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Law, culture, and Catholicism...up in smoke!

Friday, October 07, 2005

Our Lady of Victory: Remembering Lepanto

On the Church's calendar, October 7 is set aside to honor Our Lady of the Rosary. In less ecumenical times, however, October 7 was set aside to honor Our Lady of Victory, a feast instituted by Pope Saint Pius V to commemorate the naval defeat of the Islamic Turks by a Christian armada at the Gulf of Lepanto. The battle pitted 300 Turkish vessels against a combined armada of 250 Spanish, Venetian, and Papal galleys. The Christians sailed under the banner of the Holy Alliance, created in response to an appeal by Pius V and placed under the patronage of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Here is how one historian described the battle:

"At dawn the Turkish fleet emerged, taking its customary crescent formation (the crescent moon being the symbol of Islam) which extended all the way across the gulf from shore to shore. Mass was said on the Christian ships and the priests gave general absolution to the men aboard. The ships then gathered in a formation shaped like a cross, with the bulk of them in the central column...Turkish Grand General Muesinsade Ali flew a great green banner copied from one carried by the Prophet Muhammad and long kept at Mecca, with the name of Allah inscribed 28,900 times upon it in letters of gold. Don Juan of Austria flew the blue flag with the figure of the Crucified Christ. Don Juan went from ship to ship to speak to the men, holding up a crucifix and telling them: "Live or die, be conquerors; if you die, you go to Heaven" [Pius V granted a plenary indulgence to those who would die at Lepanto]. Then he hung the crucifix on the forward mast of his flagship.

The two flagships met with a tremendous crash, and a woman called Maria the Dancer, disguised as a man and burning to avenge the contempt for womanhood so cruelly characteristic of Islam, led the Christian charge to the Turk's deck. Hundreds of men followed, reinforced by more from other ships nearby. The struggle for the Turkish flagship went on for two full hours...The green flag with the 28,900 names of Allah came down; the blue banner of Christ Crucified was brought from the Christian flagship to be raised over the flagship of the infidel, and there was not a hole nor a cut in it....By mid-afternoon what remained of the Turkish fleet was seeking only to escape." [Warren H. Carroll, The Cleaving of Christendom]

A pint for those who died at Lepanto! Our Lady of Victory, pray for us.