Otranto (IPA: /ˈɔtranto/) is a town and commune in the province of Lecce (Apulia, Italy), in a fertile region once famous for its breed of horses.
t is located on the east coast of the Salento peninsula. The Strait of Otranto, to which the city gives its name, connects the Adriatic Sea with the Ionian Sea and Italy with Albania. The harbour is small and has little trade.
On July 28, 1480 an Ottoman fleet of between 70 and 200 ships arrived near the Neapolitan city of Otranto in the region Apulia. Possibly these troops came from the siege of Rhodes. On July 29 the garrison and the citizens retreated to the citadel, the Castle of Otranto. On 11 August this was taken by the invaders.According to Christian historiography a razzia was held to round up the male citizens. Archbishop Stefano Agricoli and others were killed in the cathedral. Bishop Stephen Pendinelli and the garrison commander, count Francesco Largo, were sawn in two alive. On August 12 800 citizens who refused to convert to Islam were taken to the Hill of the Minerva and beheaded. Some of the remains of the 800 martyrs are today stored in Otranto cathedral and in the church of Santa Caterina a Formiello in Naples. The cathedral is said to have been used as a stable after that.
This version has come under severe criticism. From Turkish side it is disputed that large scale executions took place; the bones to be found in the Cathedral of Otranto are actually those of fighters killed during the Turkish invasion. Italian researchers, on the other hand, conclude that some acts of terror were committed by the Turkish invaders to create panic among the Italians around Otranto.
There is no doubt, however, that some citizens were transported to Albania as slaves.
In August 70 ships of the fleet attacked Vieste. On September 12 the Monastero di San Nicholas di Casole, which accommodated one of the richer libraries of Europe, was destroyed. In October 1480 Lecce, Taranto and Brindisi were attacked.
Because of lack of food Gedik Ahmed Pasha returned with most of his troops to Albania, leaving a garrison of 800 infantry and 500 cavalry behind to defend Otranto. It was assumed he would return after the winter. More on the Cathedral HERE