Battle of Lepanto, Spanish Armada, & Pilgrim Governor William Bradford

Bill Federer

News arrived in Europe in 1571 that Muslim Ottoman Turks, under the command of Lala Kara Mustafa Pasha, surrounded the Christians in Famagusta, Cyprus.

They promised the defenders of Cyprus that if they surrendered, they would be allowed to leave.

Lala Kara Mustafa Pasha broke his promise by demanding a boy for his pederasty - the sodomy of the Turks.

When denied, he flayed alive Venetian commander, Marco Antonio Bragadin, and ordered the execution of all 6,000 Christians prisoners.

The beautiful St. Nicholas Church was turned into the Lala Mustafa Pasha Mosque.

After this, the Sultan planned on attacking Rome, and from there conquer the rest of western Europe.

Pope Pius V used all his influence 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.

The Holy League insisted that their fleet be led by the 24-year-old son of King Charles V of Spain - Don John of Austria

Spain used gold from the New World to fit out its navy to keep the Muslim Ottomans from taking over the Mediterranean.

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.

As the sun rose on the day of battle, the Holy League found itself at a great disadvantage, having to row against a strong wind.

Don John led his men on deck in a prayer, then suddenly the wind changed 180 degrees to favor the Holy League.

The Holy League's ships collided into Ali Pasha's ships.

Fierce fighting went on for hours.

Don John sailed his flagship Real crashing into Ali Pasha's ship.

Ali Pasha was soon killed and his head was hung high from the ship.

The Ottoman Muslims lost 200 of their 230 ships.

Some 12,000 Christian galley slaves were freed.

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

Telling the story of the freeing of the Christian galley slaves, G.K. Chesterton wrote in his epic 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 (rear stern deck),

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 free!"

Hilaire Belloc wrote in The Great Heresies (1938):

"The last great Turkish organization working now from the conquered capital of Constantinople, proposed to cross the Adriatic, to attack Italy by sea and ultimately to recover all that had been lost in the Western Mediterranean.

There was one critical moment when it looked as though the scheme would succeed. A huge Mohammedan armada fought at the mouth of the Gulf of Corinth against the Christian fleet at Lepanto.

The Christians won that naval action and the Western Mediterranean was saved.

But it was a very close thing, and the name of Lepanto should remain in the minds of all men with a sense of history as one of the half dozen great names in the history of the Christian world."

One of the Spanish sailors in the Battle of Lepanto was Miguel de Cervantes.

He was later captured and made a slave in North Africa.

He escaped back to Spain and later wrote Don Quixote de La Mancha, 1605, considered Europe's first modern novel.

U.S. Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts wrote in White Slavery in the Barbary States, 1853:

"Algiers, for a long time the most obnoxious place in the Barbary States of Africa, the chief seat of Christian slavery ... the wall of the barbarian world ...

And Cervantes, in the story of Don Quixote ... give(s) the narrative of a Spanish captive who had escaped from Algiers ...

The author is supposed to have drawn from his own experience; for during five and a half years he endured the horrors of Algerine slavery, from which he was finally liberated by a ransom of about six hundred dollars."

A missed opportunity.

After the immense victory at the Battle of Lepanto, Spain could have gone throughout the Mediterranean freeing ports, Greek Islands and even Constantinople from Ottoman control.

Instead, Spain sent its army and navy to smash the Reformation in Holland and in England.

In 1572, the Iron Duke of Alba began the Spanish Furies, decimating the cities of the Netherlands.

In 1588, King Phillip II of Spain sent his Invincible Armada to conquer Protestant England.

Queen Elizabeth put on her armor and rallied England with her most famous speech, August 9, 1588:

"Let tyrants fear ...

I am come amongst you ... resolved, in the midst and heat of battle, to live or die amongst you all -- to lay down for my God, and for my kingdoms, and for my people, my honour and my blood even in the dust.

I know I have the body of a weak and feeble woman; but I have the heart and stomach of a king -- and of a King of England too, and think foul scorn that Parma or Spain, or any prince of Europe, should dare to invade the borders of my realm ...

By ... your valour in the field, we shall shortly have a famous victory over those enemies of my God, of my kingdom, and of my people."

Spain was repulsed by:

  • Sir Francis Drake,

  • Sir John Hawkins,

  • Sir Martin Frobisher,

  • Lord Howard of Effingham, and

  • Dutch Admiral Justinus van Nassau.

A hurricane smashed 56 Spanish ships, 10 more ships had to be scuttled.

Over 20,000 Spaniards died from battle, storms and disease.

This defeat caused Spain to lose its monopoly over the new world, opening the door for other European nations to settle colonies in America.

Had the Spanish Armada won, there would have been:

  • No Anglican England

  • No Puritans & Pilgrims

  • No New England

  • No United States.

North America would have just been an extension of New Spain-Mexico.

Adam Smith wrote in The Wealth of Nations, 1776:

"The Spaniards, by virtue of the first discovery, claimed all America as their own, and ... such was ... the terror of their name, that the greater part of the other nations of Europe were afraid to establish themselves in any other part of that great continent ...

But ... the defeat ... of their Invincible Armada ... put it out of their power to obstruct any longer the settlements of the other European nations.

In the course of the 17th century ... English, French, Dutch, Danes, and Swedes ... attempted to make some settlements in the new world."

Two years after the Spanish Armada sank, a boy was born on MARCH 19, 1590, in England, named William Bradford.

When Bradford was age 17, Shakespeare was producing his play, "Anthony and Cleopatra," 1607, and the Jamestown Colony was being founded in Virginia.

William Bradford fled from England to Holland with the Pilgrim separatists, led by Pastor John Robinson and Elder William Brewster in 1608.

In 1620, after much hardship, William Bradford, age 30, sailed with the Pilgrims to America.

In 1621, Bradford was chosen governor and reelected 30 times till his death.

William Bradford's journal, Of Plymouth Plantation, is the main historical record of the Pilgrims, published in 1650:

"Since ye first breaking out of ye light of ye gospel in our Honorable Nation of England ... what wars and oppositions ... Satan hath raised ... against the Saints ... by bloody death and cruel torments ... imprisonments, banishments ...

What could now sustain them but ye spirit of God and His grace? ...

Ought not the children of these fathers rightly say:

Our fathers ... came over this great ocean, and were ready to perish in this wilderness; but they cried unto ye Lord, and He heard their voice ..."

Bradford continued:

"All great and honorable actions are accompanied with great difficulties ...

Out of small beginnings greater things have been produced by His hand that made all things of nothing ...

and, as one small candle may light a thousand, so the light here kindled hath shone unto many, yea in some sort to our whole nation; let the glorious name of Jehovah have all the praise."


World History