Skip to comments.LEPANTO, 7 OCTOBER 1571: The Defense of Europe
Posted on 10/06/2005 9:33:59 PM PDT by B-Chan
Today, 7 October 2005, is the 434th anniversary of the Naval Battle of Lepanto -- the defeat of the invasion fleet of the Ottoman Empire by the Holy League fleet under command of Don John of Austria.
They were an ad hoc fleet thrown together at the last moment from a rabble of squabbling principalities. England's ships did not join the defense -- their Protestant queen looked the other way. The French fleet, by orders of her Catholic king, were similarly absent. They were outnumbered, outgunned, and fighting with their backs to the wall.
But they had one weapon the Moslems could not defeat: the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Through her prayers, her divine Son deigned to grant the upper hand to the protectors of Christendom, the Ottoman fleet was utterly destroyed, and Europe was saved.
In these years of trouble, when once again the jihad roars over the horizon seeking to destroy the West, let us all pause a moment to thank Christ for the victory, and to remember Don John and all those brave men who faced down the Islamic invaders. May we profit by their example.
WHITE founts falling in the Courts of the sun
And the Soldan of Byzantium is smiling as they run;
There is laughter like the fountains in that face of all men feared,
It stirs the forest darkness, the darkness of his beard;
It curls the blood-red crescent, the crescent of his lips;
For the inmost sea of all the earth is shaken with his ships.
They have dared the white republics up the capes of Italy,
They have dashed the Adriatic round the Lion of the Sea,
And the Pope has cast his arms abroad for agony and loss,
And called the kings of Christendom for swords about the Cross.
The cold queen of England is looking in the glass;
The shadow of the Valois is yawning at the Mass;
From evening isles fantastical rings faint the Spanish gun,
And the Lord upon the Golden Horn is laughing in the sun
Dim drums throbbing, in the hills half heard,
Where only on a nameless throne a crownless prince has stirred,
Where, risen from a doubtful seat and half attainted stall,
The last knight of Europe takes weapons from the wall,
The last and lingering troubadour to whom the bird has sung,
That once went singing southward when all the world was young.
In that enormous silence, tiny and unafraid,
Comes up along a winding road the noise of the Crusade.
Strong gongs groaning as the guns boom far,
Don John of Austria is going to the war.
Stiff flags straining in the night-blasts cold
In the gloom black-purple, in the glint old-gold,
Torchlight crimson on the copper kettle-drums,
Then the tuckets, then the trumpets, then the cannon, and he comes.
Don John laughing in the brave beard curled,
Spurning of his stirrups like the thrones of all the world,
Holding his head up for a flag of all the free.
Love-light of Spainhurrah!
Death-light of Africa!
Don John of Austria
Is riding to the sea.
Mahound is in his paradise above the evening star,
(Don John of Austria is going to the war.)
He moves a mighty turban on the timeless houri's knees,
His turban that is woven of the sunsets and the seas
He shakes the peacock gardens as he rises from his ease,
And he strides among the tree-tops and is taller than the trees;
And his voice through all the garden is a thunder sent to bring
Black Azrael and Ariel and Ammon on the wing.
Giants and the Genii,
Multiplex of wing and eye,
Whose strong obedience broke the sky
When Solomon was king
They rush in red and purple from the red clouds of the morn,
From the temples where the yellow gods shut up their eyes in scorn;
They rise in green robes roaring from the green hells of the sea
Where fallen skies and evil hues and eyeless creatures be,
On them the sea-valves cluster and the grey sea-forests curl,
Splashed with a splendid sickness, the sickness of the pearl;
They swell in sapphire smoke out of the blue cracks of the ground,
They gather and they wonder and give worship to Mahound.
And he saith, "Break up the mountains where the hermit-folk can hide,
And sift the red and silver sands lest bone of saint abide,
And chase the Giaours flying night and day, not giving rest,
For that which was our trouble comes again out of the west.
We have set the seal of Solomon on all things under sun,
Of knowledge and of sorrow and endurance of things done.
But a noise is in the mountains, in the mountains, and I know
The voice that shook our palacesfour hundred years ago:
It is he that saith not 'Kismet'; it is he that knows not Fate;
It is Richard, it is Raymond, it is Godfrey at the gate!
It is he whose loss is laughter when he counts the wager worth,
Put down your feet upon him, that our peace be on the earth."
For he heard drums groaning and he heard guns jar,
(Don John of Austria is going to the war.)
Sudden and stillhurrah!
Bolt from Iberia!
Don John of Austria
Is gone by Alcalar.
St. Michael is on his Mountain in the sea-roads of the north
(Don John of Austria is girt and going forth.) Where the grey seas glitter and the sharp tides shift
And the sea-folk labour and the red sails lift.
He shakes his lance of iron and he claps his wings of stone;
The noise is gone through Normandy; the noise is gone alone;
The North is full of tangled things and texts and aching eyes, And dead is all the innocence of anger and surprise.
And Christian killeth Christian in a narrow dusty room,
And Christian dreadeth Christ that hath a newer face of doom,
And Christian hateth Mary that God kissed in Galilee,
But Don John of Austria is riding to the sea.
Don John calling through the blast and the eclipse
Crying with the trumpet, with the trumpet of his lips,
Trumpet that sayeth ha!
Don John of Austria
Is shouting to the ships.
King Philip's in his closet with the Fleece about his neck
(Don John of Austria is armed upon the deck.)
The walls are hung with velvet that is black and soft as sin,
And little dwarfs creep out of it and little dwarfs creep in.
He holds a crystal phial that has colours like the moon,
He touches, and it tingles, and he trembles very soon,
And his face is as a fungus of a leprous white and grey
Like plants in the high houses that are shuttered from the day,
And death is in the phial and the end of noble work,
But Don John of Austria has fired upon the Turk.
Don John's hunting, and his hounds have bayed
Booms away past Italy the rumour of his raid.
Gun upon gun, ha! ha!
Gun upon gun, hurrah! Don John of Austria
Has loosed the cannonade.
The Pope was in his chapel before day or battle broke,
(Don John of Austria is hidden in the smoke.)
The hidden room in man's house where God sits all the year, The secret window whence the world looks small and very dear.
He sees as in a mirror on the monstrous twilight sea
The crescent of his cruel ships whose name is mystery;
They fling great shadows foe-wards, making Cross and Castle dark,
They veil the plumèd lions on the galleys of St. Mark;
And above the ships are palaces of brown, black-bearded chiefs,
And below the ships are prisons, where with multitudinous griefs,
Christian captives sick and sunless, all a labouring race repines
Like a race in sunken cities, like a nation in the mines.
They are lost like slaves that sweat, and in the skies of morning hung
The stair-ways of the tallest gods when tyranny was young.
They are countless, voiceless, hopeless as those fallen or fleeing on
Before the high Kings' horses in the granite of Babylon.
And many a one grows witless in his quiet room in hell
Where a yellow face looks inward through the lattice of his cell,
And he finds his God forgotten, and he seeks no more a sign
(But Don John of Austria has burst the battle-line!)
Don John pounding from the slaughter-painted poop,
Purpling all the ocean like a bloody pirate's sloop,
Scarlet running over on the silvers and the golds,
Breaking of the hatches up and bursting of the holds,
Thronging of the thousands up that labour under sea
White for bliss and blind for sun and stunned for liberty.
Don John of Austria
Has set his people free!
Cervantes on his galley sets the sword back in the sheath
(Don John of Austria rides homeward with a wreath.)
And he sees across a weary land a straggling road in Spain,
Up which a lean and foolish knight for ever rides in vain,
And he smiles, but not as Sultans smile, and settles back the blade....
(But Don John of Austria rides home from the Crusade.)
One of my favorite historical subject, this battle.
If I may humbly add, in addition to the Virgin, they also had, of more temporal importance, galleasses, awesome big ships with proportional firepower, which befuddled the Turks and played a crucial role in the rout.
I am sure the Virgin helped, but superior equipment and the sacrifice of blood and the spirit of the troops was extraordinary.
The Catholic fleet fought valiantly against the Turkish fleet, but my information has always been that the Christian fleet was older, slower and far less maneuverable than their Moslem counterparts. It was also a patchwork of ships from different navies, (Spain, Genoa, Venice), unlike the battle hardened, much experienced Ottoman fleet.
While I understand that historians tend to disagree on some facts, everything I've ever read about Lepanto shows it was a true miracle that the makeshift Catholic fleet routed the most powerful navy in the world, the mighty Turkish fleet, and sent most of their ships to the briney deep. This miraculous naval victory stopped what would have been a frightening Moslem invasion of Europe.
I love Chesterton; do you have any prose of his on this battle?
Today is the Feast of Our Lady of The Rosary.
Pray The Rosary today. In our war against Moslem Aggression and Terror our Lady is one of our staunchest allies. May she once again propel us to victory.
The Rosary is our most powerful weapon -- against the Moslems or Satan himself. It's like a spiritual gamma-ray laser cannon. We should all pray the Rosary daily!
Thanks for the bump! We just got home from our parish's celebration of the Feast of Our Lady of Victory / Our Lady of the Rosary at which "Lepanto" was recited. What a wonderful anniversary!