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Saint John of Capistrano

Saint John of Capistrano
  • Century: 14th & 15th Century
  • Patronage: Jurists, Military Chaplains
  • Feast Day: October 23rd

St. John of Capistrano was born in 1386 in Naples, Italy.  He studied law at the University of Perugia.   In 1412 King Ladislaus of Naples appointed him Governor of Perugia in order to establish public order.  When war broke out between Perugia and Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta in 1416, John was sent as ambassador to broker peace.  Instead, Malatesta threw him in prison.  He put aside his new young wife while in prison, due to despair, since the marriage was never consummated.  He started to study theology with Bernardine of Siena. 

John entered the Order of Friars Minor at Perugia.  From the beginning he started with the most rigorous asceticism, defending the ideal of strict observance and orthodoxy, following the example of Bernardine of Siena.  From 1420 onwards he preached with great effect in many cities, becoming well known.   

St. John was a preacher of repentance, and that type of preacher was not widely accepted in the 15th century.  John did however, have great success at preaching repentance in northern and central Erope, Germany, Bohemia, Austria, Hungary, Croatia, and Poland.  He became so popular, that the largest Churches could not hold the crowds.  He would preach in the public squares.  At Brecia in Italy, he preached to a crowd of over 126,000 people, pointing out the success of his preaching on repentance.   

After the fall of Constantinople in 1453, the Ottoman Empire threatened Christian Europe.  A year later, Pope Callixtus III sent John, now at the age of seventy, to preach  a Crusade against the invading Turks.  John succeeded in gathering enough troops to march onto Belgrade, which at that time was under siege by Turkish forces.   The old frail friar actually led his own contingent into battle. This earned him the title of “Soldier Priest”.   St. John survived the battle, but fell victim to the bubonic plague, prevelant in the unsanitary conditions of armies in that time.  He died on October 23rd, 1456 at the nearby town of Ilok, Croatia.   

Practical Take Away

St. John of Capistrano was a learned man, that while imprisoned had a calling to the religious life.  He became a Franciscan Friar, and preached repentance around Europe. This type of preaching was not popular in his day, nor well received.  But due to his dynamic preaching style, he was not only well received, but the largest Churches in his day, could not hold the crowds that he would draw.  St. John served the Church well, and worked well into old age, to aid in saving souls.