On August 6, we celebrate the Feast of the Transfiguration, when Christ ascended Mount Tabor with three of His disciples and was transfigured before their eyes. Shining brightly with the light of His divine nature, Christ spoke with Moses and Elijah, who appeared alongside Him.
While an important event in Christ's life, the Transfiguration was added to the Christian calendar relatively late, and few people realize that it was not declared a universal feast of the Church until August 6, 1456. Even fewer know that it owes its place on the calendar, in part, to the courageous actions of Dracula.
Yes, Dracula—or, more precisely, Vlad III the Impaler, who is better known to history by the dreaded name. Pope Callixtus III added the Feast of the Transfiguration to the calendar to celebrate the important victory of the Hungarian nobleman Janos Hunyadi and the elderly priest St. John of Capistrano at the Siege of Belgrade in July 1456. Breaking the siege, their troops reinforced the Christians at Belgrade, the Muslim Turks were routed, and Islam was stopped from advancing further into Europe.
With the exception of St. John of Capistrano, Hunyadi could find no significant allies to accompany him to Belgrade, but he did enlist the help of young prince Vlad, who agreed to guard the passes into Rumania, thus cutting off the Turk. Without his aid, the battle might not have been won. Vlad was a brutal man whose actions earned him immortality as the fictional vampire, but some Orthodox Christians venerate him as a saint for confronting the Islamic threat to Christian Europe. As we celebrate the Feast of the Transfiguration, we might at least offer a prayer for his soul.
(Icon of the Transfiguration. Russian, 15th century; public domain.)