Triumph der Barmherzigkeit” („Triumph of mercy“), a study by Elisabeth Watzka-Pauli in the history of the Trinitarian order in the Austrian Habsburg Monarchy, and its regard to Alba Iulia – a summary

The book covers the history of the Trinitarian order in the Habsburg Monarchy from 1690 to 1783. This particular catholic religious congregation has its origins at the end of the 12th century and as its main purpose the redemption of Christian prisoners respectively slaves in Muslim-ruled countries. In contrast to military crusader-orders like the Templars, the Knights Hospitallers and others, who eventually liberated their captive comrades with armed force, the Trinitarians freed Christian prisoners mainly by paying ransom or by exchange with Muslim prisoners.

In the wake of the second siege of Vienna in 1683 and the ongoing war between the Habsburg Monarchy and the Ottoman Empire, when thousands of inhabitants of Austria and Hungary had been brought as prisoners of war into the Ottoman Empire or its vassal states, the Tataric regions at the northern coast of the Black Sea, the installation of a professional organisation for ransoming displaced and enslaved Christians, like the Trinitarian order, became a very important task in Austria. The order’s main aim was explicitly the liberation of “Christians“, because it was not only physical rescue of prisoners of war and bringing them to their home countries, but also, and even more important, the salvation of their souls from the threat of apostasy during captivity among non-believers. One has to bear in mind, that the welfare of the soul was one of the main aspects in life in this age of religion and piety. Main questions dealt in the study are, how the dangerous expeditions to this end have been implemented by the order, and how they were embedded in the contemporary social, cultural, political and military background. The Trinitarians were particularly successful in these redemption enterprises, when they cooperated with the Aulic Council of War (“Hofkriegsrat”) in Vienna and with imperial ambassadors who were sent to Constantinople on occasion of peace negotiations. Moreover, they often were supported by a far-reaching network of other catholic orders, above all the Jesuits, in their tasks. Yet within the Ottoman Empire or the Black Sea region they –as has to be stressed in particular – also relied heavily on cooperation with “natives” of different religious backgrounds, as orthodox Christians, Muslims and Jews.

One of the most adjuvant patrons of the Trinitarian „Patres Redemptores“ within South-Eastern Europe was the woiwode of Wallachia, Contantin Brancoveanu, who only made possible the redemption travel to Budschak and Crimea in 1700. His court in Bucharest disposed of a network of scouts, who in advance could negotiate with Tataric slave-holders, and he also guaranteed for the safety of already ransomed persons as well as of the vast amount of cash, which the Trinitarians had to take with them for paying the ransoms. These sums in general stemmed from many smaller alms from common people, from several foundations of the aristocracy, particularly designed for the purpose of the liberation of captive Christians, and sometimes from state subsidies, too. Click here to continue reading …