On this day in history:
627 – – – – Battle of Nineveh – A Byzantine army under Emperor Heraclius defeats Emperor Khosrau II’s Persian forces. This was the climactic battle of the Byzantine-Sassanid War. The Byzantine victory later resulted in civil war in Persia and for a period of time restored the Roman empire to its ancient boundaries in the Middle East. This resurgence of power and prestige was not to last, as within a matter of a few years, an Arab Caliphate emerged from Arabia and once again brought the empire to the brink of destruction.
1098 – – – First Crusade – Siege of Ma’arrat al-Numan – Crusaders breach the town’s walls and massacre about 20,000 inhabitants.
1408 – – – The Order of the Dragon, a monarchical chivalric order is created by Sigismund of Luxembourg, the King of Hungary. The Order was fashioned after the military orders of the Crusades, requiring its initiates to defend the cross and fight the enemies of Christianity, in particular the Ottoman Empire. The Order flourished during the first half of the 15th century, primarily in Germany and Italy. After Sigismund’s death in 1437, its importance declined in Western Europe, but after the Fall of Constantinople in 1453, it continued to play a role in Hungary, Croatia, Albania, Serbia and Romania which bore the brunt of Ottoman incursions.
1531 – – – December 12 in the Catholic Church is the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe – Her story begins on December 9, 1531, as an older, uneducated peasant is on his way to early morning Mass on Tepeyac Hill, the site of an old Aztec Temple in Mexico. He comes face-to-face with a radiant apparition of Mary appearing to him as a native princess. Our Lady calms Juan Diego and instructs him to visit his bishop and ask that a temple be built on the site of her appearance, so that she will have a place to hear petitions and to heal the suffering of the Mexican people. Juan Diego approaches the Bishop who is initially very skeptical of his account and dismisses him. Juan Diego begins to doubt himself but returns to Tepeyac Hill where he hopes for some conformation and Our Lady does not disappoint. She appears again and instructs Juan Diego to return to the Bishop and ask again. At their second meeting, the Bishop asks for a sign. Juan Diego makes a promise he won’t keep, saying he will return the very next morning. But that evening, Juan Diego returns home to find his elderly uncle, Juan Bernadino, who is suddenly, terribly ill. Juan Diego cannot leave his uncle’s bedside to keep his pledge to the Bishop. He spends two days with his uncle, trying to save him. When it becomes apparent his uncle is about to die, he leaves to find a priest who can prepare him for death. On the road, in his way, Our Lady appears for a third time – and this is now December 12. Juan Diego asks for the sign he promised to the Bishop. He is instructed to climb to the top of Tepeyac Hill where he will find flowers. He is to pick the flowers there, which are unlike any he has seen before, and he is to keep them hidden in his tilma until he reaches the Bishop. He obeys and atop the hill he finds a great number of flowering roses which he picks and hastily gathers into his cloak. For the third time, Juan Diego is ushered in to see the Bishop. The skeptical cleric has waited for two days to see what sign Our Lady has for him. Juan opens his tilma, letting the roses cascade to the floor. But more than the roses, both men are astonished to see what is painted on his humble tilma – an exquisite image of Our Lady. In the image, she stands as she appeared, a native princess with high cheekbones. Her head is bowed and her hands are folded in prayer to God. On her blue cloak, the stars are arranged as they appeared in the morning darkness at the hour of her first apparition. Under her feet, is a great crescent moon, a symbol of the old Aztec religion. The message is clear, she is more powerful than the Aztec gods, yet she herself is not God. At the same time Our Lady is appearing to Juan Diego, and directing him to cut the flowers on Tepeyac Hill, she also appears to his uncle, Juan Bernadino who believes he is about to die. As soon as she appears, the fever stops and Juan Bernadino feels well again. She tells Juan Bernadino, she wants to be known as “Santa Maria, de Guadalupe.“
1781 – – – American Revolution – A British fleet led by HMS Victory defeats a French fleet.
1787 – – – Five days after Delaware acted Pennsylvania becomes the second state to ratify the U.S. Constitution.
1870 – – – Joseph H. Rainey of South Carolina becomes the second Black congressman, the first being Hiram Revels.
1901 – – – Guglielmo Marconi receives the first transatlantic radio signal (the letter “S” in Morse Code). At Signal Hill in St. John’s, Newfoundland.
1911 – – – (a) Delhi replaces Calcutta as the capital of India. (b) King George V of the United kingdom and Mary of Teck are enthroned as Emperor and Empress of India.
1915 – – – President of the Republic of China, Yuan Shikai, announces his intention to reinstate the monarchy and proclaim himself Emperor of China.
1925 – – – The Majlis of Iran votes to crown Reza Khan as the new Shah of Iran, starting the Pahlavi dynasty.
1939 – – – Winter War – Battle of Tolvajarvi – Finnish forces defeat those of the Soviet Union in their first major victory of the conflict.
1941 – – – (a) World War II – 54 Japanese A6M Zero fighters raid Batangas Field, Philippines. Jesus Villamor and four Filipino fighter pilots fend them off, Cesar Basa is killed. (b) The United Kingdom declares war on Bulgaria. Hungary and Romania declare war on the United States. India declares war on japan. (c) Adolph Hitler declares the imminent extermination of the Jews at a meeting in the Reich Chancellery.
1942 – – – German troops begin Operation Winter Storm, an attempt to relieve encircled Axis forces during the Battle of Stalingrad.
1950 – – – Paula Ackerman, the first woman appointed to perform rabbinical functions in the United States, leads the congregation in her first services.
1956 – – – United Nationa Security Council Resolution 121 to accept Japan into the United Nations is adopted.
1963 – – – Kenya gains its independence from the United Kingdom.
1979 – – – The unrecognized state of Zimbabwe-Rhodesia returns to British control and resumes using the name Southern Rhodesia.
1985 – – – Arrow Air Flight 1285, a McDonnell Douglas DC-8, crashes after takeoff in Gander, Newfoundland, killing all 256 people on board, including 236 members of the United States Army’s 101st Airborne Division.
1991 – – – The Russian Federation gains independence from the USSR.
2000 – – – The United States Supreme Court releases its decision in Bush v. Gore the decision that settled a recount dispute in Florida’s 2000 presidential election. On December 9, the Court had preliminarily halted the Florida recount that was occurring. Eight days earlier, the Court unanimously decided the closely related case of Bush v. Palm Beach County Canvassing Board. The Elector College was scheduled to meet on December 18, 2000, to decide the election. In a per curiam decision, the Court ruled that the use of different standards of counting in different counties violated the Equal Protection Clause, and ruled that no alternative method could be established within the time limit set by Title 3 of the Constitution (3 U.S.C.), ss5 (“Determination of controversy as to appointment of electors”), which was December 12. The vote regarding the Equal Protection Clause was 7–2, and regarding the lack of an alternative method was 5–4. Three concurring justices also asserted that the Florida Supreme Court had violated Article II, Section 1, cl.2 of the Constitution, by misinterpreting Florida election law that had been enacted by the Florida legislature.
2012 – – – North Korea successfully launches its first satellite, Kwangmyongsong-3 Unit 2, using an Unha-3 carrier rocket.
2015 – – – Paris Agreement relating to United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change is adopted.
Composed by Robert A. McConnell
Any opinions expressed herein are solely those of the writer and not necessarily those of the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation.