(In the contemporary painting above: “The Catholic ships form a cross and the Muslim ships form a cresent. – The standard of the Holy Cross which was blessed by Pope Pius V can be seen on Don Juan of Austria’s ship which is leading the charge. – Papal ships (St. Peter’s keys) – The miracle of the wind: just before the armies met the wind completely switched in favor of the Catholic ships. – Devils can be seen amongst the Muslim ships (they were summoned from hell by the Muslim leader). The devils have peacock feathers as swords, a manifestation of their pride. – Our Lady of Victory with a sword in one hand ready to crush the devils and the other hand outstretched to the Muslim souls. – St. Michael leading the Angels – There are small white lights by the oars on the Muslim ships representing the souls of the Catholic prisoners.”)
October 7, 1571, the fleet of the Holy League, an alliance of the kingdoms of Spain, of Sicily and of Naples, of the Republics of Venice and of Genoa, of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, of the Duchy of Savoy, of the Papal States, and of the Sovereign and Military Order of St. John, decisively defeated the Ottoman Empire’s main battle fleet in five hours of fighting at Lepanto at the northern edge of the Gulf of Corinth.
Rev. Fr. Luis Coloma, The Story of Don John of Austria, trans. Lady Moreton, (New York: John Lane Company, 1912), pp. 265-271:
The Turkish fleet came on imposing and terrible, all sails set, impelled by a fair wind, and it was only half a mile from the line of galliasses and another mile from the line of the Christian ships.
D. John waited no longer; he humbly crossed himself, and ordered that the cannon of challenge should be fired on the “Real,” and the blue flag of the League should be hoisted at the stern, which unfurled itself like a piece of the sky on which stood out an image of the Crucified. A moment later the galley of Ali replied, accepting the challenge by firing another cannon, and hoisting at the stern the standard of the Prophet, guarded in Mecca, white and of large size, with a wide green “cenefa,” and in the center verses from the Koran embroidered in gold.
At the same moment a strange thing happened, a very simple one at any other time, but for good reason then considered a miracle: the wind fell suddenly to a calm, and then began to blow favorably for the Christians and against the Turks. It seemed as if the Voice had said to the sea, “calm,” and to the wind, “Be still.” The silence was profound, and nothing was heard but the waves breaking on the prows of the galleys, and the noise of the chains of the Christian galley slaves as they rowed.
Fr. Miguel Servia blessed from the quarter-deck all those of the fleet, and gave them absolution in the hour of death. It was then a quarter to twelve.
Lepanto by G.K. Chesterton
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 sunset 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 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 palaces four 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 in 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.)