Saturday, April 2, 2011

Trivia from the Battle of Vienna

Polish hussar

A reader writes:
I recently read a book, Why do Catholics Eat Fish on Friday?: The Catholic Origin to Just About Everything by Michael P. Foley (2005, Palgrave MacMillan). There were a couple of pieces of trivia in there that might interest you for your blog:
Cappuccino coffee (p. 35) was named after Blessed Marco D'Aviano, a Capuchin friar and miracle worker beatified by John Paul II in 2003, who rallied the Christian troops at the Battle of Vienna in 1683 against the Turks. "But D'Aviano," writes Foley, "is better remembered for what happened afterwards. According to legend, he found sacks of coffee beans that the Turkish forces had left behind in their haste. D'Aviano brewed himself a cup, but finding it too bitter for his taste he added milk and honey, thus turning the coffee brown. The grateful Viennese dubbed the drink 'little Capuchin,' or cappuccino, in honor of D'Aviano, whose Capuchin habit was the same color."

Croissants (p. 29) also commemorate the Christian victory at the Battle of Vienna. They are shaped like a Moslem crescent. There is a legend that a baker discovered the Turks mining under the city walls and gave the alarm. After the victory, he was rewarded with a monopoly on making the croissants.

Foley does not mention bagels, but according to legend, they also commemorate the victory at the Battle of Vienna. According to some sources, the word "bagel" comes from the German word for "stirrup". A Jewish baker created them to honor the Polish prince Jan Sobieski, whose cavalry charge of 20,000 horses downhill saved the day. It is more likely that the stirrup-shaped bagels simply commemorate the Polish cavalry charge--after all, it was the largest cavalry charge in history. It included the famous Polish winged hussars--heavy cavalry riders who wore wings behind them and wore lion and leopard skins on their horses. The wings--which were tied at the top--prevented enemies from lassoing the rider and pulling him off his horse. The feathers made a rushing sound that terrified enemy horses that were not used to the sound--the lion and leopard skins may have had similar effects. The winged hussars were very effective. Witnesses said that they looked like angels on horseback.

Some people speculate that the Polish cavalry charge that lifted the siege of Vienna was the inspiration for J. R. R. Tolkien's cavalry charge of the Rohirrim that lifted the siege of Gondor in The Lord of the Rings.



Badger Catholic said...

This is fantastic!

elena maria vidal said...

Thank you! Thank my friend Becky, who sent me the information!

Badger Catholic said...

I often tell people that JRRT's Gandalf character must be based on a certain St. John Capistrano who helped lead Hungary to victory at Belgrade. I had never read the details of the charge before, I find it hard to believe this would not make for good(and profitable) cinema.