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ews arrived in Europe in 1571 that Muslim Turks, under the command of Lala Kara Mustafa Pasha, surrounded the Christians in Famagusta, Cyprus. Muslims promised the defenders of Cypus that if they surrendered, they would be allowed to leave. Lala Kara Mustafa Pasha broke his promise and flayed alive the Venetian commander. He then killed all 6,000 Christian prisoners. He turned the beautiful St. Nicholas Church into the Lala Mustafa Pasha Mosque. Turkish Muslims then intended to attack Rome, and from there conquer the rest of western Europe.



Pope Pius V used all the influence he had to get the Christian states of Spain, Naples, Sicily, Venice, Genoa, Sardinia, Savoy, Urbino, Papal States, Germans and Croatians to assemble into the Holy League, led by 24-year-old Don John of Austria.

On October 7, 1571, the largest and most decisive sea battle on the Mediterranean took place – the Battle of Lepanto off the western coast of Greece. Don John of Austria led the 212 ships with nearly 68,000 soldiers and sailors of the Holy League.

Ali Pasha led the Muslim Ottoman Turks, consisting of 82,000 soldiers and sailors on 251 ships powered by thousands of Christian galley slaves rowing under the decks. This was the last major battle with rowing vessels.

The morning of the battle, the Holy League was at a great disadvantage, struggling to row against the wind. Don John led his men on deck in a prayer. Suddenly the wind changed 180 degrees to favor the Holy League.

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The Holy League ships collided into Ali Pasha’s ships. Fierce fighting went on for hours. Don John sailed his ship, Real, into Ali Pasha’s ship. Ali Pasha was finally killed and his head was hung from the ship. The Ottoman Muslims had 187 of their ships sunk or captured. Some 12,000 Christian galley slaves were freed.

Had the Muslims not been defeated, they would have invaded Italy and possibly conquered Europe.

G.K. Chesterton wrote in his poem, “Lepanto”:

Above the ships are palaces of brown, blackbearded chiefs,
And below the ships are prisons, where with multitudinous griefs,

Christian captives sick and sunless, all a laboring race repines
Like a race in sunken cities, like a nation in the mines.

They are lost like slaves that swat, and in the skies of morning hung
The stairways of the tallest gods when tyranny was young.

They are countless, voiceless, hopeless as those fallen or fleeing on
Before the high Kings’ horses in the granite of Babylon.

And many a one grows witless in his quiet room in hell
Where a yellow face looks inward through the lattice of his cell,

And he finds his God forgotten, and he seeks no more a sign –
But Don John of Austria has burst the battle line!

Don John pounding from the slaughter-painted poop,
Purpling all the ocean like a bloody pirate’s sloop,

Scarlet running over on the silvers and the golds,
Breaking of the hatches up and bursting of the holds,

Thronging of the thousands up that labor under sea
White for bliss and blind for sun and stunned for liberty.

Vivat Hispania! Domino Gloria!
Don John of Austria has set his people


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