Had I not been so occupied with personal business last Tuesday, I certainly would not have overlooked the anniversary of the Battle of Lepanto. It’s a major event in Venice. Besides which, the 400th anniversary was the date of my senior recital at Yale back in 1971.
Yesterday my nephew Sheridan had me talk to his friend Christie Burke, who was at the airport on her way to Venice for the first time. I came up with several suggestions, including, of course, the Doge’s Palace with a number of spectacular paintings of this great battle. Despite the expected hoards of tourists in Piazza San Marco-- even at this time of year-- I advised her not to miss it. (I did recommend that she visit the Ducal Chapel -- that wonderful copy of The Church of the Holy Apostles in Constantinople [since demolished] -- during an early morning Sunday service to avoid the crowds.) Fourteen months ago I was able to see the Venice and the Islamic World exhibition at the Doge’s Palace after having missed it at the Metropolitan Museum in New York. It was far better to see it in Venice.
Some historians contend that the Battle of Lepanto really wasn’t so significant. The sultan, however, was lusting to conquer Rome and turn St. Peter’s into a mosque as Mehmet II had done to Hagia Sophia. What a different world it would have been had he been successful.
The Holy League, commanded by Philip II’s bastard half-brother, Don John of Austria, prevailed primarily because of its superiority in canon power, creatively placed in the bows of the galleys. I suppose my two day delay allowed a greater consistency in several earlier postings. And I guess it’s fun to place it after Row, Row, Row Your Boat since Lepanto was the last major sea battle with oared galleys.
(A literary aside: Miguel de Cervantes was maimed in his left hand in the battle and later taken prisoner-- an experience which no doubt influenced Don Quixote).