November 8



The birth of Vlad III, aka Vlad the Impaler, aka Vlad Drakul, aka Dracula, prince of Wallachia. Though known in folklore for his extreme cruelty and for his inspiration for Bram Stoker’s literary villain, Vlad is renowned in the Balkans for his defence of Christian lands against Turkish Islamic expansion. After the fall of Constantinople in 1453, the Ottoman emperor Mehmet the Conqueror attempted to complete the Muslim conquest of southeastern Europe. Vlad refused to acknowledge Turkish overlordship or pay the jizya tax imposed on Christian subjects. His armies inflicted a number of defeats on the Turks before he died in battle in 1476.

November 8



Julian of Norwich, English mystic is born. The author of Revelations of Divine Love, the first published book in English written by a woman, was a religious recluse whose true name is still unknown. In the 1370s she began to experience visions whose meanings she explored in a series of books. Her view of God focused primarily on His loving nature: “God loved us before he made us; and his love has never diminished and never shall.” Recent scholarship (Denys Turner’s Julian of Norwich, Theologian) takes her seriously as a thinker.


Of Mans First Disobedience, and the Fruit

Of that Forbidden Tree, whose mortal tast

Brought Death into the World, and all our woe,

With loss of Eden, till one greater Man

Restore us, and regain the blissful Seat,

Sing Heav’nly Muse . . .

John Milton, English writer, dies. Though his reputation as a poet had been in the making before the outbreak of the English Civil War in 1642, his work during the Puritan Commonwealth was of a polemical nature. He argued for the legitimacy of Christian divorce, for free speech (Areopagitica) and for the right of a people to overthrow a tyrannical ruler (On the Tenure of Kings and Magistrates). His blindness, which became total in 1654, did not prevent him from continuing his political writings or his poetry (see his sonnet “On My Blindness”). The restoration of the monarchy forced him into hiding for a time but he managed to live peacefully until his death. In 1667 he published Paradise Lost, the epic poem on the Fall of mankind. Milton’s standing as a literary figure has always been controversial. C.S. Lewis was a fan; T.S. Eliot was not. Curious readers unwilling to attempt an ascent on the summit of Paradise Lost might try his Christmas poem “On the Morning of Christ’s Nativity”: “See how from far upon the Eastern road/ The Star-led Wizards haste with odours sweet”.

November 4

Our Lady of Kazan



Our Lady of Kazan was a highly-venerated icon of the Russian Orthodox Church. It is said to have originated in Constantinople and was transported to Russia where it disappeared, only to be miraculously rediscovered in Kazan after a vision in 1579. Prayers to this icon were credited for saving the country from invasion by Poles, Swedes and Napoleon.

In 1904 the icon was stolen and, though its gold frame was recovered, the icon itself was never seen again. The disasters of the 1905 Russian Revolution, the Great War and the Communist takeover are attributed to its loss.

November 3


St. Martin de Porres was born in Lima, Peru on December 9, 1579, the illegitimate son of a Spanish gentlemen and a freed slave  of African (or possibly native American) descent. His early life was spent in poverty and he was eventually apprenticed to a barber-surgeon. Despite the laws that forbade non-whites from becoming full members of religious orders, Martin joined the Dominicans as a volunteer helper, eventually becoming a lay brother.

He was renowned for his charity and love of the sick and poor. He established an orphanage and children‘s hospital for the poor children of the slums; he also set up a shelter for the stray cats and dogs and nursed them back to health. Even during his lifetime miraculous cures and powers were ascribed to him. Martin died on November 3, 1639 and was canonized by Pope John XXIII on May 6, 1962. He has become the patron saint of Peru, people of mixed race, innkeepers, barbers, public health workers and more.