Q. Is it true that the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary (October 7) commemorates a military victory?
A. Yes. This feast, designated for several centuries by the alternate title of “Our Lady of Victory,” commemorates a sixteenth-century naval victory of Christian forces over Muslim Turks who sought to invade Western Europe and ultimately conquer Rome. Turkish victory would have been a catastrophe for the Church in the West.
On October 7, 1571, a combined naval force of Christians from Genoa, Spain, and the Papal States, in an alliance known as the Holy League, confronted the Turkish navy near the west coast of Greece in the Battle of Lepanto. Crew members on more than two hundred ships prayed the Rosary in preparation for the battle. They were joined by Christians throughout Europe, in response to the call of Pope Pius V to gather in their churches to invoke Mary’s help against the superior Turkish forces.
Some accounts report that the Pope received in Rome that day a miraculous vision of the Holy League’s stunning victory in Greece. Later, when informed that all but thirteen of the nearly three hundred Turkish ships had been captured or sunk, he instituted the feast now celebrated universally as Our Lady of the Rosary.
Battle of Lepanto.