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In the days when Huxley and Herbert Spencer and the Victorian agnostics were trumpeting as a final truth the famous hypothesis of Darwin, it seemed to thousands of simple people almost impossible that religion should survive. It is all the more ironic that it has not only survived them all, but it is a perfect example (perhaps the only real example) of what they called the Survival of the Fittest.[1]

Vienna

Furthermore, political freedom, and especially that political freedom that justifies itself by the pursuit of human excellence, is not a gift of heaven; it becomes actual only through the efforts of many generations, and its preservation always requires the highest degree of vigilance.[2]

Near the end of his life, Jacques Maritain wrote a reflective essay on the role the realm of the spirit played with regard to peace and progress. He was careful to separate these concepts from the transcendent and divine. He stressed it was not the province of the spiritual to be an agent of resolution for potential conflicts, yet this did not mean the spiritual should be removed from such matters. “Peace and progress are things of the world or of the temporal order. For them the spiritual can furnish inspiration, light, and encouragement which men need in a very particular way, always more or less subject as they are to the temptation of despair.”[3]

This temptation of despair may occur with more sobering severity as in the past three-and-a-half millennia, there have been no more that two hundred and sixty-eight peaceful years.[4] This raises some questions concerning peace and the potential for it according to Maritain’s writing, as well as the purpose of peace relative to the highest earthly aspirations of political philosophy. If peace is to possess greater meaning than mere moments of respite between chronic epochs of hostility, then it would be best to define what constitutes the virtues of peace.

It is the scope of this essay to address this by comparing Maritain’s writings on the subject to those of that Doctor of the Church most known for his political thought on the realms of the earthly and heavenly: St. Augustine. This essay shall show where the perspectives of these authors coincide and differ on the question of peace.

In addition, a historical case with great pertinence shall be discussed. This involves a narrative fusing together themes from Maritain and Augustine. Few historical events conjoin such rich political perspectives as the momentous clash between a coalition of Christian nations and a mighty host brought forth by the empire of the Ottomans. The culmination of this struggle took place at the gates of Vienna in the year 1683.

To delve beyond the texts, oral accounts and sources on the theory and practice of peace and conflict, as well as those studied in centuries of Central European history are cited. These voices, ranging from the fields of theology, history, and the military, give original insight into the larger questions surrounding this essay’s topic, and its chosen paradigm set in the dour days when Habsburgs vied with Ottomans for the destiny of Europe, and inevitably, the West.

Recounting Gaudium et Spes, one of the four constitutions resulting from the Second Vatican Council, Maritain offered that civic and political education were necessary to achieve a state wherein a political community’s individuals are allowed to play their own unique roles.

Jacques Maritain

Jacques Maritain

Here, he drew a distinction between the political thought of the Renaissance, no doubt illiberally infused with Machiavellian practicality, and what the Council taught with regard to the common good, and that of the individual. He wrote, “Since the time of the Renaissance, politics was considered as no more than a simple matter of intelligent cynicism, something essentially amoral, delivered up to the laws of deception and violence.”[5]

Countering this, the Council taught of the dignity of people and their inherent rights, “a just notion of the common good, and the common good of the entire human family… the elimination of racial hatred and discrimination, especially of anti-Semitism, as well as the instinctive feelings of hostility between nations.”[6] These to Maritain were the ultimate guidelines to political life, especially of import with regard to politics in the international arena.

It is of note that Maritain described the feelings of hostility between nations to be instinctive. If it is to be understood that the Machiavellian political worldview is what inexorably leads to conflict, and what the Council proposes is a means to lessen the disruption of peace, how will this more idealistic school of thought triumph? In order to mitigate as much as possible the actuality of this potential for instinctive international hostility, Maritain cited the Council’s writings on the necessity of a multinational body which would not only lessen the potential for war, but even put an end to this ancient scourge.

There would have to be brought into being an institution which derived its authority from the unimpeded assent of various populations, and possessed actual power to pursue this goal. “Here we are faced with a major problem which has long tormented this old philosopher—I will not say of a World Government, for this term tends to be too equivocal.”[7] Instead, Maritain opted for “a supranational political authority consisting, not of a world-wide empire or a world super-State, but of a real political organization of the world, based on the free consent and the free cooperation of nations and peoples.”[8]

At the time of Maritain’s writing, he did not feel such a sentiment, which he acknowledged as utopian, was possible. It would have to be something aspired to in the coming future. The goal was “to work at the distant preparations for this society, by putting into motion the long effort of reason and good will thanks to which this utopia will end up becoming a realizable ideal.”[9] In keeping with this organ’s being built for world guidance instead of world domination, Maritain returned to an education which brought forth “the truth of a political philosophy and a political ethic founded on reason enlightened by faith.”[10]

The City of GodThe origin of the philosophical fusing of pagan Greek and Medieval Christian thought occurred with St. Augustine. Not the least of the ties that bound these two schools of thought was the effort of Christian thinkers to tether Greek reason with Christian faith. In his The City of God, Augustine wrote of worldly peace and the cost often required for its purchase.

The earthly city and the heavenly city are separated by what they love. The former glories in itself, as it loves itself to the point of having contempt for God. The latter glories in God, and thus loves Him to the point of having contempt for itself. The earthly city, having its own good in this life, tends to exalt in not only its worldly comforts and appetites, but also in what would have been considered virtues in the pagan Greek mind. This leads inevitably to the tragedy of pride, wherein man, believing himself wise, falls for focusing solely on himself at the exclusion of others. In contrast, the heavenly city is a true society, a fellowship of individuals whose forsaking of the self leads to godliness. This city’s inhabitants give what is due to God, and hence find themselves surrounded by others of like mind: saints, holy men, and angels whose seeking not of themselves brings them fuller relationships with others.

Where Augustine’s political thought bears much fruit is in its complexity, especially with regard to the potential benefits produced by the earthly city. The goods pursued by this city are not those possessing the quality of relieving its followers of the labors and torments occurring with an earthly life. “For each part of it that arms against another part of it seeks to triumph over the nations though itself in bondage to vice.”[11]

Interestingly, Augustine then wrote that though its existence was inextricably linked with strife, the things pursued by the earthly city cannot rightly be called wrong. In fact, what the earthly city seeks is the highest of all human goods. Augustine wrote: “It desires earthly peace for the sake of enjoying earthly goods, and it makes war in order to attain this peace.”[12] Peace has its virtue in allowing people to chase after the good. However, if the virtues of the heavenly city which bring about eternal peace were neglected, and exchanged for mutable goods of the present, “then it is necessary that misery follow and ever increase.”[13]

Both Maritain and Augustine concur on the almost Heraclitean reality of ever-present worldly conflict. They may part ways on how to tackle this reality. Maritain, having seen man’s capacity for war coupled with his ever-increasing technological achievement, pressed for an earthly body, touched by faith and reason, which could actively bring about the end of international wars. For Augustine, the earthly city could help in bringing about peace, but usually at the end of, and with the attendant price of, wars. One does not get the sense from Augustine that lasting peace could ever be achieved in this life. That being said, ultimately both would come together on the idea that for peace to indeed mean more than a mere lull between hostilities, there needed to be something taught or practiced during this period, perhaps a glimmer of the heavenly city to benefit the life of an earthly state. There are few examples in history which illustrate this condition as well as the tale of the Battle of Vienna.

There is on the outside wall of the Augustinerkirche in Vienna a small, yet important memorial. A plaque commemorates a Mass attended by the Polish King Jan Sobieski III after the defeat of the Ottoman forces besieging the city on September 13, 1683. That such a climactic war would see its conclusion in a quiet Mass is most notable. When one views the entirety of the Battle of Vienna, with special focus on what led up to it and what proceeded from it, glimpses of what bridges the political thought of Augustine and Maritain are seen. The more one looks to this, the more one values an enduring purpose for peace.

The Sage of ViennaWhat may surprise as to the seeds of this conflict is that the Ottoman Empire, itself the standard-bearer of the Muslim faith for hundreds of years, did not explicitly begin its attack on the West for purely religious reasons. Oxford University’s John Stoye, in his book, The Siege of Vienna, establishes the conditions existing within the Ottoman Empire that would result in the coming clash—conditions possessing religious significance, but not born of religion.

Stoye first carefully drew a distinction between the seventeenth century perception of the Ottoman Empire, and its truer state, one which had receded in leadership from what it once had been. For the politically uninitiated, the Empire remained the same as it had always, the ultimate worldly authority in all the lands it possessed. Hence, “the frame of government provided by the great Ottoman Sultan seemed indestructibly part of the nature of things. Its splendor, and strength, far overshadowed the current tribulations of humanity within it.”[14]

In contrast to this, what really constituted the organization of the realm was far from its zenith when Ottoman forces swept through Constantinople. Driving this move was the decision of sultans to recuse themselves from more public duties. “Apart from Murad IV, the sultans of the seventeenth century retreated to the hunting-lodge or the inner household of the palace.”[15] These sovereigns, fearing any sign of potential rivals, refused members of their own families any political or intellectual education, and denied them any public authority. An interesting political dichotomy arose. “Power was still the Sultan’s, but responsibility increasingly rested with a sequence of Grand Vezirs whose tenure of office depended on the Sultan’s good will, susceptible in turn to secret intrigue within the palace or hunting lodge.”[16]

Upon this political class of Vezirs rested the onerous responsibilities previously conjoined with power in the figure of their rulers. Mirroring what troubled the ancient kings of the fertile crescent millennia before, there was concern that the Ottoman crack troops, its Janissaries, could be restless troublemakers when at home and not involved in war. These men, bred and raised from an early age to be the most dread fighters of their time, came to be influenced by the Bektashi sect, a development which threatened the religious unity which undergirded the Empire. Another matter altogether was keeping in check the Empire’s provincial heads, its pashas who, removed from the capital, may involve themselves in various degrees of self-aggrandizement.

Then, there was one last problem. “It was necessary to satisfy the Sultan, and this meant giving him funds enough to lead the easy, expensive life he craved.”[17]

Wiki-2014-Oct-Vienna-Battle-of-Vienna-by-Juliusz-Kossak-public-domainAmong a range of choices available to the Grand Vezir Kara Mustafa, what appeared to make sense was war. War, and the long-sought-after conquest of the Golden Apple of Vienna solved the gamut of his problems in short order. The volatile Janissaries could prove useful, and more importantly absent from the capital. War consolidated rival Muslim sects into one against a common non-Muslim enemy, lessening the perceived influence of groups like the Bektashi. Provincial leaders would be mobilized, inflating the Ottoman army to its fullest number, thereby enhancing the Grand Vezir’s own clout. Finally, as war cost money, heavy taxation could be levied which would ultimately sate the appetites of the Sultan.

This particular venture by the Ottoman Empire spoke of the political expediency written of by Maritain in relation to Machiavelli. To serve the interests of the Empire, and by extension those of the Grand Vezir, the choice of war over peace was an attractive option. Yet, it would be simplistic to call this course of action purely rationalistic Machiavellianism.

Dr. Claudia Reichl-Ham, Ottoman Wars expert and Director at the Heeresgeschichtliches Museum in Vienna, clearly explained the nuance of the Ottoman advance to this author. There indeed was a religious underpinning to Kara Mustafa’s marshaling of the Empire’s forces.

However, it was not an effort on the part of a faith, acting through its earthly adherents, to convert unbelievers as a primary cause. Rather, the Christians of the Habsburg domains were considered Giauren, or those who did not believe in Islam, and hence were inferior to the followers of the Muslim faith. As the inferior peoples were not of the true faith, they were subject to conquest. Thus, faith played a secondary role of importance in this military venture.

Ottoman empireHere can be seen what Augustine warned of with regard to the penchant for self-elevation of the earthly city. War, and the abandonment of a state of relative peace, resulted from the Ottoman Empire’s concern for its own internal chaos. It then infused its religious sense of self into the equation, which though not necessarily being its primary impetus, spurred the national prerogative toward conquest. Adding a twist to Augustine’s earthly city, the Empire glorified in itself, all the while trumpeting its standing with its god as a justification for its actions.

On the opposing side, a different picture of the relationship between church and state could be seen with how the Habsburg Empire and its allies prepared for, and fought the coming onslaught. This union, forged out of necessity by war, was akin to the international body devoted to safeguarding peace Maritain wished for. Crucial to this was the adhesive that bound such disparate personalities as Leopold, Holy Roman Emperor, and Jan Sobieski III, King of Poland.

Aristotle once posited that there were six essential elements to an ideal city. In order, they were food, arts, arms, funds, care of the service of the gods, and courts. Among these, he named the fifth, roughly translatable as religious piety, as chief. One may ask, what did maintaining temple hygiene in an ancient polis do for a city? The answer of course was that this faithful maintenance of tradition served to bind a people together in ways the threat of force fell short of. It was this quality that joined together the Viennese defenders and their allies.

Herr Alexander Pachta-Reyhofen, a Director at the International Theological Institute in Trumau, Austria, astutely pointed out to this author the active roles Church clergy played in forging this bond so essential in repelling the Ottoman surge. From Bishop von Kollonitsch of Wiener Neustadt to Fr. Marco d’Aviano, and on to Pope Innocent XI, the Church served both as an inspiration in the manner envisioned by Augustine and Maritain.

The Bishop as a young boy had lived through the Turkish siege of Malta. Living once again amidst the paralyzing fear of Ottoman conquest, he saw to it that emergency procedures such as food collection and rationing, as well as regulating against the creation of a black market were implemented. Fr. d’Aviano proved himself a skilled mediator between the member nations allied against the Ottomans. He served as Emperor Leopold’s close spiritual adviser, informing the latter of the final defeat of Turkish forces. Pope Innocent XI lent his considerable influence in calling for a Christian defense against Ottoman attack. After victory had been won, he made September 12 a feast day, one still celebrated in Austria.

Still, even with consistent intercession from members of the clergy and Rome itself, there was the deadly business of taking up sword and spear against Kara Mustafa’s formidable host, numbering one hundred and fifty thousand men. It took the combined efforts of Vienna’s embattled defenders, the Emperor’s brother-in-law Duke Charles of Lorraine, and the Polish King Jan Sobieski III to surmount what was considered almost impossible odds.

The HamburgsThe University of Michigan’s Dorothy Gies McGuigan wrote of this alliance in her history, The Habsburgs. Against the Ottoman forces, the Duke of Lorraine had already travelled with his own troops, numbering around thirty-six thousand men, up the Danube and were awaiting help should it, by divine providence, arrive on time. The King of Poland had previously made a pact of alliance with the Holy Roman Empire. Upon widespread word of the severity of the situation in Vienna, there came the welcome notice: “To the Emperor’s ambassador the Polish King replied that he asked nothing better than to deserve well of God and man, and that he would keep the word of his alliance with the Emperor.”[18]

Sobieski’s forces were a multifaceted group. Most well-known was his heavy cavalry, the feared winged hussars. Yet, his army also had numbered among them troops so disparate in appearance, one did not know what to make of them. “And around him swarmed that strange army of his, like a huge pack of gypsies, ill-clad and with the most nondescript of weapons- muskets, half-pikes, clubs, and swords.”[19] The King assured any concerned. “They belong to an invincible regiment that has sworn to be clothed in nothing but the uniform of its enemies.”[20]

Battle_of_Vienna_1683_11Equal to the task they were. By the late afternoon of September 12, 1683, Grand Vezir Kara Mustafa’s host had its right wing crushed by the Duke of Lorraine. Then, with himself leading a charge of nearly twenty thousand winged hussars, Sobieski cleaved through the overwhelmed Ottomans, decimating their numbers and forcing Kara Mustafa to flee.

There were two scenes captured by McGuigan that spoke quite tellingly of the aftermath of the Battle of Vienna. First, when the Emperor Leopold was to meet with the King of Poland a few days after victory was won, the former asked his brother-in-law the Duke how Sobieski, an elected king, ought be received. Charles of Lorraine replied that he ought to be received, befitting the situation, with open arms. On September 15, Leopold, following his traditional protocol, conveyed his thanks to Sobieski in Latin. Likewise in Latin, Poland’s king replied, “I am glad sire, to have rendered you this small service.”[21]

The second tale involves less in the way of words. The defeat of Kara Mustafa’s once invincible grand army had its own protocol. “On Christmas Day in Constantinople the Grand Vizier was strangled with a bowstring and his head carried in to the Sultan on a silver dish.”[22]

There is obviously stark contrast between these two accounts. Though both powerful men, Leopold and Sobieski knew there were things beyond themselves to which they were bound. Leopold, as Emperor, had to give thanks to the man who delivered his city from defeat and destruction. He also knew there existed rules as to how this mutual expression of gratitude was to be conducted. Sobieski was bound by his oath to come to Vienna’s aid. His mission done, the King of Poland declined self-adulation, mentioning only his thanks for being able to perform a service to the Habsburg sovereign. Though militarily powerful, he tempered pride with piety to his faith: a faith he knew was shared by, and thus also binding on, the Emperor. In victory—linking what was shared by Augustine and Maritain—it seemed one ought to retreat to the holy.

The Ottoman Sultan Mehmed IV had so changed the role of his office, that he effectively became a man of immense power, but with little responsibility attendant to that power. When power and responsibility are more or less conjoined, as in the case of Leopold and Sobieski, there was and is a greater capacity to find solace and inspiration in what one’s faith deems as sacred. By isolating himself from his people, the Sultan cuthis ties to older standards of rectitude. As Mehmed was free from responsibility, he was thus free from the failure of defeat, a fate relegated to Kara Mustafa. When a monarch recuses himself in this manner, there is nothing holy to retreat to, there is only himself.

What peace would bring to Viennese society was an appreciation and retreat to the holy, which was historically notable. From the Emperor to his subjects, post-war Vienna was a Catholic state with few peers. Habsburg historian Herr Marco Freek, from the University of Innsbruck, carefully stressed to this author the piety that permeated the realm. The Viennese court, as Freek maintained, resembled a monastery than its more ostentatious rivals, particularly in France. It was a court whose members attended Mass several times daily, and who were also prohibited from wearing jewelry, instead donning a black form of clothing reminiscent of what was worn by monks.

What was unique about such piety was its interweaving of the somber and the joyous. McGuigan wrote that this was what saw Vienna rise out of the ruins of the Ottoman Wars as a city changed. From a populous medieval town, a city which was the embodiment of what was admired and elegant about the baroque emerged. This fifty-year period manifested change carved not only from rock, both native and Italian, “but out of the joy and relief and exuberance of a people who has lived under the Turkish threat for a hundred and fifty years.”[23]

Kara Mustafa

Kara Mustafa

Central to this reemergence was the deeply entrenched relationship between the Emperor and the people of Vienna. Glimpses of this were seen at the moment of the city’s greatest danger during the war. On July 7, 1683, news came to court of the Ottoman victory over imperial forces at Petronell. It was said Kara Mustafa was mere hours away. With the need for safeguarding the Empire’s treasures and the Emperor himself being paramount, it was decided that evacuation was the only reasonable decision. Instead of begging or demanding the Emperor to stay, the Vienna town council rushed to the Hofburg and assured Leopold that he could keep watch and protect the city from anywhere, and thus encouraged him to first see to his own safety. It was said that Leopold wept at this show of loyalty and made a promise to send immediate help. This spoke of people not simply following a monarch because of his earthly power.

During the following half-century, this relationship further developed as one befitting the Augustinian relationship of earthly and heavenly cities. Though the preeminent monarch in Europe, Leopold was himself bound to the duties and piety of his station. He rose at the same hour daily and heard three Masses in a row as he knelt on pavement in the chapel. Then, he held audiences with his subjects, both rich and poor.

The very nature of the Emperor’s adherence to worship spoke of the unique status of the Holy Roman Emperor. The stark image of the monarch piously on his knees in prayer told his subjects that he ruled not of his own power, but by something much more permanent. To a subject, this display was more profoundly moving than any show of military force.

The uniquely warm relationship between court and city could be seen during two very different seasons of the year. First, there was the celebration of Fasching, or carnival season; a capacity for mirth surprising after so many years of war. Between Epiphany and Shrove Tuesday, “a round of frolicking, of masked balls, of ridottos, comedies, operas, sleigh rides, fireworks, concerts, and horse ballets entertained the court set.”[24] The Habsburg monarchs themselves partook in these activities. A favorite of theirs was the Wirtschaft, or tavern, celebration. The Emperor and Empress would dress in peasant innkeepers’ clothing, while the Hofburg was transformed into a country inn. The formality of the court was dropped for the time being, and great merrymaking ensued. “While the two seasons of carnival and Lent reflected the contraries of human life, the opposite poles of need, so that one could not exist without the other, it was the robust spirit of Fasching rather than the spirit of Lent that prevailed in Vienna.”[25]

That said, the joyous air of this season did not less the seriousness of Vienna’s observation of Lent. Following Shove Tuesday, no fewer than eighty public devotions were then observed, mandating participation by all ministers of state. One of the more noteworthy events was the Emperor’s washing of peasants’ feet on Maundy Thursday. Again, the devotion of the Emperor to his duties toward God and subject manifested what meaning the peace won by victory against the Ottomans possessed. It produced a state where one was free to do what one ought.

One final act of piety marked this city’s ability to retreat to, and find solace in the holy. When the Emperor died, something remarkable occurred. His funeral procession, held at night, was led not by august ministers of state, but by paupers from the city’s hospitals. These then led monks, palace servants, court officials, clergy, and the Knights of the Order of the Golden Fleece. This humble retinue approached the Kapuzinerkirche, where the door of the church would be knocked three times. The monk inside asked who it was who requested entry. The Emperor’s servant answered, listing the lofty, earthly office of Emperor. The monk replied that he did not know him. The door was thrice knocked again. Upon the monk’s request of who again petitioned for entry, the voice now spoke humbly. “I, Leopold, a poor sinner.”[26]

Two manifestations of piety and humility bookend such a tradition. First, the fact of the funeral train’s being led by paupers suggests the Emperor’s openness to have these speak on his behalf upon the time of his passing. Second, the world’s most august and prestigious monarch, heir to the mandate of heaven, leaves this life like the rest of mortals, humbly beseeching the Almighty’s mercy. If there indeed exists a true mark that renders someone of noble extraction, it would be this devotion to piety. Here was a man of power who knew that power was ultimately superseded by virtue, and here was a city that vanquished the foe in order to retreat to the holy.

habsburgmonarchyThe question of the purpose of peace has troubled humanity from the time an ancient hand was first raised in anger. It is one thing to win a war and impose peace on a vanquished enemy, and altogether another thing to cultivate one’s own victorious city or nation once the wolf has been held at bay. Here, the words and thoughts of those who personally and professionally saw the price of earthly conflicts are worth a careful listen. A retired member of this nation’s most elite special operations unit, the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, Master Sergeant Larry Vickers keenly expressed to this author that peace from the victor to the vanquished is more easily attained than a truly beneficial peace enjoyed within the boundaries of a victorious nation. He noted that while the Second World War’s aftermath was conducted with greater success than the First by the victorious powers, the complacency which followed World War II spelled unreadiness for the coming conflict in Korea. Here, peace, instead of having the effect of preventing war, was quickly overtaken by primal forces beyond its control.

Maritain, having seen the fires that ravaged the first part of the twentieth century, sought a time when an earthly agency could successfully put out future embers. He wrote that this would only be possible given something that inspired the political activities of human beings. Augustine wrote of the importance of this inspiration and relationship. As can be seen in the city of Vienna after the Ottoman Wars, this state exists when peace contributes to having something precious which discourages from war, yet simultaneously inspires the most faithful and steadfast defense when already engaged in conflict. Such a state is possible, again, when victory is pursued and the peace that follows allows a retreat to the holy.

Books on the topic of this essay may be found in The Imaginative Conservative Bookstore. This essay was presented to The American Maritain Association 2016 Annual Meeting in New York, NY.

Notes:

[1] G.K. Chesterton, The Well and The Shallows, (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2006), 61.

[2] Leo Strauss, Natural Right and History, (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1965), 131.

[3] Jacques Maritain, Untrammeled Approaches, (Notre Dame: The University of Notre Dame Press, 1997), 199.

[4] New York Times: “What Everyone Should Know about War” by Chris Hedges

[5] Maritain, Untrammeled Approaches,

[6] Maritain, Untrammeled Approaches,

[7] Maritain, Untrammeled Approaches,

[8] Maritain, Untrammeled Approaches,

[9] Maritain, Untrammeled Approaches,

[10] Maritain, Untrammeled Approaches,

[11] Saint Augustine, The City of God, (New York: The Modern Library, 1993),

[12] Augustine, The City of God, 481.

[13] Augustine, The City of God, 482.

[14] John Stoye, The Siege of Vienna, (New York: Pegasus Books, 2007),

[15] Stoye, The Siege of Vienna,

[16] Stoye, The Siege of Vienna,

[17] Stoye, The Siege of Vienna,

[18] Dorothy Gies McGuigan, The Habsburgs, (Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Company Inc., 1966), 192.

[19] McGuigan, The Habsburgs,

[20] McGuigan, The Habsburgs,

[21] McGuigan, The Habsburgs,

[22] McGuigan, The Habsburgs,

[23] McGuigan, The Habsburgs,

[24] McGuigan, The Habsburgs,

[25] McGuigan, The Habsburgs,

[26] McGuigan, The Habsburgs,

Conversations/emails with, in chronological order:

Herr Alexander Pachta-Reyhofen, Director, International Theological Institute,, Trumau, 1/12/16 Herr Marco Freek, University of Innsbruck, 1/19/16

Dr. Claudia Reichl-Ham, Director, Heeresgeschichtliches Museum, Vienna, 1/27/16 Master Sergeant Larry Vickers, United States Army, Retired, 1/30/16

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5 replies to this post
  1. I appreciate your recognition of the role King Jan Sobieski played in the defense of Vienna. Austrians often conceal this fact, perhaps out of embarrassement: while this Polish king saved Vienna and Austria from being overrun by Muslims, a century later Austrians “repayed” Poland by participating in the partitions of Poland (in 1772 and 1795).
    In a Warsaw or Krakow museum I once saw Kara Mustafa’s tent which King Sobieski’s Polish cavalry took to Poland as a symbol of victory and a war bounty (Kara Mustafa fled beforehand). It is a magnificent and heavily ornamented creation the size of an American middle-class house. The defense of Vienna reminded me of a remark attributed to Alexander the Great: one need not be afraid of an army of lions led by a sheep; one should be afraid of an army of sheep led by a lion. King Sobieski was that lion.

    • Thank you Professor Thompson. The Sobieski plaque at the Augustinerkirche may perhaps escape the attention of tourists viewing Vienna’s many wondrous sites. It did not escape my attention. He was a most compelling leader. I look forward to visiting Krakow one day.

  2. “As the inferior peoples were not of the true faith, they were subject to conquest. Thus, faith played a secondary role of importance in this military venture.”. Yes, but the Islamic doctrine as expressed in the Qur’an and the Sunna calls for the subjection of Christian and Jewish kuffar as dhimmis. Islam is not a religion in the sense that Christianity is a religion. It is a religion plus a virtually total way of life encompassing social, economic and other aspects. That is why when a country was conquered by a small Muslim minority, the population could remain non-Muslim over several generations, as is shown in the history of Egypt, the Ottoman Empire, the Delhi Sultanate, the Mughal Empire.

  3. “This, in fact, is the difference between good man and bad man, that the former make use of the world in order to enjoy God, whereas the later would like to make use of God in order to enjoy the world-if, of course, they believe in God and His providence over man, and are not so bad as those who deny even this.” (St Augustine -City of God)
    “Breath in me o Holy Spirit, that my thoughts may all be holy; Act in me O Holy Spirit, that my work, too may be holy; Draw my heart O Holy Spirit, that I love but what is holy; Strengthen me O Holy Spirit, to defend all that is holy, Guard me, then, O Holy Spirit, that I always may be holy. Amen.” (Prayer of St. Augustine)
    One may wish that Kings, Emperors, and other people of power would be, in just a little fraction, as idealistic as St. Augustine. I just read Polish Historical Calendar in which the historians state that Emperor Leopold insulted King Sobieski right after the battle. Furthermore, Sobieski’s politics, among which the major aspect was to fight the Ottoman Imperium, politically and economically ruined Poland that was taken apart by its Christian neighbors 100 years later. Overall, the political scene of Europe during that time strikes with extreme selfishness not only of each country involved but also many different groups within those “Christian” Countries; to mention just one interesting fact: in the Ottoman’s army there were 15000 Christian Hungarian soldiers.
    At the end, Poland, probably the most idealistic in regards to religion, got twisted one more time by its “allies.” They (We) can always cheer ourselves up meditating on “My kingdom is not of this world…” (John 18:36)

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