Today, 7th October 2021 - 450 years after the Battle of Lepanto, we remember the very important Devotion to Our Lady of the Rosary. But why is the celebration of this very important Virgin Mary taking place on the same day as the famous battle? To understand this, we should take a step back to the Cypriot town of Famagusta.
Cyprus, 22nd August 1570 Charming Famagusta, situated in the east part of the island, was attacked by the Ottoman Turkish fleet led by Pasha Lala Mustafa. Dominated by the Venetians since 1480, the Mediterranean island was claimed by the Turks, to whom Venice itself paid tribute of some 8,000 ducats a year.
Therefore, the Sultan felt justified in making his gesture and decided to take back the city, counting on the support of the Turkish population. The year-long siege led to the fall of Famagusta to the Ottomans. The attempts of the Venetian commander Antonio Bragadin to oppose them were in vain. Its fall had repercussions for the rest of the Mediterranean. The struggle for Turkish hegemony over Cyprus resulted not only in an expansionist struggle in the Mediterranean between the various European powers but also and above all in an alliance between the Christians of the various European States.
It was in this precarious balance that the Holy League was created by the Pontiff. The then Pope, Pius V, formed a coalition of States led by Spain and the Republic of Venice, which in turn brought together the naval forces of the Republic of Genoa, the Papal States, the Duchy of Savoy, the Duchy of Urbino and the Grand Duchy of Tuscany. The different members of the coalition formed the Christian Fleet. Before the departure, the Pope blessed the banner showing, on a red background, the Crucifix placed between the Apostles Peter and Paul surmounted by the Augustinian motto in Hoc Signo Vinces. This symbol, together with the image of Our Lady and the inscription Maria Succurre Miseris, was hoisted on the Royal flagship commanded by Marcantonio Colonna.
At dawn on that famous 7th October 1571, in Hoc Signo Vinces was the only symbol to wave in the rough waters off Lepanto. The story goes that during the battle against the Turks, the Christian fleet recited the Rosary and rowed in rhythm with the tens of Mysteries.
At the same time, at the Vatican, Pius V, while praying incessantly to the Virgin Mary to help the Christians in their hard struggle, had a vision of the victory of the Holy League. This vision was confirmed by the facts: the Christians prevailed over the Turkish fleet. The news of the victory, which reached Rome twenty-three days later, moved the Pontiff, who in turn ordered that October 7th of each year be dedicated to the Virgin of Victories. Gregory XIII would later change the title: the Virgin of Victories would become Our Lady of the Rosary.
Century after century, year after year, the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary is commemorated by the Catholic Church in the various dioceses. This holy day reminds us of the protection offered by Mary during the very difficult undertaking by the Christians...