Thursday, January 26, 2023

"Never give up." ~ A review of Pelayo: King of Asturias by James Fitzhenry

Detail from a 19th century engraving of Pelayo, king of Asturias.
Almost exactly 15 years ago, I received a book in the mail entitled El Cid: God's Own Champion. When first flipping through this book, I remember thinking to myself, "This probably won't be very good." After all, it was a work by an unknown author, meant for young readers, and self-published to boot. But as it turned out, I loved it. My kids have read it—even the one with dyslexia read and enjoyed it. Since I wrote the above-linked review in 2008, I have recommended El Cid to hundreds of people.

A few years later, Mr. Fitzhenry published another equally admirable book—Saint Fernando III: A Kingdom for Christ. Much like his first book, Fitzhenry's second endeavor delved into the epic life of a Spanish hero that almost no one knows about today. Again, I found myself enchanted with the book and have recommended it numerous times. 

Shortly thereafter followed Defenders of Christendom, offering a collection of excellent capsule biographies of forgotten Catholic heroes from the crusading period. 

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By this time, I have come to have very high expectations for Mr. Fitzhenry's work, so when I received a copy of Pelayo: King of Asturias, I was ready to tear into it straight away. 

And Pelayo did not disappoint. 

Much like Fitzhenry's previous books, Pelayo tells an ancient story that is rarely heard today. It is the sobering tale of the end of Visigothic Spain—a state whose leaders had become corrupt, corpulent and cowardly. They had largely abandoned their Christian ethic and had little remaining loyalty to God or man. When confronted with a zealous, powerful enemy who wished to impose an alien culture upon them, their internal dissensions proved stronger than their desire to preserve their heritage.

Fitzhenry does a brilliant job setting the stage for Pelayo's heroism. Starting with the collapse of Visigothic Spain under the beleaguered King Roderick, Fitzhenry emphasizes the treason of those closest to the king as a contrast to the steadfast loyalty of Pelayo. At the Battle of Guadalete, the Visigoths are catastrophically defeated when part of their army commanded by renegade nobles and an apostate bishop turns on their own Christian countrymen. Following the battle, the Muslim emir, Tariq, overruns the whole kingdom. Pelayo and a remnant of loyal Visigoths retreat into the mountains of northern Spain. There, he begins his exploits—escaping from an assassination attempt, rescuing his kidnapped sister, and building up the solid core of a Christian army to resist Islam.

After finishing Pelayo: King of Asturias, I immediately began searching for the ancient sources underpinning Fitzhenry's inspiring biography. I quickly discovered that Pelayo is the hispanicized version of the name Pelagius. He is considered a Visigothic noble, but given that Pelagius is not a typical Gothic name, he likely had a Greco-Roman strain somewhere in his lineage. This makes sense given that the Spanish Visigothic kingdom was built upon the foundation of the Roman provinces of Hispania. My search eventually led to a 10th century source called The Chronicle of Alfonso III. While reading it, I discovered that Fitzhenry stayed true to the history. His description of the events surrounding the history-changing Battle of Covadonga was drawn faithfully from this ancient historical work. 

Fitzhenry's Pelayo joins El Cid and Saint Fernando III among the growing list of exceptional historical books meant to educate young Catholic men about their heritage. Angels in Iron and Crown of the World are two other examples of this counter-cultural trend—portraying distinctly Catholic heroes as what the world desperately needs. I hope that my own books about the late Roman general Belisarius are serving a similar function. 

Toward the end of the book, the author lays out the message of Pelayo's life for those of us today: 

"Never give up. Even if it seems that you struggle in complete isolation, know that you are not alone....Follow closely in the footsteps of Christ. There are many who have trod the narrow path before you, and for those who do not give up the fight, eternal glory awaits in a kingdom that is not of this world!"

During a time when many Catholic institutions have failed and our leaders seem content to bury their talents in the ground, such a message is badly needed.

Thursday, January 12, 2023

"This pontificate is a disaster..." The final testament of George Cardinal Pell (d. January 10, 2023)

George Cardinal Pell prays before the body of Pope Benedict XVI lying in state, January 2023.

George Cardinal Pell is dead. 

As a man, Cardinal Pell stood accused of grievous sins before several earthly tribunals. He was convicted of some of those crimes in secular courts, and as a result, spent over a year in prison—much of it in solitary confinement. He was later acquitted and released when the High Court of Australia unanimously overturned his convictions saying that the jury likely made its decision based on faulty evidence, and that there was a significant possibility that an innocent person had been convicted. 

Was Cardinal Pell guilty of the crimes he was accused of? Or was he targeted for destruction by enemies who would stoop even so low as to manufacture false sins? In this world, we will never know. 

But now, Cardinal Pell has taken his stand before the Just Judge from whom nothing can be hidden. Whether his sins warranted mercy or damnation is in the hands of Christ, and all the faithful can do is pray that our gracious Lord will have mercy on him. 

What is clear is that George Cardinal Pell did not go out with a whimper, but with a resounding bang.

Less than a week before he died, Cardinal Pell wrote an article in the UK Spectator that is nothing less than a clarion call. The title of the article says it all: The Catholic Church Must Free Itself from this "Toxic Nightmare."

What toxic nightmare is he referring to? That would be the so-called Synod on Synodality—that useless and wasteful meeting of bishops that seems to be the very embodiment of the unofficial motto of the current pontificate: "¡Hagan lío!" or "make a mess!" Regarding the 45-page document put out by the Vatican explaining the "listening" stage of the synod, Pell calls it: "one of the most incoherent documents ever sent out from Rome."

After offering a point-by-point deconstruction of the document, Pell is left scratching his head:

What is one to make of this potpourri, this outpouring of New Age good will? It is not a summary of Catholic faith or New Testament teaching. It is incomplete, hostile in significant ways to the apostolic tradition and nowhere acknowledges the New Testament as the Word of God, normative for all teaching on faith and morals. The Old Testament is ignored, patriarchy rejected and the Mosaic Law, including the Ten Commandments, is not acknowledged.

This is a pretty harsh condemnation that should be taken very seriously by all serious Catholics.

But it gets better. 

In the spring of 2022, an anonymous letter was said to be circulating among the Cardinals signed by someone called "Demos" or the Greek word for "the common people." It was a sober reflection upon and harsh criticism of the numerous scandals which have proliferated over the past 10 years within the Church, with an unusually pointed critique of the Francis papacy. The opening sentence gives the reader a sense of what follows:

Commentators at every school, though for different reasons, with the possible exception of Father Spadaro SJ, agree that this pontificate is a disaster in many or more respects, a catastrophe.

It was revealed today that the author of this letter was none other than George Cardinal Pell.

This letter is not merely a litany of the failures of Pope Francis. It is a road map for his successor. Indeed, the second half of the letter reads more like avuncular advice from an experienced elder churchman to a man who will be faced with cleaning up a gigantic mess not of his doing. 

The entire letter is well worth reading, but the following point seems to be the most important of all, encapsulating what has gone wrong and the attitude necessary to fix it:

The new pope must understand that the secret of Christian and Catholic vitality comes from fidelity to Christ's teachings and Catholic practices. It doesn't come from adapting to the world or money.

This point is followed immediately by another that lays out the steps necessary to return from the present chaos:

The first tasks of the new pope will be the restoration of normality, the restoration of doctrinal clarity in faith and morals, the restoration of just respect for the law, and the guarantee that the first criterion for the appointment of bishops is acceptance of apostolic tradition. Theological competence and culture are an advantage, not an obstacle for all bishops and especially for archbishops. These are necessary foundations for living and preaching the Gospel.

More than anything else, the faithful need doctrinal clarity. Indeed, we thirst for it, as one can not drink the muddy slurry churned up by "¡Hagan lío!"

Pell's "Demos" letter reads like an encyclical letter written by one of the Church Fathers when faced with an ecclesiastical crisis.

Thank you, Cardinal Pell, for speaking like a believing Catholic, reminding us of our patrimony, and for standing up for the devout who have spent the past nine years taking abuse from those tasked to nurture them in faith and teach them the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

With men like Benedict XVI and Cardinal Pell passing into eternity, ordinary devout Catholics pray that Christ will raise up other bishops and cardinals with the fortitude to keep the current mess from spreading and leading even more souls to perdition. 

May the Holy Spirit, in His good time, bestow upon us a new pope who will come armed the charism of Saint Francis of Assisi who was commanded by God to "restore my Church which is falling down."

Tuesday, January 03, 2023

"Attila shouted that he would have crucified him and given him as food to the birds." ~ Priscus and the Roman Embassy to the Huns of AD 448

The Roman Embassy to Attila by Cecila Lawrence, as it appears on the cover of
Given's Fragmentary History of Priscus
Much of our detailed knowledge of Attila and the Huns comes from one relatively obscure source, the late 5th century History of Priscus. It’s probable that you’ve never heard of Priscus because his history was considered lost after about the 10th century AD. All that survives of it are fragments that later historians have recovered from other ancient and medieval sources that incorporated or paraphrased certain passages of interest. Excerpts from Priscus may be found embedded within works such as the Gothic History of Jordanes, the Histories of Procopius, the works of Constantine Porphyrogenitus, the Suda, the History of John of Antioch, and several others.

Priscus possessed such in depth knowledge about the Huns because he had a personal encounter with Attila himself. In AD 448 or 449, Priscus was part of an embassy to the Huns sent by the Emperor Theodosius II and his right-hand eunuch, Chrysaphius. At that time, Attila was threatening both the Eastern and Western Roman Empires, and both halves were making every possible attempt to pacify the barbarian and his pillaging horde. In fact, Chrysaphius and Theodosius had made a secret pact with one of Attila’s leading advisors, Edekon by name, to make sure that Attila rested in peace—for good. Unbeknownst to them, however, Edekon had revealed everything to Attila, and the King of the Huns was well prepared to deal with the potentially treacherous Roman embassy when it arrived.

Priscus has left a fascinating account of his visit to the Huns and his initial meeting with Attila. Following is an excerpt from the Fragmentary History of Priscus as translated by John Given, detailing the opening phase of what must have been a very frightening encounter:

You may also listen to the excerpt at the video above. 

FRAGMENT 8: From the Excerpts on Romans’ Embassies to Foreigners of Constantine VII Porphyrogennetos

After the eunuch Chrysaphius urged Edekon to kill Attila, Emperor Theodosius and the magister Martialios decided, as they discussed the events, to dispatch as ambassadors to Attila not only Bigilas but also Maximinos. They also decided that Bigilas, as a pretense, should keep occupying the translator’s post and should do whatever Edekon thought best, and Maximinos, since he knew nothing of their plans, should deliver the emperor’s letter....

With earnest entreaty, Maximinos persuaded me to accompany him on this embassy. And so, closely following the road alongside the barbarians, we reached Serdica, a thirteen days’ journey from Constantinople for a lightly armed man. There, as we settled into our quarters, we thought it would be a good idea to invite Edekon and his barbarian companions to a feast. We bought sheep and cows from the locals, slaughtered them and made our meal. At the height of the banquet, when the barbarians were extolling Attila and we the emperor, Bigilas said it was not right to juxtapose a god and a man—meaning by “man” Attila and by “god” Theodosius. The Huns were agitated and, their temperatures rising little by little, grew angry. We turned the conversation to other topics and appeased their anger with friendliness...

Arriving at Naissos, we found the city bereft of people because it had been overturned by the enemy, though there were some people in the sacred lodgings who were suffering from diseases. We camped a little bit upriver in a clearing, since the bank was everywhere covered with the bones of war casualties...

After passing the night, we traveled from the region of Naissos to the Istros River....After we crossed the Istros and traveled about seventy stades with the barbarians, we were forced to wait on a plain so that Edekon’s men could inform Attila of our arrival. The barbarians stayed with us and acted as our guides. As we were taking our dinner in the late afternoon we heard the rumble of horses coming toward us. Two Scythian men arrived and ordered us to go to Attila. First, though, we asked them to join us for dinner. They dismounted and we sumptuously entertained them. On the next day they led us along the road. Around the ninth hour of the day we reached Attila’s tents (and there were many tents there). We wanted to pitch ours on the crest of a hill, but the barbarians who met us prevented it, since Attila’s tent was on lower ground.

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Once we settled down where the Scythians wanted, Edekon, Orestes, Skottas and some other select men came and asked what our embassy was eager to procure. We expressed our confusion at the senseless question and kept looking at one another, but they continued to trouble us for an answer. When we said that the emperor bade us to speak to Attila and to no one else, Skottas replied angrily that their order was from their leader; they would not have come to us out of their own desire to meddle. We said that it was not customary for ambassadors to be questioned by intermediaries about why they had come without their meeting nor even seeing the parties to whom they had been sent. This, we said, was not unknown even to the Scythians, who often sent ambassadors to the emperor. It was necessary that we receive identical treatment; otherwise we would not disclose the embassy’s purpose. So we spoke, and they withdrew to Attila.

Again they returned, though without Edekon, repeated to us all the reasons for which we had come on the embassy, and ordered us to go away by the quickest route possible unless we could name anything else. We were still more mystified by these words since it was not easy to see how decisions made by the emperor in secret had become clearly known. We believed that it was to our benefit to answer nothing further about the embassy unless we gained access to Attila. So we said it was their leader who asked whether we came to negotiate the things listed by the Scythians or other matters too; we would not discuss it with anyone other than him. They immediately ordered us to leave....

At this point, Priscus goes off on a slight tangent, explaining that Bigilas was insistent on meeting with Attila, boasting that if he would be able to meet with him, he would easily persuade him to make peace. It is not clear that Priscus or anyone else among the Romans knew at this point that the true purpose of the embassy was to arrange the assassination of Attila. Priscus explains, however, that unbeknownst to Bigilas, the plot had already been revealed to Attila by Edekon.

Priscus continues:

We had already loaded our baggage onto the pack animals and were attempting—out of necessity, at nighttime—to begin our journey, when some of the barbarians came and said Attila told us to remain because of the late hour. To the place from which we were getting ready to set out, some men brought us a cow and some river-caught fish sent by Attila. Then, after dining, we turned to sleep. When day came, we thought that the barbarian would reveal some kind, pleasant news.  Once again, however, he sent the same men, advising us to go away unless we had something to say beyond what they already knew. We said no and began preparing for the journey, although Bigilas vehemently argued we should say that we had more to say.

Seeing Maximinos very dejected, I went out with Roustikios since he knew the barbarians’ language fluently. (He had come with us to Scythia not on the embassy, but for some business with Constantius, Attila’s Italian secretary, whom Aetius, the Western Roman general, had sent.) I came to Skottas—Onegesios was not present at the time— and, addressing him through the translator Roustikios, I said that he would receive numerous gifts from Maximinos if he helped him get access to Attila. The embassy, I said, would benefit not only the Romans and the Huns but also Onegesios, since the emperor wanted him to come and mediate the nations’ differences, and he would receive magnificent gifts when he went. Since Onegesios was away, I said, he needed to support us, and more his brother, in pursuit of this good business. I said we knew Attila followed his guidance too, but we would not firmly believe the reports about him unless we came to know his power through experience. He replied that no one any longer doubted Attila deemed his words and deeds equal to his brother’s. And he immediately mounted his horse and rode to Attila’s tent.

I returned to Maximinos, who with Bigilas was perplexed and at a loss regarding the recent events. I repeated what I said to Skottas and what I heard from him, and said that we needed to prepare the gifts for the barbarian and to calculate what we would say to him. Both of them leapt up (they happened to be lying in the grass), praised my actions and called back those who had already departed with the pack animals. They considered how to address Attila and how to give him the emperor’s gifts as well as what Maximinos had brought for him. As we were worrying about these things, Attila summoned us through Skottas. And so at last we came to Attila’s tent, which was guarded by a barbarian multitude arrayed in a circle.

When we reached the entrance, we found Attila seated on a wooden chair. Maximinos approached, as the rest of us stood a short distance from the seat, and he greeted the barbarian. Giving him the emperor’s letter, he said that the emperor prayed that he and those around him were safe. Attila replied that the Romans would have what they desired for him. He turned his attention straight to Bigilas, called him a shameless beast and asked why he wanted to come to him, considering that he knew his and Anatolios’s peacetime agreement that no ambassadors should come to him until all fugitives had been surrendered to the barbarians. Bigilas said that there was not a single Scythian fugitive among the Romans; those who had been there had been surrendered. Growing angrier and reviling him all the more, Attila shouted that he would have crucified him and given him as food to the birds, if he did not think inflicting this penalty on his shamelessness and on the effrontery of his words would violate sacred diplomatic law. There were, he said, fugitives of their race among the Romans—many of them—whose names, which had been recorded on papyrus, he ordered the secretaries to read out.

When they had gone through <all the> absent men, he ordered Bigilas to depart without a moment’s delay. He would send Eslas with him too, he said, to tell the Romans they should send him all the barbarian fugitives, from the time of Karpileon (the son of Aetius, the Western Roman general), who had lived as a hostage at his court. He would not allow his own subjects to fight against him, although they were incapable of helping anyone who trusted them to protect his land. What city, he asked, or what fortress had they saved, once he himself had begun a siege? He told us to return again after we had repeated his demands about the fugitives and to say whether the Romans wanted to surrender them or undertake war on their behalf. He had earlier told Maximinos to stay, so that he might reply to the emperor’s letter through him, and so he permitted us to present the gifts Maximinos was carrying and to withdraw.

We presented the gifts and retired into our tent, where we reviewed what had been said. Bigilas was amazed how Attila angrily reviled him, even though he seemed gentle and kind to him on his previous embassy. I expressed the fear that some of the barbarians who had feasted with us in Serdica had made Attila hostile to him by reporting that he called the Roman emperor a god but Attila a man. Maximinos thought that was right, since he was <not> a partner in the eunuch’s conspiracy against the barbarian. Bigilas was doubtful and seemed to me at a loss to explain why Attila had reviled him. He thought, as he later told us, that neither the events in Serdica nor the details of the plot had been reported to Attila, because, on the one hand, no one else from the group, he thought, was bold enough to speak with Attila due to the fear that governed them all; on the other hand Edekon, he thought, would keep his silence completely because of his oaths and the uncertainty of the deed, in fear that he himself too, since he was a participant in such plans, would lose his favored status and suffer death as punishment. [Given, Fragmentary History of Priscus, pages 47-55]

What happens next is perhaps even more intriguing. Later, Priscus would meet a former Roman citizen who had been taken captive by the Huns. This man would claim that life as a prisoner among the Huns was superior to life as a Roman. His debate with Priscus on this topic is perhaps the most famous of the surviving fragments of Priscus’s History and well worth reading. I have discussed this debate in a previous post: "Romans are easily killed in war because they rely on others for safety" ~ Priscus and the notion of Romans voluntarily becoming Huns.

Tuesday, December 27, 2022

Book Review: Matron of Paris by Phillip Campbell

Saint Germain bestows his blessing upon the girl Genevieve, from a 19th century triptych, 
The Pastoral Life of Saint Genevieve by Pierre-Cécile Puvis de Chavannes
Unbeknownst to many outside of the homeschooling community, there is something of a literary renaissance going on in Catholic circles, particularly with regard to historical novels for younger readers. At the moment, there are enough of these high-quality novels on the market to keep even the most avid young reader going for a very long time. 

One of the eras that has attracted particular attention from writers of Catholic historical novels is the fall of the Western Roman Empire. The most recent entry in this category is Matron of Paris, a lively work by Phillip Campbell about the eventful life and miraculous works of St. Genevieve of Nanterre. Some readers may recall my previous post about this patroness of France: Saint Genevieve and Barbarism: From Attila to the Republic.

A Gallo-Roman woman, Genevieve (or Genovefa as she is called in Latin) was born toward the end of the reign of the weak Western Roman Emperor Honorius, circa AD 422. With Roman power in eclipse, barbarian tribes breached the frontier with increasing ease, carving out their own petty principalities in Roman Gaul and oppressing the inhabitants. This was the chaotic and dangerous era into which the girl Genevieve was born. 

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In Matron of Paris: The Story of Saint Genevieve, Phillip Campbell tells the story of this great saint in his usual engaging style, leading the reader from the simple life of a Gallo-Roman peasant girl into the brutal and complicated world of Late Roman / early Merovingian warfare and politics. While following the tale, readers will be introduced to numerous historical characters: from Saint Germanus, bishop of Auxerre, who first recognized Genevieve's sanctity, to Clovis, king of the Franks, whose story would ultimately become intertwined with that of Genevieve. Others who were Genevieve's rough contemporaries are also mentioned — from Aetius, the Roman magister militum who defeated Attila at the Battle of the Catalaunian Plains, to a mysterious saintly presbyter named Patricius who serves briefly at Nanterre before moving on to greener pastures. 

The core of the book, however, follows Genevieve as a mature woman. She becomes the heart and soul of Paris whose prayers and entreaties would hearten the beleaguered city during Atilla's invasion of Gaul. Later in life, her occasionally miraculous interventions would help the Franks and Gallo-Romans become one people. It is during this part of the novel that two other saints enter the story: Saint Clotilde, the Burgundian wife of Clovis, and Saint Remigius of Reims who would baptize the Frankish king. Campbell does a wonderful job weaving the story of Genevieve together with that of Clovis and Clotilde.

I highly recommend Matron of Paris and think it makes a fantastic addition to the literature of late Rome and the early Middle Ages, ideal for readers ages 12 and up. It fits together beautifully with another novel of the same time period, Centurion's Daughter by Justin Swanton. Considering St. Genevieve's feast day is coming up on January 3, the Christmas season is a particularly appropriate time to purchase this book.

For students who want to do a deep study of this period, here is a quick reading list of available resources in rough chronological order, (including my own books):

Saturday, November 12, 2022

Old Hickory and Our Lady of Prompt Succor

Mosaic of the three times Our Lady of Prompt Succor saved New Orleans. General Jackson
and his men may be seen in the bottom right. I took this photo of the mosaic at the
Ursuline Convent in New Orleans in 2019. 

Andrew Jackson was a study in contrasts. By most accounts, he was hot tempered and had a tendency to violence. In his youth, he engaged in most of the vices common to young men of that time: drinking, carousing, and engaging in every form of gambling known to man. He apparently had a passion for cock-fighting. He got into brawls without number and fought duels, killing at least one man—though admittedly, that man had shot him first, hitting Jackson square in the chest. The bullet lodged too close to his heart to be extracted, and Jackson would carry it inside him for the rest of his life.

Jackson was a slave owner and an Indian fighter. He is perhaps most infamous today for his policy while president of removing tribes from the eastern states to Indian Territory in the present-day state of Oklahoma. This policy's most noteworthy and awful result was the removal of the Cherokee from Georgia along the Trail of Tears. At the same time, Jackson was compassionate, taking in an orphaned Creek boy named Lyncoya after the Battle of Tallushatchee in 1813. He would adopt Lyncoya as his son, and later took in two other Creek orphans, Theodore and Charley.   

If you read about Jackson in any of the earlier biographies, you get a sense that Old Hickory's contemporaries—whether friend or foe—struggled to pigeon-hole the man. Later in his life, Jackson apparently became quite religious, even helping to found Hermitage Presbyterian Church on land donated from his estate in Nashville, Tennessee. Indeed, even in Jackson's dissipated youth, it seemed that there was a latent tendency toward Christian piety to be found buried deep within him. Biographers struggled to reconcile these conflicting tendencies, resulting in awkward passages like this one from Cyrus Townsend Brady:

General Jackson was a thoroughly religious man during the greater part of his life…Now, when I say he was a religious man I do not mean that his religion was at first of the active, personal sort. On the contrary, it was originally intermixed with worldliness to an excessive degree. [The True Andrew Jackson (1906), p. 366]

Writing in 1888, another biographer, James Parton, recorded the following anecdote that exemplifies Jackson’s internal paradox in a concrete way:

After his wife had joined the [Presbyterian] church, the general, in deference to her wishes, was accustomed to ask a blessing before meals. The company had sat down at the table one day, when the general was telling a warlike story with great animation, interlarding the discourse, as was then his custom, with a profusion of expletives most heterodox and profane. In the full tide of this narration, the lady of the house interrupted her lord, “Mr Jackson, will you ask a blessing?” Mr. Jackson stopped short in the midst of one of his most soldier-like sentences, performed the duty required of him, and then instantly resumed his narrative in the same tone and language as before. [Life of Andrew Jackson, Volume 2 (1888), p. 655]

Many of us have known men similar to this. They are often individuals who have lived a harsh early life (Jackson was orphaned at 14) and find it nearly impossible to make that final conversion of heart to Christ, crying out with the young Augustine of Hippo, "Lord make me pure—but not yet!" 

I, for one, think Jackson's religious tendencies were sincere, even if he often consciously chose the course of worldliness and sin. Let's look at an incident during the Battle of New Orleans as an example. 

In January of 1815, at the age of 47, Jackson was placed in command of a rag-tag collection of regular army units, local militia, a squad of gunners from Jean Lafitte's crew of privateers, and even a detachment of Choctaws. Jackson's force numbered about 5,000 all told. 

These men were meant to defend New Orleans against an army of 10,000 British regulars under the command of General Edward Pakenham. Many of these men were veterans of the Napoleonic War in Europe and both officers and men had every expectation that they would brush aside Jackson's disorderly mob with little effort and capture New Orleans. 

Gambler that he was, Jackson must have known that the odds of survival were long, and the odds of victory even longer still. As Pakenham's redcoats advanced, Jackson came face-to-face with that old adage: there are no atheists in foxholes. Some accounts of activities prior to the battle include mention of Jackson visiting Abbe William DuBourg to request public prayers for the success of American arms. 

In New Orleans, that city of contrasts nearly as striking as those affecting Jackson, the 18,000 inhabitants were in a state of near panic. The mood at the Ursuline Convent, however, was markedly different. Writing in The Story of the Battle of New Orleans (1915) Stanley Clisby Arthur offers the following account of what went on among the nuns on that fateful eve of battle:

From the windows of the Convent, the Ursulines could see the smoke rising from the battle-field on the plains of Chalmette. The night of January 7th had been spent in prayer before their Blessed Sacrament. Everything seemed hopeless for the Americans; and Jackson himself had sworn that, should he be vanquished, the enemy would find New Orleans a heap of ruins.

The wooden statue of Our Lady of
Prompt Succor that was placed on the
altar during the Battle of New Orleans 
In order to assist in averting this imminent peril — for all was in consternation on the morning of January 8th — the Chapel was continually thronged with pious ladies and poor negresses, all weeping and praying at the foot of the statue of Our Lady of Prompt Succor, which had been placed on the main altar; and the Community, through the Superioress, Mother Ste Marie (in the world, Marie Francoise Victoire Olivier de Vezin), made a vow to have a solemn Mass of thanksgiving sung every year, should the Americans gain the victory.

That morning, January 8, 1815, Very Reverend William DuBourg, the Vicar Apostolic (afterwards Bishop of New Orleans), offered up the holy sacrifice of the Mass before the statue of Our Lady of Prompt Succor.

At the moment of communion, a courier entered the chapel to announce the glad tidings of the enemy’s defeat.

After Mass, the Abbe DuBourg entoned Te Deum, which was taken up and sung with accents of such lively gratitude that it seemed as though the very vaults of the chapel would open to allow this touching thanksgiving to ascend more freely to the throne of God. [The Battle of New Orleans (1915), p. 239). 

It is said that the battle itself was over within half-an-hour. The badly mauled British were forced to retreat and Jackson's riff-raff were left in possession of the field. Operating from a hastily fortified position, Jackson's troops inflicted over 2,000 casualties on the British. By contrast, the Americans had suffered only 13 killed in action, and 39 wounded. 

The latter group, along with the sick, were lodged in the schoolrooms of the convent and nursed by the gentle hands of the Ursuline sisters who had prayed so fervently for them. Shortly after returning to New Orleans, Jackson would visit the Ursulines. In a lecture read before the Louisiana Historical Society in 1901, Henry Renshaw described the scene:

In the period of the city's dread anxiety and peril, the Ursulines invoked Divine assistance that victory might be won by the soldiery of the Republic. Andrew Jackson, in the flush of brilliant triumph, visited the convent and thanked these pious women for their prayers for his success. What a scene was this — the victorious warrior expressing gratitude to these nuns for the petitions which they had offered for celestial aid in his behalf. What a subject to be represented in stone or in metal, or upon the painted canvas. 

And not alone by fervent supplication did the Ursulines evince their sympathetic patriotism. The sick and wounded soldiers were received at the convent and lodged in the class rooms of the day scholars where, for three months they were cared for by the nuns. ["The Louisiana Ursulines," Publications of the Louisiana Historical Society, Volume 2, Issues 3-4].

An even earlier historical record confirms the good offices of the Ursuline sisters:

The Ursuline nuns are also entitled to a particular notice. They gave admittance within the walls of their monastery to as many of the sick as could be conveniently lodged therein, and afforded them every aid, comformably to the dictates of true charity. [Historical Memoir of the War in West Florida and Louisiana (1816) Appendix, p. cxxviii]

Jackson also chose to express his gratitude publicly at the very center of Catholicism in the city:

In the old cathedral, burnished up for the occasion, a solemn service of thanksgiving was held at Jackson's request. [Crawford, Romantic Days in the Early Republic (1912) p. 383]

This was not merely a momentary episode of piety on the part of Jackson. Thirteen years later, during the bruising election campaign of 1828, Jackson would have occasion to visit New Orleans again. Though a man embroiled in the bare-knuckles brawl of a very contentious political battle for the nation's highest office, Jackson made time to visit the humble sisters who had prayed so fervently for him at the crisis of his life:

In 1824, the Ursulines removed to their present convent near the lower limits of the city. There, also, Andrew Jackson visited the nuns. This was in 1828. The political campaign which eventuated in his election to the presidency had opened. Jackson had come to New Orleans upon the invitation of the Louisiana legislature to participate in the thirteenth anniversary of the victory at Chalmette. He was accompanied to the convent by several of his staff and by some of the most distinguished men and women of the city. The convent’s cloistered precincts were opened to the renowned guest and to those who were with him. It may that among these surroundings the chieftains thoughts were diverted from the presidential contest, that the suggestions of ambition receded before the grateful reminiscence of the nuns who, thirteen years before, had prayed for victory to his battalions. ["The Louisiana Ursulines," Publications of the Louisiana Historical Society, Volume 2, Issues 3-4].

Here we find yet another example of how God Almighty uses very imperfect men as the instruments of His holy Will. 

Statue of Andrew Jackson in Jackson Square, New Orleans, with the Cathedral-Basilica of
Saint Louis in the background. I took this photo during a visit in 2016.

Wednesday, October 19, 2022

"We are dead men, my brothers...May death find you with God in mind." ~ The Martyrdom and Life of St. Charles Garnier

The death of St. Charles Garnier, as depicted in a French woodcut.

For the feast of the North American martyrs today, I post the account of Saint Charles Garnier's death and life as taken from the Jesuit Relation of 1650. Garnier was slain by the Iroquois on December 7, 1649 at the age of 44. 

Fr. Garnier's death occurred during that year of destruction, 1649, when the Iroquois erupted like a whirlwind from their base in present-day central New York and burst upon their traditional enemies to the north. Newly equipped with British muskets and schooled in their use, the Iroquois had an insuperable advantage over the Hurons, Algonquins, and Tobacco nations who were still armed with their more primitive traditional weapons. 

Fr. Garnier was a missionary among the Petun (or Tobacco) nation, allies of the Hurons who lived south of Georgian Bay in present-day Ontario. During that winter of 1649, news had gone out to the Petun that an Iroquois war party was headed their way. Rather than await the arrival of these raiders, the Petun warriors set out to find and destroy them in the wilderness. Unfortunately, their ambush was misled and the stealthy Iroquois arrived unopposed at the defenseless Petun villages.

The account below was drawn from the testimony of eye-witnesses who escaped the attack, and those who found his remains after the Iroquois withdrew: 

It was on the seventh day of the month of last December, in the year 1649, toward three o'clock in the afternoon, that this band of Iroquois appeared at the gates of the village, spreading immediate dismay, and striking terror into all those poor people—bereft of their strength, and finding themselves vanquished when they thought to be themselves the conquerors. Some took to flight. Others were slain on the spot. To many, the flames, which were already consuming some of their cabins, gave the first intelligence of  the disaster. Many were taken prisoners; but the victorious enemy, fearing the return of the warriors who had gone to meet them, hastened their retreat so precipitately, that they put to death all the old men and children, and all whom they deemed unable to keep up with them in their flight.

It was a scene of incredible cruelty. The enemy snatched from a mother her infants, that they might be thrown into the fire; other children beheld their Mothers beaten to death at their feet or groaning in the flames—permission, in either case, being denied them to show the least compassion. It was a crime to shed a tear, these barbarians demanding that their prisoners should go into captivity as if they were marching to their triumph. A poor Christian Mother, who wept for the death of her infant, was killed on the spot, because she still loved, and could not stifle soon enough her natural feelings. 

Father Charles Garnier was, at that time, the only one of our Fathers in that Mission. When the enemy appeared, he was just then occupied with instructing the people in the cabins which he was visiting. At the noise of the alarm, he went out, going straight to the Church, where he found some Christians. "We are dead men, my brothers," he said to them. "Pray to God, and flee by whatever way you may be able to escape. Bear about with you your faith through what of life remains; and may death find you with God in mind."

He gave them his blessing, then left hurriedly, to go to the help of souls. A prey to despair, not one dreamed of defense. Several found a favorable exit for their flight. They implored the Father to flee with them, but the bonds of Charity restrained him. All unmindful of himself, he thought only of the salvation of his neighbor. Borne on by his zeal, he hastened everywhere—either to give absolution to the Christians whom he met, or to seek, in the burning cabins, the children, the sick, or the catechumens, over whom, in the midst of the flames, he poured the waters of Holy Baptism, his own heart burning with no other fire than the love of God.

It was while thus engaged in Holy work that he was encountered by the death which he had looked in the face without fearing it, or receding from it a single step. A bullet from a musket struck him, penetrating a little below the breast; another, from the same volley, tore open his stomach, lodging in the thigh, and bringing him to the ground. His courage, however, was unabated. The barbarian who had fired the shot stripped him of his cassock, and left him, weltering in his blood, to pursue the other fugitives.

This good Father, a very short time after, was seen to clasp his hands, offering some prayer; then, looking about him, he perceived, at a distance of ten or twelve paces, a poor dying Man—who, like himself, had received the stroke of death, but had still some remains of life. Love of God, and zeal for Souls, were even stronger than death. Murmuring a few words of prayer, he struggled to his knees, and rising with difficulty, dragged himself as best he might toward the sufferer, in order to assist him it dying well. He had made but three or four steps when he fell again, somewhat heavily. Raising himself for the second time, he got, once more, upon his knees and strove to continue on his way; but he body, drained of its blood, which was flowing in abundance from his wounds, had not the strength of his courage. For the third time he fell, having proceeded but five or six steps. 

Further than this, we have not been able to ascertain what he accomplished—the good Christian woman who faithfully related all this to us having seen no more of him, being herself overtaken by an Iroquois, who struck her on the head with a war-hatchet, felling her upon the spot, though she afterward escaped. The Father shortly after, received from a hatchet two blows upon the temples, one on either side, which penetrated to the brain. To him it was the recompense for all past services, the richest he had hoped for from God's goodness. His body was stripped, and left, entirely naked, where it lay.

Two of our Fathers, who were in the nearest neighboring Mission, received a remnant of these poor fugitive Christians, who arrived all out of breath, many of them all covered with their own blood. The night was one of continual alarm, owing to the fear, which had seized all, of a similar misfortune. Toward the break of day, it was ascertained from certain spies that the enemy had retired. The two Fathers at once set out, that they might themselves look upon a spectacle most sad indeed, butt nevertheless acceptable to God. They found only dead bodies heaped together, and the remains of poor Christians—some who were almost consumed in the pitiable remains of the still burning village; others deluged with their own blood; and a few who yet showed some signs of life, but were all covered with wounds,—looking only for death, and blessing God in their wretchedness. At length, in the midst of that desolated village, they descried the body they had come to seek; but so little cognizable was it, being completely covered with its blood, and the ashes of the fire, that they passed it by. Some Christian Savages, however, recognized their Father, who had died for love of them. They buried him in the same spot on which their Church had stood, although there remained no longer any vestige of it, the fire having consumed all.

The poverty of that burial was; sublimed sanctity no less so. The two good Fathers divested themselves of part of their apparel, to cover therewith the dead; they could do no more, unless it were to return entirely unclothed...

Two days after the taking and burning of the village, its inhabitants returned—who, having discovered the change of plan which had led the enemy to take another route, had had their suspicions of the misfortune that had happened. But now they beheld it with their own eyes; and at the sight of the ashes, and the dead bodies of their relatives, their wives, and their children, they maintained for half the day a profound silence—seated, after the manner of savages, upon the ground, without lifting their eyes, or uttering even a sigh—like marble statues, without speech, without sight, and without motion. For it is thus that the Savages mourn—at least, the men and the warriors—tears, cries, and lamentations befitting, so they say, the women.

At this point, the author of the relation, Fr. Paul Ragueneau, provides a brief biography of his Jesuit colleague, Fr. Garnier. 

Father Charles Garnier was born in Paris, in the year 1605, and entered our Society in 1624. He was thus but little over 44 years of age on the 7th of December, 1649—the day on which he died in labors which were truly Apostolic, and in which he had lived since the year 1636, when he left France and went up to the country of the Hurons.

From his infancy, he entertained the most tender sentiments of piety, and, in particular, a filial love toward the most holy Virgin, whom he called his Mother. "It it she," he would say, "who carried me in her arms through all my youth, and has placed me in the Society of her Son." He had made a vow to uphold, until death, her Immaculate Conception. He died on the eve of that august Festival [December 8], that he might go to solemnize it yet more gloriously in Heaven.

From the time of his Novitiate, he seemed an angel, his humility being so uncommon that he was held before all others as a mirror of sanctity. He had experienced the greatest difficulties in obtaining permission from his father to enter our Society; but these were very much enhanced when, ten years after that first separation, it became necessary to reconcile the father to a second, of a still more painful kind. This was his departure from France, to go into these Missions at the end of the world—our Superiors having expressed their wish that his father should yield consent to this, on account of peculiar obligations which our Society was under to him. His voyage was thus delayed, an entire year, but this only served to fan the flame of his desires. Day and night he thought only of the conversion of the savages, and of devoting to them his life, to its latest breath....At length, he succeeded in obtaining this great boon from Heaven, and with so much joy in his heart, that he looked upon that day as the happiest of his entire life.

While crossing the sea, he made some remarkable conversions on shipboard. Among others, he was informed that belonging to the crew was a man without conscience, without Religion, and without God. This man avoided every one, and all avoided him. It was over ten years since he had confessed. The Father, carried away by his usual zeal, took in hand that gloomy temper and that hopeless man, and, after a thousand evidences of love—exhibited in all manner of attentions, instructions, and good of fines—succeeded at last in winning him. He induced this man to make a general confession, and brought him into so great a peace, and joy of conscience, that all wondered, and were touched by it.

As soon as he came among the Hurons, we had in him an indefatigable worker, replete with every gift of Nature and of Grace that could make an accomplished Missionary. He had mastered the language of the Savages so thoroughly that they themselves were astonished at him. He worked his way so far into their hearts, and with such a power of eloquence, as to carry them away with him. His face, his eyes—even his laugh, and every movement of his body—preached sanctity. His heart spoke yet louder than his words and made itself heard, even in his silence. I know of several who were converted to God by the mere aspect of his countenance, which was truly Angelic, and which imparted a spirit of devotion, and chaste impressions, to those approaching him—whether he were at prayer, of seemed to be communing with himself, collecting his thoughts, after some activity in behalf of his neighbor; or whether he spoke of God; or it might be, even, when Charity had engaged him in discourse of a different character, which afforded some relaxation to his mind. The love of God which reigned in his heart gave life to all his movements, and made them heavenly.

His virtues were heroic, nor was there lacking in him one of those which go to make up the greatest Saints....His prayers were so full of reverence for the presence of God, and so peaceful in the hush of all his own powers, that he scarcely seemed to suffer the least distraction, though engaged in occupational most apt to dissipate his thoughts. His Prayers, from the outset, were but a series of colloquies, devout emotions, and acts of love; and this ardor grew even more intense until the close.

His mortification was equal to his love. He sought it night and day. He always lay on the bare ground, and bore constantly upon his body some portion of that Cross which during life he held most dear, and on which it was his desire to die. Every time that he returned from his Mission rounds he never failed to sharpen freshly the iron points of a girdle all covered with spur-rowels, which he wore next to his skin. In addition to this, he would very often use a discipline of wire, armed, besides, with sharpened points. His daily fare differed in no way from that of the savages—that is to say, it was the scantiest that a miserable beggar would expect in France. During that last year of famine, acorns and bitter roots were, to him, delicacies—not that he was insensible to their bitterness, but that love gave a relish to them. And yet he had ever been the cherished child of a rich and noble house, and the object of all a Father's endearments....

In his latest letters, addressed to me three days before his death, in response to a request which I made to him touching the state of his health—asking if it would not be right that he should quit for a time his Mission, in order to come once more to see us, and recover a little his strength—he answered me by urging, at great length, many reasons which disposed him to remain in his Mission, but reasons which gathered their force only from the spirit of charity and truly Apostolic zeal with which he was filled. "It is true," he added, "that I suffer something in regard to hunger, but that is not to death; and, thank God, my body and my spirit keep up in all their vigor. I am not alarmed on that side. But what I should fear more would be that, in leaving my flock in the time of their calamities, and in the terrors of war—in a time when they need me more than ever—I would fail to use the opportunities which God gives me of losing myself for him, and so render myself unworthy of his favors. I take only too much care of myself," added he; "and if I saw that my powers were failing me, I should not fail, since your Reverence bids me, to come to you; for I am at all times ready to leave everything, to die, in the spirit of obedience, where God wills. But otherwise, I will never come down from the Cross on which his goodness has placed me."

These great aspirations after sanctity had grow with him from his infancy. For myself, having known him for more than twelve years—in which he opened to me all his heart, as he did to God himself—I can truly say that, in all those years, I do not think that, save in sleep, he has spent a single hour without these burning and vehement desires of progressing more and more in the ways of God, and of helping forward in them his fellow-creatures. Outside of these considerations, nothing in the world affected him—neither relatives, nor friends, nor rest, nor consolation, nor hardships, nor fatigues. God was his all; and, apart from Him, all else was to him as nothing.

He took some sick people, and carried them on his shoulders for one or two leagues, in order to gain their hearts and to secure the opportunity to baptize them. He accomplished some ten or twenty leagues during the most excessive heat of Summer, along dangerous roads, where the enemy was continually perpetrating massacres. All breathless, he would hurry after a single savage, who served him as guide, that he might baptize some dying man, or a captive of war who was to be burnt that same day. He has passed whole nights in groping after a lost path, amid the deep snows and the most biting cold of winter—his zeal knowing no obstacle at any season of the year.

During the prevalence of contagious diseases—when they shut on us everywhere the doors of the cabins, and talked of nothing but of massacring us—not only did he go unswervingly where he felt there was a soul to gain for Paradise, but, by an excess of zeal and an ingenuity born of Charity, he found means of opening all the ways that had been closed against him, and of breaking down, sometimes forcibly, all that opposed his progress. But that which imparted a more heavenly aspect to every such procedure, and did not result from human sagacity, was this, that, from the moment of his entry, he won over fierce spirits by a single word, and accomplished all that he had set himself to do. Nothing repelled him; and he always looked for good, even from souls the most hopeless.

He had a way of recourse to the angels all his own, and experienced their most powerful assistance. The savages, to whose aid he went at the hour of death, have seen him accompanied, as they said, by a young man of rare beauty and majestic glory, who remained at his side, and urged them to obey the instructions of the Father. These good people could tell no more, and inquired who was this companion who had so stolen away their hearts. They knew not that the angels do more than we in the conversion of sinners, although ordinarily, their operation is not so evident.

His strongest inclination was to aid the most depraved, however repulsive the disposition that any one might possess, however vile and insolent he might be. He felt for all alike, with the bowels of a Mother—not omitting any act of corporal Mercy which he could perform for the salvation of souls. He has been seen to dress ulcers so loathsome, and which emitted a stench so offensive, that the savages, and even the nearest relatives of the sick man, were unable to endure them. He alone would handle these, wiping off the pus and cleansing the wound, every day, for two and three months together, with an eye and a countenance that betokened only charity—though he often saw very clearly that the wounds were incurable. "But," said he, "the more deadly they are, the stronger inclination have I to undertake the care of them—that I may lead these poor people even to the gate of Paradise, and keep them from falling into sin at a time which is for them the most perilous in life."

Not one Mission was there in the whole territory of the Hurons in which he had not been; and several of them he had himself originated—that, in particular, in which he died. Toward the savages he conducted himself with a remarkable prudence, and with a sweetness of charity that could excuse all, and bear with all, though having in it nothing that was mean-spirited....

He was not so wedded to the conversion of the Hurons that his heart did not go out to Nations the most distant—were it only to baptize the infants, "who," he remarked, "are a certain gain for Heaven." He often said to us that it would have pleased him to fall into the hands of the Iroquois, and be their captive. For, had they burned him alive, he would at least have had a chance of instructing them for as long a time as they prolonged his torments; and, if they had spared his life, that would have been a precious means of obtaining their conversion—a thing impossible, as it is, the way being closed against us as long as they remain our enemies....

The full account, followed by a letter written by one of the Jesuit Fathers who buried St. Charles wrote, may be found here: Jesuit Relations, Volume XXXV

Other posts on this blog drawn from the Jesuit Relations may be found here:

Tuesday, October 18, 2022

"The Holy Apostle Luke Painted this Image" ~ The traditional Lucan origin of the icon of the Hodegetria

15th century Greek representation of St. Luke painting the Hodegetria icon.

Today is the feast of Saint Luke, a father of the ancient Church renowned as Evangelist, Historian, and Physician. We should be aware of one additional title that is traditionally attributed to this early disciple of Christ: Artist. For the name of Saint Luke is attached to one of the most venerable works of art of the ancient Church—the Hodegetria icon which resided in Constantinople until its destruction in 1453. 

While the origins of the Hodegetria icon are shrouded in mystery, its connection to St. Luke is based upon traditions stretching back to the early centuries of Constantinople as a Christian capital. Among the most ancient sources to record this tradition is a manuscript known as the Anonymous Mercati, a document penned by an English pilgrim who journeyed to Constantinople in the 11th century AD. A translation of the key passage may be found in Pentcheva's work, Icons and Power: The Mother of God in Byzantium. Here is a snippet:

“In the part of the palace near the church of Hagia Sophia, very near to the great palace by the sea, is situated the monastery of the Mother of God, Theotokos. And in this monastery there is a holy icon of the Theotokos, called Hodegetria, which can be translated as “She Who Leads the Way.” … The holy apostle Luke painted this image of the Mother of God holding the Christ Child on her arm.” (Pentcheva, Icons and Power, page 126).

There is a further legend that explains how this icon of the Mother of God, presumably painted by St. Luke in Antioch (Luke’s presumed home town), Jerusalem, or some other city in the Levant, became associated with Constantinople. A late 14th century text known as the Logos Diegematikos holds that the icon was sent from the Levant by the empress Eudocia to her sister-in-law, Saint Pulcheria, in the mid-5th century AD:

“In fact, the empress Eudocia, upon receiving these holy and divine gifts [the Hodegetria icon and relics] from those holy monks like some much-valued treasure, sent them to the empress Pulcheria….Which gift, Pulcheria, as one could say, receiving it with great joy, deposited in the famous and holy sanctuary of the Theotokos and ordered the holy and sacred icon to be in the church as a protection of the palace, the entire city, and the whole world.” (Pentcheva, Icons and Power, page 128).

A previous post on this blog notes that Eudocia was indeed resident in both Antioch and Jerusalem for a time. Readers will also recall posts about Saint Pulcheria here and here, as well as a post demonstrating Pulcheria’s keen interest in bringing relics to Constantinople. Another post, citing a passage in the writings of St. John Damascene in the 8th century, indicates that Pulcheria and her consort, the emperor Marcian, had an interest in Marian relics and had specifically sought (though in vain) for the body of the Mother of God.

Pentcheva believes that the late recording of these acts make it likely that they are mere interpolations of medieval writers. An alternative viewpoint may be found in Grotowsky's The Hodegon: Considerations on the location of the Hodegetria sanctuary in Constantinople (Byzantina Symmeikta, Volume 27). This excellent work compiles and interprets the fragments of history on the Hodegetria that have come down to us. 

This story of St. Luke painting the famous icon has served as fodder for other artists down through the centuries. The version shown at the top of this post was painted by an unknown Greek artist, likely in the early 15th century shortly before the fall of Constantinople to the Turks. Below is a fanciful version, showing Our Lady and the Christ child actually sitting for their portraits, with both the artist and the subjects dressed in Renaissance garb and looking very Dutch.

Saint Luke Painting the Virgin, Derick Baegert, ca. 1470.

Next, we see an even more fanciful, proto-Baroque rendition of the same event as imagined by Florentine artist Giorgio Vasari, complete with Saint Luke’s symbol (the ox) and the heavenly Virgin attended by cherubs. 

Saint Luke Painting a Portrait of the Madonna, ca 1565

As recorded by the 15th century Greek historian Constantine Dukas, the original Hodegetria icon was destroyed by the Turks after the sack of Constantinople in AD 1453. As the story goes, four Turkish looters found it in the Chora monastery where it had been placed to protect the city during the siege. The Turks debated over which of them should possess it, and utilizing the wisdom of Solomon, decided to break it into four pieces. 

There are many likely spurious accounts, however, which maintain that the true icon was spirited out of Constantinople at some point during its long history, with several cities in Italy, including Venice, claiming ownership. The Poles also claim that the icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa is the original Hodegetria. For more on these claims, see, Wolff, "Footnote to an Incident of the Latin Occupation of Constantinople: The Church and the Icon of the Hodegetria" (Traditio, vol. 6 (1948), pp. 319-328).

Left: Image of the Madonna Nicopeia from Saint Mark’s Basilica, Venice. Right: Icon of
Our Lady of Czestochowa which is housed in Jasna Gora Monastery, Czestochowa, Poland.