Category Archives: History of Hungary

Today in Catholic History – The Siege of Belgrade

On 22 July 1456, the forces of the Hungarian nobleman John Hunyadi defeated the armies of Ottoman Sultan Mehmet II forcing him to lift the Ottoman siege of Belgrade which had lasted since 4 July 1456.

Hunyadi forces consisted not only his own personal soldiers but also a large gathering of peasants who had flocked to Hunyadi’s banner after St. John of Capistrano had preached a crusade.

On 14 July 1456, Hunyadi arrived at Belgrade and managed to break the naval blockade the Ottomans had imposed on the city.

After managing to push back a major Ottoman attack, the peasants which had followed the banner of St. John of Capistrano spontaneously began a counter-attack on Mehmet’s army. St. John, finding himself surrounded by 2,000 crusaders eager to attack the Turks, led them toward the Ottomans while shouting, “The Lord who made the beginning will take care of the finish!” The Ottoman forces surprised by the crusader assault will break the siege and flee back to Constantinople.

During the siege, Pope Callixtus III had ordered that every Christian Church ring its bells every day at noon as a call for Christians to pray for the defenders of Belgrade. Since Christians in many countries in Western Europe did not hear of this command until after they received news that the Christian forces had been victorious, the ringing of the bells became understood as a sign of Christian victory. Pope Callixtus did not rescind his command and so the tradition of ringing the noon day bell in Catholic church began – a tradition which continues today.

Today in Catholic History – József Mindszenty is ordained to the priesthood

On 12 June 1915, Cardinal József Mindszenty was ordained to the priesthood in Csehimindszent, Austria-Hungary. Until 1941, he was known as József Pehm, but had adopted Mindszenty in honor of the village in which he was born.

Cardinal Mindszenty will spend much of his priesthood and religious life under the the persecution of the Nazis under Hitler and then under the persecution of the Communists after the end of the Second World War. On 8 February 1949, the Communist government of Hungary would sentence Cardinal Mindszenty to life imprisonment for treason after extracting from him a forced confession. On 12 February 1949, Pope Pius XII excommunicated anyone who had participated in the trial and conviction of the Cardinal.

On 30 October 1956, Cardinal Mindszenty would be released during the Hungarian Uprising. After the Soviet Union invaded Hungary to suppress the uprising, Mindszenty would seek asylum in the United States Embassy for fifteen years. On 28 September 1971, an agreement with Pope Paul VI led the Hungarian government to allow Mindszenty to leave Hungary in exchange for a Vatican agreement to declare Mindszenty a “victim of history” instead of “communism” and removing the excommunication imposed by Pius XII. Mindszenty would spend the rest of his life in Vienna, Austria. Mindszenty’s strong anti-communist views would cause problems in his relationship with the Vatican at this time which believed friendlier relations with the Soviet Union would help reduce the persecution of Catholics in Communist countries.

On 6 May 1975, Cardinal Mindszenty died. In 1991, his remains were repatriated to Esztergom, Hungary and buried in the Estrergom Basilica. There is a cause for his canonization.

For more on Mindszenty