Recently, much attention has been given to the 1571 Battle of Lepanto, where the outnumbered Christian alliance defeated the Muslim Turks, protecting Europe from the further spread of Islam. As I’ve discovered while researching a new book, this battle was certainly miraculous and should be a great sign of hope for us living in these uncertain times, but it is part of a much larger (and lesser-known) story that has a fascinating connection to Our Lady of Guadalupe.
The story starts in A.D. 711. Islamic forces made their way into Spain from Africa, conquering much of the Iberian Peninsula up into France. The Muslims, known generally as Moors or Saracens, reigned over most of Spain for over five centuries while Christian crusaders had little to no traction in reclaiming their once Catholic land.
All that changed around the year 1212. It was then that Christian armies began to invoke Mary’s name and image on the battlefield. Many miraculous successes led King Alfonso VIII to take Mary as his patroness, fighting under a standard bearing Mary’s image. After centuries of very little to show for their efforts, a Spanish army was finally victorious in taking back terrain. The Reconquista had begun!
Meanwhile, in 1208 in southern France, Our Lady gave the Rosary to the Spaniard St. Dominic. Though Marian devotion through the rosary did not long endure in France (it was picked up again with zeal in the 15th century), where the Dominicans were routing the Albigensians, it is easy to imagine Mary’s psalter, the Rosary, remaining on the lips of Spain’s crusaders. Without a doubt, Marian devotion was increasing as the battle for the peninsula continued.
Read more at National Catholic Register