The 15th Century Prayer: Devil, Turk, and Comet – Unpacking Historical Fears

Image Source: The Terrible Turk

In the 15th century, Europe found itself at a crossroads of history, grappling with profound societal changes and uncertainties. During this tumultuous time, a popular prayer emerged, encapsulating the fears and anxieties of the era: “God save us from the Devil, the Turk, and the comet.” This article delves into the historical context of this intriguing prayer, shedding light on why the Turks were perceived as an embodiment of evil alongside the Devil and the comet.

The Devil: An Age-Old Foe

Throughout the Middle Ages, the Devil held a central place in European religious beliefs. The fear of succumbing to temptation or falling under the Devil’s influence was a constant concern. The Church’s role in reinforcing this fear, coupled with the Inquisition’s pursuit of heretics and alleged witches, perpetuated dread. The inclusion of the Devil in the prayer reflects the persistent fear of spiritual corruption and the battle between good and evil.

The Turk: An Ominous Threat

“The Turk” in the prayer directly refers to the Ottoman Empire, a formidable force in the 15th century. Led by powerful rulers like Mehmed the Conqueror, the Ottomans expanded westward, encroaching upon European territories. The fall of Constantinople in 1453 marked a pivotal moment, signifying the Ottoman Empire’s dominance in the region. The fear of Ottoman conquest and the spread of Islam into Europe heightened anxieties, making “the Turk” a symbol of impending danger.

The Comet: Celestial Portents

In the 15th century, comets were seen as celestial omens or predictors of significant events. The appearance of a comet often instilled fear, as people believed it could foretell disasters, wars, or other catastrophic occurrences. The prayer’s inclusion of “the comet” reflects the widespread belief in the influence of celestial phenomena on earthly affairs, adding to the general sense of foreboding.

Perceptions of Absolute Evil

What makes this prayer particularly intriguing is the perception of the Turks as “absolute evil” alongside the Devil. The fears associated with the Ottoman Empire were not solely grounded in geopolitical concerns but also in the deeply ingrained belief in the binary struggle between good and evil. The Ottomans, as they expanded into Christian Europe, were viewed through this lens, solidifying their association with malevolence.

A Reflection of Troubled Times

The 15th century was a period of political upheaval, religious strife, and the dawn of the Renaissance, which brought about intellectual and artistic revolutions. This prayer reflects the anxieties of a society in transition, where the old order was being challenged, and the future seemed uncertain. It served as a poignant expression of the collective desire for protection from forces that appeared beyond human control.

The 15th century prayer, “God save us from the Devil, the Turk, and the comet,” offers a fascinating glimpse into the fears and apprehensions that gripped Europe during a transformative period in history. It not only highlights the geopolitical threat posed by the Ottoman Empire but also underscores the deep-seated beliefs in cosmic forces and the eternal battle between good and evil. As we delve into the past through this prayer, we gain insight into the complexities of a society grappling with change and uncertainty, where the Turks were perceived as an embodiment of evil alongside the Devil and the comet.


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