Friday, January 10, 2020

2020: A Year of Major Anniversaries

I've posted on a couple of English Reformation related anniversaries in 2020 already: St. Thomas a Becket's 850th and St. Peter ad Vincula's 500th. There are many more fascinating anniversaries to be remembered and several more related to the English Reformation and its aftermath.

On Monday, January 13, I'll be on the Son Rise Morning Show at 6:50 a.m. Central/7:50 a.m. Eastern to start noting these anniversaries--we'll probably continue the list on the following Monday. We'll see how many we get through on Monday the 13th!

Listen live here; the podcast will be archived here!

The oldest anniversary to highlight is the battle of Thermopylae, famed for The 300 Spartans in the pass, holding off Xerxes and his army. The Council on Foreign Relations listed it among their "Ten Anniversaries to Note in 2020":

2,500th Anniversary of the Battle of Thermopylae, August or September 480 BC. Few battles have changed history. The Battle of Thermopylae stands out as an exception. In early 480 BCE the Persian Emperor Xerxes set out to avenge his father’s loss at the Battle of Marathon ten years earlier and to subdue the Greek city states. Some 7,000 Greeks marched to Thermopylae, about 120 miles northwest of Athens, to meet the far larger Persian army. The terrain favored the Greeks; the pass at Thermopylae was narrow, with the Aegean Sea on one side and steep hills on the other. Xerxes called on the Greeks to surrender. Their leader, King Leonidas of Sparta, invited the Persian army to “molon labe”’ or to “come and get them.” After two days of bitter fighting a local shepherd showed the Persians a route behind Greek lines. Outflanked, many of the Greeks withdrew. Leonidas, 300 fellow Spartans, and a few others stayed to fight. They were all killed, and the Persians mutilated Leonidas’s body. Their stand became legendary, slowing Xerxes’s progress and setting the stage for Persia’s defeat at the Battle of Salamis. The Greek city states survived, and with them, what would become Western Civilization.

The famous epitaph of The 300:

Oh stranger, tell the Lacedaemonians that
we lie here, obedient to their words.

Ὦ ξεῖν', ἀγγέλλειν Λακεδαιμονίοις ὅτι τῇδε
κείμεθα, τοῖς κείνων ῥήμασι πειθόμενοι.

The next great anniversary I'd select--the next oldest--is the birth of St. Genevieve of Paris, the Defensor Civitas, in 420 A.D. According to the National Catholic Register:

She saved Paris from a gloomy fate twice and is still remembered as one of the greatest female witnesses of Christian faith in history. Saint Genevieve, patroness of the French capital, will be in the spotlight all through 2020, as the country celebrates the 16th centenary of her birth.

Born around 420 in Nanterre (near Paris) in a family of patricians, she dedicated herself to God through a vow of virginity from an early age. She moved to Paris at her parents’ death as a consecrated person, leading at the same time a life of prayer and contemplation, while carrying out a local political mission inherited from her family and taking care of the needy.

She entered history at age 30 when, in 451, the Huns led by Attila threatened to invade the city after attempting to conquer numerous parts of Europe. At the risk of her life, Genevieve convinced the panic-stricken people of Paris not to run away and give their home up to the invader but to stay and pray. The city was eventually spared by the Huns after Attila suddenly changed his path. The Parisians then proclaimed Genevieve
Defensor Civitas — that is, in charge of the protection of the city.

You can, and I did, spend a couple of hours in St. Etienne du Mont, the church with the only remaining rood screen in Paris, visiting St. Genevieve's shrine, venerating her relics, and appreciating all the other beautiful artwork, history and significance of that church. (The picture above is my best attempt at a picture of her shrine during a November 2010 visit!)

And then you can go over the Pantheon, the great church that King Louis XV wanted built as a shrine to replace the old church of the Abbey of St. Genevieve, but it was finished only just before the French Revolution and wasn't consecrated until the reign of King Charles X. The new Republic took over the Pantheon and made it a shrine to the Revolution and its heroes--it's a fascinating locus on French history. There are still murals and depictions of St. Genevieve in the Pantheon (and St. Joan of Arc too). Foucault's Pendulum has been moved to the Musee des Arts et Metiers (the museum Mark really liked in Paris), but there's still a copy in the Pantheon.

Next on my list is the 850th anniversary of St. Thomas a Becket's martyrdom. I think it has significance through the centuries for the relationship of Church and State, particularly in the matters of law and administration and the intercession of a spiritual and temporal power. Remember that although the British Museum and the Canterbury Cathedral and probably other venues in England will be commemorating this anniversary in 2020, St. Thomas a Becket was named the Worst Briton of the 12th Century in 2005!

Then I select the 450th anniversary of Pope Saint Pius V's Papal Bull, Regnans in Excelsis on April 27, 1570, which means it is also the 450th anniversary of Blessed John Felton's martyrdom. Regnans in Excelsis not only declared Elizabeth I excommunicated (as her father Henry VIII had been before her) but declared her deposed from the throne and stated that her subjects' vows to her were null and void:

And moreover, we declare her to be deprived of her pretended title to the kingdom aforesaid, and of all dominion, dignity and privilege whatsoever;

And also declare the nobles, subjects and people of the said realm and all others who have in any way sworn oaths unto her, to be forever absolved from any such oath and from any duty arising from duty, lordship, allegiance and obedience; and we do, by authority of these presents so absolve them, and so deprive the same Elizabeth of her pretended title to the crown and all other the abovesaid matters. We charge and command all and singular the nobles, subjects, peoples and others aforesaid that they do not dare obey her orders, mandates and laws. Those who shall act to the contrary we include in the like sentence of excommunication.

Bit of an overreach on how much authority Pope Pius V really had! or the power he had to enforce such declarations.

Blessed John Felton posted a copy of this Papal Bull less than a month later and suffered for it in the aftermath of the Northern Rebellion of 1569-1570:

When Pius V published the bull of excommunication and deprivation against Elizabeth, Felton obtained copies of it from the Spanish ambassador's chaplain, who immediately left the kingdom. Felton published the bull in this country by affixing a copy to the gates of the Bishop of London's palace between two and three o'clock of the morning of 15 May 1570. The government, surprised at and alarmed by this daring deed, at once ordered a general search to be made in all suspected places, and another copy of the bull was discovered in the chambers of a student of Lincoln's Inn, who confessed, when put to the rack, that he had received it from Felton. The next day the lord mayor, the lord chief justice, and the two sheriffs of London, with five hundred halberdiers, surrounded Bermondsey Abbey early in the morning. Felton, guessing their errand, opened the doors and gave himself into their custody, frankly admitting that he had set up the bull. He was conveyed to the Tower, where he was placed on the rack, but he resolutely refused to make any further confession.

He was arraigned at Guildhall on 4 Aug. 1570, and on the 8th of the same month was drawn on a sledge to St. Paul's churchyard, where he was hanged in front of the episcopal palace. He said that he gloried in the deed, and proclaimed himself a martyr to the papal supremacy. Though he gave the queen no other title than that of the Pretender, he asked her pardon if he had injured her; and in token that he bore her no malice, he sent her a present, by the Earl of Essex, of a diamond ring, worth 400l., which he drew from his finger. His body was beheaded and quartered, ‘and carried to Newgate to be parboiled, and so set up, as the other rebels were.’

Again, we'll see how many of these we--Anne or Matt and I--get through on Monday, January 13th!  There are several more important anniversaries we'll certainly discuss next time, too.

Have a great weekend!

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