Johannes Capistranus, an Italian monk, born at Capistrano, in the Abruzzi, June 24, 1386, died near Belgrade, Oct. 23, 1456. Having acquired distinction as a jurisconsult, he was employed in the service of the. king of Sicily; but his wife dying, he gave away all his property, entered upon an ecclesiastical life as a disciple of St. Bernardin of Siena, and became one of the most eloquent preachers of his time. He was for about six years vicar general of the order of Observants, employed by successive popes against heretical sects, and acted as nuncio in Sicily and at the council of Florence for the reunion of the Latin and Greek churches. At the request of the emperor Frederick III. he was sent by the pope in 1451 on a preaching crusade against the Hussites; and though he spoke in Latin, an interpreter conveying his meaning in German, immense crowds listened to him. In 1453 he went to Breslau, where he established a convent, and exerted great religious influence. In the other cities of Germany his visits became likewise the signal for great excitement, and King Casimir IV. invited him to preach in Poland. He instituted cruel persecutions of the Jews in Silesia and Poland. But his most marked achievement was the crusade against the Turks. Having failed to secure the support of the imperial diet and of the German princes, he appealed to the people, and succeeded in enlisting 40,000 men, of whom Pope Calixtus III. made him chief.
He effected a junction with Hunyady, and aided him in driving the Turks from Belgrade, in July, 1450; he was foremost in the fight with the cross in his hand, and died soon after from a fever contracted on the battle field. His tomb became a resort of pilgrims, and he was regarded as a saint who had worked miracles. He was beatified in 1690, and canonized in 1724, his anniversary being Oct. 23.