Today (October 7) is the great feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. We thank her in remembrance of saving Europe from the Ottoman Empire's Muslim forces commanded by Ali Pasha.
On the Muslim side, Ali Pasha commanded a force of 206 galleys and 45 galliots. This was the most powerful naval force in the world at the time. The battle was also the last battle at sea between oared fleets. Ali Pasha's fleet had between 12,000 and 15,000 Christian slaves among the 50,000 sailors and oarsmen. Ali Pasha also had 34,000 soldiers under his command. It is important to note that the Turks had not lost a major naval battle since the 15th Century.
The Christian forces were commanded by Don John of Austria.There were 28,000 soldiers and 40,000 sailors and oarsmen. Knowing that the Christian forces were at a disadvantage Saint Pope Pius V called for all of Europe to pray the Rosary for Victory.
During the battle the Turks lost 210 ships, their commander Ali Pasha was killed along with 25,000 others killed or wounded and 3,500 captured. Also, upwards of 10,000 Christian slaves were freed from the boats of the Turks. The Christians lost 50 galleys and around 13,000 men.
This victory prevented the Ottoman Empires expansion West. Saint Pope Pius V was in a meeting hundreds of miles away at the Vatican, but got up in the middle of a meeting, went over to a window and exclaimed with "supernatural radiance" that the Christian fleet was victorious, shedding tears of thanksgiving to God. This day was declared the Feast of the Holy Rosary.
(sources: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Lepanto; http://militaryhistory.about.com/od/navalbattles14011600/p/lepanto.htm; http://www.ewtn.com/library/mary/olislam.htm)
If you would like to show your Love for Our Lady and ask for her intercession (and are in London) why not join us for the 27th Annual National Rosary Crusade of Reparation. It starts at 1:45pm outside Westminster Cathedral and will process behind a statue of Our Lady of Fatima to Brompton Oratory. More details here: http://www.rosarycrusadeofreparation.blogspot.com/