Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Witnesses for Christ: Orthodox Christan Neomartyrs of the Ottoman Period, 1437-1860

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Witnesses for Christ: Orthodox Christan Neomartyrs of the Ottoman Period, 1437-1860

Article excerpt

Witnesses for Christ: Orthodox Christian Neomartyrs of the Ottoman Period, 1437-1860. By Nomikos Michael Vaporis. (Crestwood, New York: St. Vladimir's Seminary Press. 2000. Pp xiv, 377. $18.95 paperback.)

As the Ottoman Empire expanded, more and more Orthodox Christians became the subjects of the sultans. For the most part, officials of the Empire were content to allow the Christian population the freedom to practice their religion so long as they paid their taxes. They also had to be willing to live as second-- class citizens throughout their lives.

Islamic law forbids forced conversions, but at certain times and places, usually when the Empire was in distress, Turkish authorities gave vent to their frustrations, becoming persecutors, much as in the manner of ancient Rome. The Orthodox were arrested on a variety of charges. The most serious was that of having made a profession of faith in Islam, and now deciding to retract it. Women who spurned Muslim suitors were in a very precarious situation.

Hauled before a Muslim court, the unfortunate victim was given the opportunity of returning to Islam or facing capital punishment. Before execution, which was always in some public place, the accused usually had to endure an exquisite array of tortures.

The author has gathered the stories of the last days of these men and women, the neomartyrs, as an inspiration, as well as an historical account. There are approximately 200 of them in this volume, grouped according to the century in which they lived. The majority come from the Balkans, but others were martyred in Southwest Asia and Egypt. …

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