Editor’s Note: In recounting the stirring details of the Battle of Lepanto in which Christian forces – against insurmountable odds but armed with the Rosary and genuine Catholic leadership – decisively prevailed over the fiercest enemy, this concluding part of the article demonstrates the power of Our Lady and Her Holy Rosary. (Read Part 1.)
The Battle of Lepanto was fought at what is now called the Gulf of Corinth, near Greece. On the day of battle, Don John took the center with sixty-four galleys; the right wing with fifty-four was under Spain’s Andrea Doria, who sailed into warfare that day with an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe on board; the left flank was Venice’s fifty-three galleys under the command of Venetian Augustino Barbarigo. Other Christian ships also joined in the battle.
Called the greatest sea engagement since the Battle of Actium in 31 BC, the Battle of Lepanto began at dawn. Priests were hearing confessions up until the time of conflict, and probably beyond.
Father Ladis Cizik explains:
“In naval battles between oared ships, ‘positioning’ is all important as one vessel strives to ram the enemy in the side to sink their ship. In addition, the Catholic forces had a number of ships with the then innovative features of side-mounted cannon; again, positioning was important. The Turkish ships were arranged in the form of the Islamic crescent, some three miles in length. The Catholic ships were arranged in the form of Our Lord’s Holy Cross. On that historic day, it was literally the Cross of Christ versus the crescent of Islam.”
At the decisive moment in battle, the wind mysteriously shifted 180 degrees. The Muslims suddenly found the wind against them, which launched the Turkish fleet into disorder. The battle lasted five hours, the Christian fleet was victorious, and some 13,000 galley slaves onboard Muslim ships were freed.
A Rosary Triumph
As noted, St. Pius V received a miraculous communication from Our Lady the moment the battle was won. Pius would go on to add “Help of Christians” to Our Lady’s titles in the Litany. October 7 would come to be the Feast of Our Lady of Victory, later changed to the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary.
Father Cizik writes, “Peace came through strength in the Battle of Lepanto as the power of the Rosary propelled the battle-ready Catholic forces to a decisive and historic victory.”
Historian John Julian Norwich noted:
“The battle of Lepanto had been an overwhelming victory. According to the most reliable estimates, they lost only twelve galleys sunk and one captured; the Turkish losses were 113 and 117 respectively. Casualties were heavy on both sides, as was inevitable when much of the fighting was hand-to-hand; but whereas the Christian losses are unlikely to have exceeded 15,000, the Turks are believed to have lost double that number, excluding the 8,000 that were taken prisoner.”
Among the Christian wounded at Lepanto was Spain’s Miguel de Cervantes, who would survive to write the classic Don Quixote.
Rightly called “the Battle that saved the Christian West,” Lepanto marked the end of Islamic supremacy of the seas, and successfully halted the Islamic invasion in Europe (Muslims now return in great numbers by means of lax immigration and refugee invasion).
Lepanto also changed sea warfare forever. Oared boats ramming each other were now replaced with vessels wielding gun-powder and mounted cannon, initiating a wholesale re-positioning of navy-craft.
Most of all, the Battle of Lepanto, won by the power of the Rosary, was a lesson to a dispirited Christendom that Islam was not unconquerable.
A month after Lepanto, on November 11, 1571, Venice Secretary of State Juan Luis de Alzaomora wrote to Don John of Austria: “There is no man at the court who does not discern in it the hand of the Lord, and it seems to us all like a dream, in that never before has such a battle been seen or heard of.”
Likewise Venetian historian Paolo Paruta summed up public sentiment at his funeral oration at St. Mark’s, Venice, of those killed in battle: “They have taught us by their example that the Turks are not insuperable, as we had previously believed them to be … Thus, it can be said that as the beginning of this war was for us a time of sunset, leaving us in perpetual night, now the courage of these men, like a true life-giving sun, has bestowed upon us the most beautiful and most joyous day that this city, in all her history, has ever seen.”
The people of Venice saw this victory as the sudden dissipation of the heavy black cloud that had overshadowed them for two centuries wherein they felt their days were numbered.
The Rosary Chapel
At the Basilica Church of Santi Giovanni e Poalo, Catholics of Venice soon dedicated the magnificent votive chapel of the Madonna of the Holy Rosary in thanksgiving. The chapel itself was built by the great Venetian Alessandro Vittoria; its ceiling painted by the renowned Paolo Veronese.
Tragically, in August 1867, a fire virtually destroyed the original chapel, along with some great works of art that were stored in the building.
The work of restoration soon began, and the chapel was solemnly reopened to the public in 1959.
Upon entering the Rosary Chapel today, the visitor is struck by the profoundly Catholic atmosphere, impressive interior, and beautiful commanding presence of the statue of Our Lady holding the Child Jesus, located over the main altar. Just to regard Her holy image at this magnificent Venetian chapel gives one a sense of hope and security. Everything about the place exudes an air of reverence and awe, along with the element of Divine intimacy.
The chapel is a lasting monument to the power of Our Lady and Her Holy Rosary. It reminds us that against insurmountable odds, the forces of Catholicism – armed with the Rosary, genuine Catholic leadership, the true faith and renunciation of sin – can prevail over the fiercest enemy.
May Our Lord soon grant us a Pontiff like that of St. Pius V whose primary efforts for world peace lie neither in worldly wisdom, nor in dialogue with pagan entities such as the United Nations.
Rather, may our unworthy generation soon be blessed with a Pope who trusts first in Our Lady of the Rosary and promptly obeys Her Fatima requests.
Such obedience will result in the promised period of peace granted to the world without the need for battles or the shedding of human blood. This triumph of the Immaculate Heart will be a victory even more momentous than that secured by Our Holy Mother at Lepanto.