains preaching courage. Their voices were the only thing that kept me going.”

As the ship upended and went down by the bow, survivors floating nearby could see the four chaplains.  With arms linked and leaning against the slanting deck, their voices offered prayers and sang hymns for the dead and for those about to die.

images (17)Rushing back to the scene, coast guard cutters found themselves in a sea of bobbing red lights, the water-activated emergency strobe lights of individual life jackets.  Most marked the location of corpses.  Of the 904 on board, the Coast Guard plucked 230 from the water, alive.

The United States Congress attempted to confer the Medal of Honor on the four chaplains for their selfless act of courage, but strict requirements for “heroism under fire” prevented it from doing so.  Congress authorized a one time, posthumous “Chaplain’s Medal for Heroism”, awarded to the next of kin by Secretary of the Army Wilber M. Brucker at Fort Myer, Virginia on January 18, 1961.

chaplains_medalJohn 15:13 says “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends”.  Rabbi Goode did not call out for a Jew when he gave away his only hope for survival, Father Washington did not ask for a Catholic. Neither minister Fox nor Poling asked for a Protestant.  Each gave his life jacket to the nearest man.

Carl Sandburg once said that “Valor is a gift.  Those having it never know for sure whether they have it until the test comes.”  If I were ever so tested, I hope that I would prove myself half the man, as any of those four chaplains.

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