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Understanding the Background of the Crown of Thorns

Brooke Hurbert

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The “Crown of Thorns” has a rich and illustrious history quite apart from its recent spike in pop-media mention in relation to the tragic inferno surrounding the Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris. Firefighters have gained fame and notoriety by their epic efforts to save the crown of thorns from the flaming cathedral. Historically, of course, the crown was intended to be an ironic gesture in mock reverence to the King of the Jews, with proclamations that first surfaced at the time of his birth, and were then repeated by Pilate at the trial leading up to the trial and subsequent crucifixion of Jesus.  

Why is the Crown of Thorns Important?  

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The Crown of Thorns is one of the instruments of the Passion, a device used to cause Jesus pain (and thus of great importance). It was placed on his head just prior to his crucifixion and death, and it is thus considered a sacred relic, first described as such by St. Paulinus of Nola in 409 A.D. Mentions of the Crown of Thorns continued to pop up in literary references. In 530 AD, Breviary or Short Description of Jerusalem places the crown at the Basilica of Mount Zion in Jerusalem, which is later confirmed by an “anonymous pilgrim” and the monk, Bernard. In De gloria martyri, Gregory of Tours referenced the miraculous renewal of the thorns, claiming that they turned green every day.   

The Travels & Evolution of the Relic  

The Crown of Thorns was transferred to Byzantium in 1063, but it was also during this time that the crown was “dethorned”. Thorns were removed from the headpiece with some given to St. Germain, Bishop of Paris, and housed at Saint-Germain-des-Prés. In 798, Empress Irene gave Charlemagne thorns which were deposited by him at Aachen, a Roman settlement and spa. Charles the Bald gave four of the thorns to Saint-Corneille of Compiègne in 877. Hugh the Great, Duke of the Franks, passed one thorn onto King Athelstan, and the thorn eventually appeared at Malmsbury Abbey.  

Emperor Baldwin II gave the Crown of Thorns to King Louis IX of France. While there was some back-and-forth due to debt and political upheaval, including the French Revolution, the crown went to the Bibliothèque Nationale, where it stayed until it was relocated to the Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris.  

Modern Iterations 

With such a wide and varied history, the fact that the relic still exists into modern times is a testament to how much religious fervor has surrounded it. Even small fragments (thorns) are important. With the grave danger of this headpiece was under in the flaming cathedral, it’s no wonder the world has risen up in celebration and morning. The “safe” place that had been the home for the Crown of Thorns for so long was not the sanctuary that all those faithfuls had thought it to be.  

In the aftermath of the tragic blaze, though, the speed at which the entire world responded and immediately sent millions of dollars to renovate the Notre-Dame Cathedral, though, is just one small reminder of the true depth of appreciation for the place and its historical and cultural importance. The imminent danger of the Crown of Thorns, though, has also revived the mythology surrounding the legendary piece. The wealth of literary and multimedia adaptations of various tales related to religious relics has been constant and growing. Though tragic and troubling, the destruction of the Notre-Dame Cathedral gives both the place and everything of historical relevance that’s housed therein, an even more cherished stature. It has also helped to spearhead the renovation and rehabilitation of sacred and historically important places in the US and around the world.  

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History

Here Are 5 Facts About The “Band Of Brothers” That You Did Not Know!

Anjali DeSimone

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Since its initial airing back in 2001, the HBO miniseries Band of Brothers has only continued to gain in popularity. Now that later generations are accessing the miniseries on their favorite apps and devices, the men of E Company have become a regular topic of discussion.

They answered the nation’s call as members of the 101st Airborne Division (506th Parachute Infantry Regiment). They were one of the elite forces of World War II but there is still much to be learned about each of these brave men and the battles that they fought. Read on to learn some little known facts about each of these soldiers…..

1. Captain Ronald Speirs

The series and book spent some time focusing on the role that Speirs played in the Brecourt Manor attack. German cannons had been firing on the troops at Utah Beach prior to this counterattack. While the series hinted that he was responsible for the killing of a German POW platoon, this was not likely.

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He was also one of the few men in the army to have made a combat jump in Korea and in World War II. Many do not know that Speirs served as a Red Army liaison as well. After this assignment was complete, he also served as a liaison to the Royal Lao Army before the Vietnam War broke out. 

2. Albert Blithe

Those who have read the book remember the story about Blithe losing his eyesight. He was shot in the neck during a Normandy patrol but the series and book were both incorrect when it came to addressing his fate. The book and series implied that Blithe died as a result of this wound.

In fact, he lived on after World War II and even served in Korea as well. Blithe was also not a southerner, as the series portrayed. He was actually from Philadelphia and did not speak with a southern accent. 

3. Edward “Babe” Heffron

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“Wild Bill” Guarnere was a close friend of Babe’s, as the two men both hailed from the city of Philadelphia. After the series aired, Babe and Wild Bill began to give tours of the famous battle sites together. The actor who played Babe looks nothing like him, though.

Robin Laing is a Scotsman with a gentle appearance. Meanwhile, Babe looks like more of a tough guy. The real Babe even makes an appearance in the actual series. He had a cameo as a Dutchman who was seen drinking wine during the Eindhoven liberation. 

4. Herbert Sobel 

Brilliantly played by none other than David Schwimmer of Friends fame, Sobel was detested by the other men in the E company. They viewed him as a coward who was too interested in going by the book. The famous scene where Sobel sends the men up Mount Currahee after a massive pasta dinner is 100 percent true.

However, Sobel is also credited by many of the men in the company for his unorthodox training techniques. They did not like him but they certainly respected him. He survived a suicide attempt in 1970 that cost him his eyesight and died in a VA facility of malnutrition 17 years later.

5. “Why We Fight”

One of the most famous episodes of the series, “Why We Fight” focused on the E company’s liberation of an SS camp in Germany. The episode concludes with German citizens assisting the men in burying the dead, forcing them to confront the true horrors of the regime that had risen to power.

There was just one issue: the men had never liberated any such camp. The producers added the liberation as a means of conveying the horrors of this war. They did not wish to solely focus on the experiences of the E Company.

If these facts were as amazing to you as they were to us, be sure to pass them along to your friends and loved ones. Let’s all do our part to keep our nation’s war history alive and well in the years to come! 

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History

The MOH Marine Who Carried An Aircraft Machine Gun On Iwo Jima

Cynthia Brooke

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There is no doubt the United States marines are all heroes that should be celebrated but some of them take their patriotism and heroic acts to a higher level. Unfortunately, not all these heroes are celebrated the way they should be celebrated and some of their achievements only get noticed or publicized after their demise.

One of such heroes is Corporal Tony Stein who can best be described as the hero of Iwo Jima. He virtually single handled took out a lot of Japanese soldiers who had laid siege for American troops in Iwo Jima in 1945 during the Second World War. Since this article is meant for casual readers, it has been written in a simplified form devoid of too many military terms. Corporal Tony Stein recently received the Medal of Honor posthumously. The medal was given to his widow. However, not many are aware of why he was nominated for the award. 

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This is why this article has been written to bridge the knowledge gap. Stein was born in Dayton, Ohio in 1921 to Jewish immigrants from Austria. He was enlisted in the US Marine Corps Reserve shortly before his 21st birthday. He initially served in the Marine Corps paratrooper unit. Thereafter, he fought in the Pacific Theater on several occasions. During this period, he had started exhibiting some extraordinary courage, intelligence, and patriotism that are worthy of emulation. 

One of his impressive achievements was taking out five Japanese snipers in a single day. Tony Stein was definitely a handful for the Japanese troops. For his military prowess, he got promoted to corporal in 1944 shortly after the paramarines were disbanded and was assigned to the 5th Marine Division where he was the assistant squad leader.

One of the most effective weapons then was a variant of M1919 that was meant to be used on patrol aircraft and bombers. Although it is a lighter version of M1919, it is much more destructive than M1919. While M1919 could output 400 rounds per minute, this improved version could do up to 1350 rounds per minute and Corporal Tony Stein was astonishing with it.

Due to its level of destructiveness, the weapon was dubbed “The Stinger” and there were only six of them but Stein was in custody of one them. And you bet it was utilized to capacity by the young marine. In fact, it was his mastery of the use of this machine that won him the highly coveted Medal of Honor.

He made the best of the beast when his unit hit Iwo Jima on February 1945. He singlehandedly wiped out several Japanese troops with the weapon. When he ran out of ammunition, he would run back to the beach to resupply himself without his boots and helmet so that he could run faster. He made 8 of such trips and during some of them, he would help a wounded marine get back to safety. In some cases, when they had to lie low to avoid continuous enemy fire, he would courageously stand up and take some destructive shots at the enemies’ location to obliterate them and he often did it successfully with his stinger.

To underscore how close he was told death, in Iwo Jima, his stinger was shot out of his hands twice but he would pick it up and continue to do what he did best until the Japanese troops had to retreat in defeat. 

Unfortunately, Corporal Tony Stein was taken out by a sniper not long after. He was being treated when he heard that his unit had been pinned down so he left the medical facility to join them. May be it was because he wasn’t fully fit or it wasn’t just his day. The great Corporal Tony Stein was taken down by a Japanese sniper.

It is quite heartwarming that his achievements, courage and patriotism didn’t go unnoticed and unrewarded. His Medal of Honor was presented to his widow about a year ago. The least you can do to celebrate this war veteran is to share the story of his sacrifice and contribution to America. 

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History

Our Real Life Hero Sergeant Snorkel

Kelsey Freeman

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Beetle Bailey and Sergeant Snorkel were actually based on real-life people. The comic strip may have been embellished upon to add to the humor, but the real Sergeant Snorkel did possess many of the same characteristics. His daughter Griffen wished that her father Octavian N. Savu had known that the comic strip was based on him. He would have enjoyed knowing that.

Octavian Savu had been born to parents who had immigrated from Romania. Savu was born in Indiana and raised in St. Joseph MO. When he began school, his teacher had misunderstood his name when she was told it was Tavi, so he remained being called Tom or Tommy. He later attended Park College, Junior College and the University of MO.

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When he turned 21 years old, in 1935, he joined the service. He was sent to the US Army at Fort Leavenworth Kansas. He was in the 17th infantry. This was the beginning of a decade long career for Savu.

In 1940, he married the love of his life, Margo. Around this time, he began to climb the ranks slowly in the military. He first became a Reserve Officer Trainer in Iowa, at the Abraham Lincoln High School. He taught the young recruits map reading skills, first aid, marksmanship and also combat tactics.

When he and the wife moved to St. Louis, he began a position at St. Louis’ Washington University. He was the overseer of soldiers in that school’s Army Specialized Training Program. These were twelve-week courses between 1943 and 1945. The courses later became known as “Engineering, Science and Management War Training Program”. This is where he met Mort Walker, an already known artist. Walker came from Kansas City and was a World War 2 draftee. In later years, Mort Walker would become the creator and artist of Beetle Bailey comic fame. The world would later learn that Sergeant Snorkel, the character in the comic strip, was actually based on Octavian Savu. Before leaving Missouri in 1944, Walker had given Savu a hand-drawn caricature of Savu.

Savu was then assigned overseas in France. He was a First Sergeant. Octavian Savu was there from April until August 1945. He served as an Administrative Sgt. with the 14th Reinforcement Depot. He was discharged early and sent home on a disability discharge on September 21, 1945. He was diagnosed with cardiovascular disease and later it was found that he was diabetic. 

Octavian and Margo Savu adopted two daughters and moved to Colorado. He became an employee specialist at the Air Force Accounting and Finance Services. When the girls were still young, Savu had his first heart attack. He then began gardening and became known for his lawn and his roses. He was also a commander in his local VFW post.

In April of 1968, the family took a vacation and headed to where Mr. Savu had grown up. He showed the girls his family home where he had grown up. They also visited with family friends. As the vacation neared the end, they began to drive home. They stopped for the night in Omaha and obtained a hotel room. Savu had his third heart attack and passed away in the hotel room. The daughters were 14 and 11 years old.

Octavian N. Savu was given full military honors during his funeral. He was then buried at Fort Logan National Cemetery in Denver, Colorado.

His daughter, Griffin has stated that “He possessed many of the characteristics of Sergeant Snorkel. He was a compassionate man. He was tough but fair, and he was full of character. That is quite possibly why the troops loved him.” She also stated that to her and her sister, he was not just dad; he was their hero and their mentor.

Mort Walker spoke very highly of Savu also, before he himself passed away. He recalled when the Sergeant had written a poem and given each one of the men a copy by placing it on their pillows. The poem was called “My Boys”. Walker had stated that that was the point that they had realized he had a heart. 

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