Today in Catholic History – The Battle of Lepanto

On 7 October 1571, the fleet of the Holy League of Spain, Venice, Genoa, Savoy, the Papacy and others, with 206 galleys and 6 galleasses and commanded by Don Juan de Austria, defeated the main fleet of the Ottoman Empire, 222 war galleys and 56 galliots, at the Battle of Lepanto. But the chief advantage of the Holy League was its superiority in the number of guns and cannon and the proficiency of the Spanish infantry.

During the battle, the Ottoman Janissaries ran out of weapons and threw oranges and lemons at the Holy League soldiers.

The decisive victory gave the Holy League control over the Mediterranean and stopped the Ottoman advance into Europe. The Holy League considered the victory as a sign of the future downfall of the Ottoman Empire and credited the victory to the Virgin Mary. Pope Pius V would institute the Feast of Our Lady of Victory to commemorate the battle, now known as the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary.

Conflicts among the Holy League’s membership prevented further attacks and six months later the Ottoman Empire again controlled the Mediterranean. Still, the Ottoman Empire was never able to regain the strength it had before the battle and its dominance at sea was at an end.

G. K. Chesterton’s Lepanto


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