Battle of Lepanto


On October 7, 1571 the forces of the Holy League under Don Juan of Austria, illegitimate half brother of Philip II, in an ever-lasting tribute to Italian and Spanish courage and seamanship, smashed the Turkish fleet.  This was the turning point in the centuries-long struggle between the Christian West and the forces of the Ottoman Empire over the Mediterranean.  The Holy League had been the work of Pope Saint Pius V, who miraculously saw the victory in Rome on the day of the battle, and he proclaimed the feast day of Our Lady of Victory to whom he attributed the victory.

For a good overview of the battle of Lepanto read this review by Victor Davis Hanson here of  The Victory of the West: The Great Christian-Muslim Clash at the Battle of Lepanto by Niccolò Capponi.

Before the battle Don John of Austria went about the ships of his fleet and said this to his crews:  ‘My children, we are here to conquer or die. In death or in victory, you will win immortality.’  The chaplains of the fleet preached sermons on the theme:  “No Heaven For Cowards”.    Many of the men were clutching rosaries just before the battle.  Admiral Andrea Doria went into the fight with an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe aboard his ship.  Back in Europe countless Catholics were praying rosaries at the request of Saint Pope Pius V for the success of the Christian fleet.

At the hour of the battle, and this fact is very well attested, the Pope was talking to some cardinals in Rome.  He abruptly ceased the conversation, opened a window and looked heavenward.  He then turned to the cardinals and said:   “It is not now a time to talk any more upon business; but to give thanks to God for the victory he has granted to the arms of the Christians.”  So that Catholics would never forget Lepanto and the intercession of Mary, he instituted the feast of Our Lady of Victory.  To aid in this remembrance G. K. Chesterton in 1911 wrote his epic poem Lepanto which may be read here.

May Our Lady of Victory send us more knights with the courage and compassion of Don Juan of Austria, more poets with the faith and eloquence of Chesterton and more popes as holy and courageous as Saint Pope Pius V.

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Donald R. McClarey

Cradle Catholic. Active in the pro-life movement since 1973. Father of three and happily married for 35 years. Small town lawyer and amateur historian. Former president of the board of directors of the local crisis pregnancy center for a decade.


  1. Holy Rosary Parish is sponsoring a Forty Hours for Life this weekend. In twenty five minutes I will be in front of our local P.P. doing my hour of prayer to end legalized abortion in this great country of ours. Please say a pray as well. Great Battles are won with Holy Rosary in hand & heart.
    Thank you.

  2. The Philippines and Marco’s regime collapse is another Great Victory through the intercessory prayers Of Our Lady’s Rosary.
    On the 13th of this month,next Saturday, over 8,500 cities will be praying PUBLIC ROSARIES at noon. This is my second year as a city Rally Capt. Please check out ANF public square rosary rally and find a city close to you.
    This date is the 95th anniversary of the miracle of the sun at Fatima Portugal.
    Over 70,000 witnessed this miracle.

    Please do not underestimate the power of Public Prayer. Join us next Saturday at noon.

    ANF is America Needs Fatima.

  3. I listened to the sermon given by the Bishop of Birmingham – Most Reverend Robert Baker – at the EWTN Mass today, the last day of the Novena to Mary.

    He said, through her Assumption into Heaven, she remains uncorrupted and is our most powerful recourse. He invited those present and those viewing to join in praying the Rosary at 3:00 Central time today and … {!!}

    he explained how the Battle of Lepanto which set many Christians free against great odds is credited to this prayer and …

    how it is comparable to today’s secular world curtailing the freedom of religious expression, and of life (abortion and legalizing life ending procedures of elders and disabled, undermining virtues in chastity/virginity/redefining marriage/little children) …

    so we, as God’s people, can once again use our prayer as a gift of self to another or others, taking responsibility.

    Seems to me like a chance to have history repeat itself in a right way.

  4. A time-line to ponder:

    1291 AD: Acre falls. Christians expelled from the Holy Land.

    1453 AD: Constantinople falls – the final demise of the Eastern Roman Empire.

    1480 AD: the Knights of St. John defeat the Turk and hold in the First Siege of Rhodes.

    1522 AD: the Knights of St. John and Rhodes are defeated and displaced in the notorious Second Siege of Rhodes.

    1565 AD: The Knight of St. John, Rhodes, and Malta defeat the Turks in the Famous Siege of Malta.

    1571 AD: The allied, Catholic fleet defeats the powerful Turkish fleet at Lepanto. The Knights of Malta assigned three galleys to the famous victory.

    2011: Navy SEAL’s kills Osama. Obama takes 8,998 victory laps.

    2012: Al Qaeda murders two heroic, former Navy SEAL’s and an expendable ambassador in Benghazi.

  5. T. Shaw, you forgot two very important events.

    January 2, 1492 – Boabdil surrenders Granada to Queen Isabel and King Ferdinand. The Reconquest has been completed.

    September 12, 1683 – King John Sobieski and his winged Polish Hussars relieve Charles of Lorraine and the defenders of Vienna and crush the invading Turks.

  6. Thank you for your post on the Battle of Lepanto. My brother Benjamin (12) and I (15) share your enthusiasm for sharing “stories that matter.” That is why we created http://www.TitanicHeroes.com
    We would love it it you would look over our site and tell us what you think.
    Thank you so much and God bless.
    -Cady Crosby

  7. The title “Our Lady of Victories,” [????????? – Nicephoroos = Victory bearer] was used in the East, following the Byzantine victory over the combined Persian and Scythian fleets. She is said to have appeared during the battle

    It occurs in the Akathist Hymn, composed in honour of the victory.

    In antiquity, the title was used of Pallas Athene, the tutelary goddess of Athens, after the great naval battle of Salamis against the Persians. Another title of Athene was ???????? [Parthenos = Virgin] (hence the Parthenon), so its adoption by Christians was very appropriate.

  8. The Virgin Mary had a hand in the largely peaceful dissolution of the Soviet empire. Years ago, rosary recitals included an invocation to Her to convert Russia, and I remember thinking ‘yeah right’ as the Soviet Unon loomed so large then. History buffs will recall the dire scenarios, all of them involving nuclear weapons that was to herald WW111.

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