Sunday, 16 October 2011

7 October - the Battle of Lepanto - the Feast of our Lady of Victory and of the Holy Rosary

The Feast of our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary is a title of the Blessed Virgin Mary as the Queen of the Holy Rosary, the chaplet of prayer beads that are used to invoke the Virgin to aid us whilst meditating upon scenes in the life of her Son, JESUS CHRIST.

The Rosary developed out of the habit of lay brothers, who did the manual work and did not have time to pray the whole Monastic Office, of praying Paternosters and Ave Marias in monasteries. This habit then passed to the devout laity.

In 1208 our Lady appeared to St Dominic in the Church of Prouille, France, and gave him a chaplet of beads representing roses commending to him the devotion which had spread among the Faithful of saying Paters and Aves whilst meditating upon the life of Christ.

St Dominic then gave the Rosary to all his Friars Preachers to use in their efforts to convert the heterodox Cathars in Southern France and to call upon our Lady to assist the soldiers of Count Simon de Montfort, 5th Earl of Leicester, father of the founder of the later English Parliament, to defend Christendom from the attacks by the armies of the heterodox Cathars and Albigensians.

St Dominic receives the Holy Rosary from our Lady

On 12 September 1213, whilst St Dominic and his brethren were praying in the Church at Muret in the South of France, Count Simon and 700 knights charged out of the town to meet an invading army of 50,000 marauding heterodox Albigensians who were set upon capturing the whose of Southern France for the Albigensian heresy.

The Albigensians were a type of Manichee and they believed in euthanasia, abortion and sodomy and opposed marriage and child-birth because they believed that all material things were evil and created by an evil force. They had one Sacrament which was called the consolamentum and consisted in euthanasia by either starvation or suffocation. They had murdered Catholic missionaries sent to preach to them and murdered bishops, priests and the Papal legate who was sent to negotiate with them.

Count Simon and his knights straight into the middle of their ranks and slew their leader King Pedro of Aragon, much to the chagrin of Count Simon who wanted to defeat him but not slay him. At this the Albigensian horde fell into disarray and were routed. Our Lady, Count Simon de Montfort and the Rosary saved the day.

Ever after, the Rosary became a great weapon of prayer against evil, and especially in time of battle.

In thanks for the victory of the Battle of Muret, Count Simon built the first shrine dedicated to Our Lady of Victory.

The Rosary was prayed in 1529 at the Siege of Vienna and a great victory won under Count Nicholas von Salm against the Ottoman Turks and their Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent.

In 1571 Pope St Pius V instituted the Feast of Our Lady of Victory as an annual feast to commemorate the victory of Lepanto, off the Greek coast, the huge naval battle won by the Christian navies against the navy of the invading Muslim Turkish hosts. The Turkish navies were many times larger than the Christian navies and had been bent upon conquering the whole of Christendom and enslaving all Christians.

The Battle of Lepanto 1571

The victory was attributed to our Lady, as a rosary procession took place on that day in St. Peter's Square in Rome for the success of the forces of the Holy League to hold back the Muslim forces from over-running Western Europe.

In 1573, Pope Gregory XIII changed the title of this feast-day to the Feast of the Holy Rosary. This feast was extended by Pope Clement XII to the whole of the Latin Rite, inserting it into the Roman Calendar in 1716, and assigning it to the first Sunday in October.

King Jan Sobieski and his army at the Battle of Vienna, 12 September 1683

On 12 September (that date again!) 1683, King Jan Sobieski, appointed commander by Roman Emperor Leopold I, and his Polish Hussars, inflicted a massive defeat upon the Turkish hosts in the Battle of Vienna. Again a Rosary campaign had preceded his victory.

Venerable Pope Innocent XI instituted the Feast of the Holy Name of Mary on 12 September to mark the victory obtained by praying to our Lady.

Kara Mustapha Pasha, the commander of the Turkish host, was unfairly executed by his own king, Sultan Mehmed II, after losing the Battle of Vienna

Pope St Pius X changed the date to 7 October in 1913, being the actual date of the great victory at Lepanto.

In 1969, Pope Paul VI changed the name of the feast to Our Lady of the Rosary.

Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary, pray for us!


Our Lady's Nativity and the Great Siege of Malta of 1565: "Victoria Day" of the Knights of Malta

8 September is the Feast of our Lady's nativity but it is also Victoria Day for the Knights of Malta, the day when, with our Lady's help, they defeated the Ottoman Turkish invasion of their home and headquarters on the island of Malta.

It is is also "Malta Day" for the same reason.

The Knights Hospitaller (also known as the Sovereign Order of Saint John of Jerusalem, of Rhodes and of Malta; the Knights of Malta; the Knights of Rhodes; and Les Chevaliers de Malte) is an organization that began as an Amalfitan hospital founded in Jerusalem in 1080 to provide care for poor and sick pilgrims to the Holy Land.

After the conquest of Jerusalem in 1099 during the First Crusade it became a religious/military order under its own charter, and was charged with the care and defence of pilgrims to the Holy Land. Following the loss of Christian territory in the Holy Land, the Order operated from Rhodes, over which it was sovereign, and later from Malta under the grand magistry of the renowned religious, soldier and defender of Malta from the Turks, Prince and Grand Master Jean Parisot de la Valette, after whom Valetta in Malta is named.

After the loss of the Holy Land and years of moving from place to place in Europe, the Knights were established on Malta in 1530, when the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V, as King of Sicily, gave them Malta, Gozo and the North African port of Tripoli in perpetual fiefdom in exchange for an annual fee of a single Maltese falcon, which they were to send on All Souls Day to the Viceroy of Sicily, who acted as the King's representative. (This historical fact was used in Dashiell Hammett's famous book The Maltese Falcon).

It was from here that the Hospitallers continued their actions against the marauding Muslims and especially the savage Barbary pirates.

Although they had only a small number of ships, the Muslim Ottomans were less than happy to see the order resettled. Accordingly, Sultan Suleiman assembled another massive invasion force in order to dislodge the Knights from Malta, and in 1565 invaded, starting the Great Siege of Malta.This siege proved one of the great victories of history for an undermanned and vastly outnumbered defence force, numbering some 700 knights and about 8000 soldiers.

At first the battle looked to be a repeat of the earlier defeat of the Knights at Rhodes. Most of the cities were destroyed and about half the Knights died in battle. On 18 August the position of the besieged was becoming desperate: dwindling daily in numbers, they were becoming too feeble to hold the long line of fortifications. But when his council suggested the abandonment of Il Borgo and Senglea and withdrawal to Fort St. Angelo, Grand Master La Valette remained obdurate.

The Viceroy of Sicily had not brought help. Possibly the orders of his master, Philip II of Spain, were so obscurely worded as to put on his own shoulders the burden of a decision – a responsibility which he was unwilling to discharge because defeat would mean exposing Sicily to the Turks. Whatever may have been the cause of his delay, the Viceroy hesitated until the indignation of his own officers forced him to move, and then the battle had almost been won by the unaided efforts of the Knights.

On 23 August came yet another grand assault, the last serious effort, as it proved, of the besiegers. It was thrown back with the greatest difficulty, even the wounded taking part in the defence. The plight of the Turkish forces, however, was now desperate. With the exception of Fort St Elmo, the fortifications were still intact. Working night and day, the garrison had repaired the breaches, and the capture of Malta seemed more and more impossible. The terrible summer months had laid many of the troops low with sickness in their crowded quarters. Ammunition and food were beginning to run short, and the Turkish troops were becoming more and more dispirited at the failure of their numerous attacks and the unending toll of lives.


The death of Dragut, a corsair and admiral of the Ottoman fleet and skilled commander, on 23 June, had proved an incalculable loss. The Turkish commanders, Piyale Pasha and Mustafa Pasha, took few precautions, and, though they had a huge fleet, they never used it with any effect except on one solitary occasion. They neglected their communications with the African coast and made no attempt to watch and intercept Sicilian reinforcements.

On 1 September they made their last effort, but all threats and cajoleries had little effect on dispirited Turkish troops, who refused any longer to believe in the possibility of capturing those terrible fortresses. The feebleness of the attack was a great encouragement to the besieged, who now began to see hopes of deliverance. Perplexity and indecision of the Turks were cut short by the news of the arrival of Sicilian reinforcements in Mellieħa Bay. Unaware of the small size of this new force, they hastily evacuated and sailed away on 8 September, the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin, ever after celebrated by the Order of Malta as "Victoria Day".

At the moment of the Turkish departure the Order had left 600 men capable of bearing arms, but the losses of the Ottomans had been yet more fearful. The most reliable estimate puts the number of the Turkish army at its height at some 40,000 men, of which but 15,000 returned to Constantinople. The siege is portrayed vividly in the frescoes of Matteo Perez d'Aleccio in the Hall of St. Michael and St. George, also known as the Throne Room, in the Grand Master's Palace in Valletta. Four of the original modellos, painted in oils by Perez d'Aleccio between 1576 and 1581, can be found in the Cube Room of the Queen's House at Greenwich, London. After the siege a new city had to be built – the present city of Valletta, so named in memory of the Grand Master who had sustained this siege.

In 1607, the Head of the Order, the Grand Master, was granted the rank of Reichsfürst (Prince of the Holy Roman Empire). In 1630 the Grand Master was awarded ecclesiastic equality with the Cardinals and the uniquely hybrid style "His Most Eminent Highness", reflecting both qualities qualifying him as a true prince of the Church.

Following the Christian victory over the Ottoman fleet in the Battle of Lepanto in 1570, the Knights continued to defend Christendom from Barbary pirates and Muslim raiders.

The Patron Saint of the Order is our Lady of Philermo whose image was first acquired when the Knights were still settled on the island of Rhodes. The icon, depicted below, is ancient and famous.

Our Lady of Philermo, pray for us!


Thursday, 13 October 2011

Our Lady's Nativity and the Great Siege of Malta of 1565: "Victoria Day" of the Knights of Malta

13 OCTOBER 2011


The Prince and Grand Master of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta in Council in Malta

On 13th October 2011 the 57th Lord Grand Prior of England of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, Ian Scott of Ardross, made his vows of office during solemn Mass in the 12th century crypt chapel of the former Priory Church of St John of Jerusalem, Saint John's Square, Clerkenwell EC1M 4DA, now the seat of the Anglican Venerable Order of St John.

The last such ceremony took place in 1558 in the reign of Queen Mary I, when Thomas Tresham, the last Grand Prior of the Order of St John before the Reformation, was installed in the Priory Church.

On this the Feast Day of the founder, Blessed Gerard, the relic of his jawbone, brought to England by Sir George Bowyer in 1830, one of the great treasures of the Order of Malta in England, was venerated and used to give the final blessing, the first visit of the relics to this historic priory church, making the occasion a double celebration.

Mass was held at 7pm and the ceremony was followed by a drinks reception in the Museum of the Order Church.

Saint John the Baptist, pray for him
Blessed Gerard, pray for him
Blessed Adrian Fortescue, pray for him