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Viaggio alla scoperta dei corpi santi: i martiri d’Otranto

Viaggio alla scoperta dei corpi santi: i martiri d’Otranto

14 agosto: Santi Antonio Primaldo e compagni martiri

Il capoluogo campano, conosciuto per il prodigio del sangue del santo patrono Gennaro, ha tra le mura delle sue antiche e decorate chiese i resti mortali di numerosi santi, tra questi ci sono anche i martiri d’Otranto.

Chi sono i martiri d’Otranto?

Quando si parla dei martiri di Otranto si fa riferimento ai Santi Antonio Primaldo e 812 compagni martirizzati per non aver rinnegato la fede in Cristo. Erano, tutti, cittadini di Otranto, che, all’epoca, contava solo seimila abitanti. Questi coraggiosi ed intrepidi testimoni di Cristo si videro costretti a difendere le proprie case dall’assalto dei Turchi guidati da Gedik Ahmet Pascià. Quando ormai avevano perso tutte le sicurezze della vita terrena decisero di sostenere, in maniera ferma e decisa, il proprio credo senza rinnegare ciò in cui credevano.

La vicenda storica

Nel luglio del 1480 una flotta navale, composta da 150 imbarcazioni, per un totale di diciottomila soldati, si presentò sotto le mura della cittadina del salento. Dopo un lungo bombardamento, a seguito di un attacco finale, Gedik Ahmet Pascià riuscì a sfondare le difese e espugnare il castello e tutti i territori circostanti. Le cronache dell’epoca riferirono dell’uccisione di tutti i maschi, che avevano più di quindici anni, mentre donne e bambini furono ridotti in schiavitù (12.000 i morti e 5.000 furono gli schiavi). I pochi superstiti si rifugiarono nella cattedrale a pregare con l’arcivescovo Stefano Pendinelli. Ben presto furono raggiunti da Gedik Ahmet Pascià che ordinò a tutti di rinnegare la fede cristiana. Quando gli otrantini rifiutarono di accettare la sua richiesta irruppe nella cattedrale.

Il martirio per 813 cristiani

Entrato in cattedrale iniziò uccidendo l’arcivescovo, che fu fatto a pezzi con sciabole e scimitarre. La testa del vescovo, che era stata mozzata, fu infilzata su una picca e portata in giro per le vie della città. Il comandante della guarnigione Francesco Longo venne, invece, segato vivo. Tutti gli altri furono fatti prigionieri, mentre la cattedrale, per odio alla fede cristiana, fu trasformata in una stalla per cavalli. Dopo due giorni, il 14 agosto, Gedik Ahmet Pascià ordinò che tutti i superstiti fossero trascinati sul vicino colle della Minerva. In quel luogo si sarebbero svolte le esecuzioni e costrinse i parenti ad assistervi.  Il primo a subire il martirio fu il sarto Antonio Pezzulla, detto il Primaldo, che, dopo aver incoraggiato i suoi compaesani, sulla necessità di subire il martirio per testimoniare il proprio credo in Gesù Cristo, fu decapitato.

Il “prodigio” che convertì un musulmano

Miracolosamente il corpo del Primaldo restò ritto in piedi e i carnefici non riuscirono ad abbatterlo fino a quando l’ultimo degli otrantini non fu martirizzato. Le cronache raccontano che il turco Bersabeu, nel vedere quella decisa testimonianza di fede, si convertì al cristianesimo. Subì, pertanto, il martirio con gli otrantini. I suoi compagni Turchi decisero di punirlo per quel “tradimento” e lo impalarono.

Il recupero dei corpi e la traslazione a Napoli

Dopo tredici mesi Alfonso d’Aragona, figlio del Re di Napoli, riconquistò la cittadina di Otranto. Nell’ottobre del 1481, il 13 del mese, i corpi dei martiri furono ritrovati incorrotti e traslati nella cattedrale della città (dove ancora riposano). Per l’importanza del martirio e per il coraggio dimostrato dagli otrantini, il Re di Napoli volle che una parte, di quei resti, venisse portata nella capitale. Dal 1485 alcune reliquie sono, infatti, venerate nella chiesa di Santa Caterina a Formiello.  Tra il 2002 e il 2003 una recognitio canonica ha stabilito che quei resti sono autentici.

Il processo canonico per la Canonizzazione

Il processo canonico di questi 813 martiri iniziò nel 1539 e si concluse il 14 dicembre del 1771. Papa  Clemente XIV, in quell’anno, li dichiarò Beati e ne autorizzò il culto. Il 20 dicembre del 2012 sua santità Benedetto XVI ha autorizzato la Congregazione delle cause dei Santi a promulgare il decreto riguardante il miracolo della guarigione della suora Francesca Levote. Nel concistoro dell’11 febbraio del 2013 (ricordato soprattutto per le sue dimissioni) papa Benedetto XVI annunciò che sarebbero stati canonizzati il 12 maggio successivo. La canonizzazione è avvenuta, infatti, con una solenne concelebrazione presieduta dal suo successore papa Francesco. 

                                                                    Giovanni Russo

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