The Battle of Lepanto – Part 1

The largest naval battle in Western History

This is the Battle of Lepanto whose name was adopted by the Spaniards when hostile natives in Mankayan, Benguet kept their district blockaded for many years.


Lepanto Galleasses

One of the Venetian Galleasses at Lepanto (1851 drawing, after a 1570s painting).

Battle of Lepanto was a naval engagement between allied Christian forces (the Holy League) and the Ottoman Turks during an Ottoman campaign to acquire the Venetian island of Cyprus that took place on Oct. 7, 1571. Seeking to drive Venice from the eastern Mediterranean, the forces of Sultan Selim II invaded Cyprus in 1570. The Venetians formed an alliance with Pope Pius V and King Philip II of Spain (May 25, 1571). Philip sent his half-brother, Don John of Austria, (a bastard son of Habsburg emperor Charles V) to command the allied forces. By the time the allies assembled at Messina, Sicily (Aug. 24, 1571), the Turks had captured Nicosia, besieged Famagusta, and entered the Adriatic. Their fleet lay in the Gulf of Patras, near Lepanto (Návpaktos), Greece. The allied fleet of more than 200 ships sailed for Corfu on Sept. 15 and on Oct. 7 advanced in four squadrons in a north-south line against the Ottoman fleet commanded by Ali Paşa, Muhammad Saulak (governor of Alexandria), and Uluj Ali (dey of Algiers).

The wind was at first against the Christians, and it was feared that the Turks would be able to make contact before a line of battle could be formed. But around noon, shortly before contact, the wind shifted to favor the Christians, enabling most of the squadrons to reach their assigned position before contact.

Isolated fighting continued until the evening. Even after the battle had clearly turned against the Turks, groups of janissaries kept fighting to the last. It is said that at some point the janissaries ran out of weapons and started throwing oranges and lemons at their Christian adversaries, leading to awkward scenes of laughter among the general misery of battle. At the end of the battle, the Christians had taken 117 galleys and 20 galliots, and sunk or destroyed some 50 other ships. Around ten thousand Turks were taken prisoner, and many thousands of Christian slaves were rescued. The Turkish side suffered about 30,000 deaths while the Christian side around 7,500 deaths.

In the history of naval warfare, Lepanto marks the last major engagement in the Western world to be fought almost entirely between rowing vessels. It was the largest naval battle in Western history since classical antiquity, involving more than 400 warships. The battle featured the use by the Holy League of a new naval weapon: galleasses. These were Venetian merchant ships outfitted with high cannon superstructures sent in front of the armada to pound the Ottoman fleet as it tried to sweep around them.

Debate has persisted about whether it was these new ships with their improved firepower or the Ottoman failure to outflank the Christian force that caused the latter’s victory. The last great battle between war galleys, it was the first major victory of the Christians over the Turks.

The significant defeat at Lepanto for the Ottomans who had not lost a major naval battle since the 15th century exemplified the rapid deterioration of Ottoman might under Selim II and strengthen the position of Philip II of Spain as the “Most Catholic King” and defender of Christendom against Muslim incursion.

The battle had a great impact on European morale and was the subject of paintings and drawings by Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese and other prominent artists. The English author G. K. Chesterton memorialized the battle in a poem, first published in 1911 and republished many times since.

The Holy League credited the victory to the Virgin Mary, whose intercession with God they had implored for victory through the use of the Rosary. Genoese Giovanni Andrea Doria, great nephew of admiral Andrea Doria who commanded one of the squadrons, had kept a copy of the miraculous image of Our Lady of Guadalupe given to him by King Philip II of Spain in his ship’s state room. Pope Pius V instituted a new Catholic feast day of Our Lady of Victory to commemorate the battle, which is now celebrated by the Catholic Church as the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary on October 7. Dominican friar Juan Lopez in his 1584 book on the rosary states that the feast of the rosary was offered “in memory and in perpetual gratitude of the miraculous victory that the Lord gave to his Christian people that day against the Turkish armada”.


Sources: Britannica, Wikipedia


6 thoughts on “The Battle of Lepanto – Part 1

  1. My next door neighbor was in Moracco growing up. Her French father had a printing office that the US soldiers used quite often. She had to be driven to and from school because of the atrocities the Muslims did to people who were not of their faith.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. And to think that we have congresswomen who pledged their allegiance on the Koran, it’s scary. I hope not to see the country turn into Islam in my lifetime. I have to say the rosary more often. It works in the 1500s, it should also works now.


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