Our Lady of Victories
Our Lady of Victories
Pope Pius V had organized a coalition of forces from Spain and smaller Christian kingdoms, republics and military orders, to rescue Christian outposts in Cyprus, particularly the Venetian outpost at Famagusta which, however, surrendered after a long siege on August 1 before the Christian forces set sail. On October 7, 1571 the Holy League, a coalition of southern European Catholic maritime states, sailed from Messina, Sicily, and met a powerful Ottoman fleet in the Battle of Lepanto. Knowing that the Christian forces were at a distinct material disadvantage, the holy pontiff, Pope Pius V called for all of Europe to pray the Rosary for victory, and led a rosary procession in Rome.
After about five hours of fighting on the northern edge of the Gulf of Corinth, off western Greece, the combined navies of the Vatican, Venice and Spain managed to stop the Ottoman navy, slowing the Ottoman advance to the west and denying them access to the Atlantic Ocean and the Americas. If the Ottomans had won then there was a real possibility that an invasion of Italy could have followed so that the Ottoman sultan, already claiming to be emperor of the Romans, would have been in possession of both New and Old Rome. Combined with the unfolding events in Morocco where the Sa’adids successfully spurned the Ottoman advances, it confined Turkish naval power to the eastern Mediterranean. Although the Ottoman empire was able to build more ships, it never fully recovered from the loss of trained sailors and marines, and was never again the Mediterranean naval power it had become the century before when Constantinople fell.
Pius V then instituted “Our Lady of Victory” as an annual feast to commemorate the victory, which he attributed to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Dedications to Our Lady of Victory preceded this papal declaration. In particular, Simon de Montfort, 5th Earl of Leicester built the first shrine dedicated to Our Lady of Victory in thanks for the Catholic victory over the Albigensians at the Battle of Muret on September 12, 1213. In 1573, Pope Gregory XIII changed the title of the “Feast of Our Lady of Victory” to “Feast of the Holy Rosary”. Pope Clement XI extended the feast to the whole of the Latin Rite, inserting it into the General Roman Calendar in 1716, and assigning it to the first Sunday in October. Pope Pius X changed the date to 7 October in 1913, as part of his effort to restore celebration of the liturgy of the Sundays. In 1960 Pope John XXIII changed the title to “Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary”.