Sunday, October 10, 2010

Panagia Nafpaktiotissa and the Battle of Lepanto

Panagia Nafpaktiotissa (Feast Day - Second Sunday of October)

The Battle of Lepanto took place on 7 October 1571 when a galley fleet of the Holy League, a coalition of Spain (including their territories of Naples, Sicily and Sardinia), the Republic of Venice, the Papacy (under Pope Pius V), the Republic of Genoa, the Duchy of Savoy, the Knights Hospitaller and others, decisively defeated the main fleet of Ottoman war galleys.

The five-hour battle was fought at the northern edge of the Gulf of Patras, off western Greece, where the Ottoman forces sailing westwards from their naval station in Lepanto met the Holy League forces, which had come from Messina. Victory gave the Holy League temporary control over the Mediterranean, protected Rome from invasion, and prevented the Ottomans from advancing further into Europe. This last major naval battle fought largely between rowing vessels has been assigned great symbolic importance since then.

Some Western historians have held it to be the most decisive naval battle anywhere on the globe since the Battle of Actium of 31 BC. Historian Paul K. Davis has argued that: "This Turkish defeat stopped Turkey's expansion into the Mediterranean, thus maintaining western dominance, and confidence grew in the west that Turks, previously unstoppable, could be beaten."

The Holy League credited the victory to the Virgin Mary, whose intercession with God they had implored for victory through the use of the Rosary. Andrea Doria had kept a copy of the miraculous image of our Our Lady of Guadalupe given to him by King Philip II of Spain in his ship's state room. Pope Pius V instituted a new Catholic feast day of Our Lady of Victory to commemorate the battle, which is now celebrated by the Catholic Church as the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary.

Read more on the Battle of Lepanto here and here.


There once stood in Nafpaktos, also known as Lepanto, a splendid Cathedral, built in the fifth century in honor of the Virgin Mary. Within its walls was the miraculous icon of Panagia Nafpaktiotissa, or the Virgin of Lepanto. Christians flocked to Nafpaktos by the millions from every corner of the earth, and the miracles worked there were innumerable.

The Greek Orthodox Church has also given credit of victory at the Battle of Lepanto to the Virgin Mary, especially the people of Nafpaktos (Naupaktos) who participated in this battle and would have been immediately affected had the Christians lost to the Ottomans. There were 8,000 Greeks who participated in this battle who also prayed to the Holy Virgin to save them from this Muslim invasion. The protectress of Nafpakto was Panagia Nafpaktiotissa, and Her intervention in saving Nafpaktos is celebrated annually either of October 7th or on the first Sunday following October 7th.

It is a sad afternote that in 1581 a terrible earthquake struck Nafpaktos, destroying the beautiful Cathedral of the Virgin Mary. The Brotherhood of Panagia Nafpaktiotissa at Holy Metamorfosis (Transfiguration) Monastery have plans to rebuild this church as the katholikon of their monastery. Read more here which also has much information on the history of the battle and the miracle.

To read about the 11th century origins of the Brotherhood of Panagia Nafpaktiotissa and the reason behind her intercessory icon position, read here.



Apolytikion in the First Tone
The throngs of Nafpaktiotes always are sheltered and safeguarded by thee, O Theotokos, Queen extolled above all hymns. For they have since ancient times held thy venerated icon as a treasure from which they draw divine grace and cures. Glory to thy Son and our Redeemer. Glory to thy majestic works. Glory to thy aid granted us, Nafpaktiotissa



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