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The Vision Of The Pope

from The Strange Story Book





It was the evening of October 7, 1571, when the Christian fleet, under
the command of Don John of Austria, had defeated the Turks at the battle
of Lepanto--one of the 'Fifteen Decisive Battles of the World.' Far away
from the narrow Greek seas, where the victory had been gained, the Pope,
Pius V, was in his palace of the Vatican in Rome, discussing business
with his treasurer, Busotti of Bibiana. Pope Pius suffered from a
painful complaint which made him very restless, and he always preferred
to stand or walk about, rather than to sit. He was therefore pacing the
room, putting questions or listening to statements as he did so, when
suddenly he broke off in the middle of a sentence and stood still with
his neck stretched out in the attitude of a person whose ears are
strained to catch some sound, at the same time signing to Busotti to
keep silent. After a moment's pause he approached the window and threw
it open, always in the same listening attitude, while Busotti, half
frightened, sat watching. Then in an instant a look of rapture passed
over the face of Pius, and lifting his head he raised his clasped hands
to Heaven as if in thanksgiving. At this sight Busotti understood that
something strange was happening which he could not see, and he remained
awed and still for three minutes, as he afterwards swore. When the three
minutes were ended the Pope aroused himself from his ecstasy, and with a
countenance shining with joy, spoke to Busotti:

'This is not the hour for business. Let us give thanks to God for our
great victory over the Turks,' and he retired into his oratory.

* * * * *

Left at liberty the treasurer hastened to give an account of these
strange events to various bishops and cardinals, who desired that it
should instantly be taken down in writing, the time and place of the
scene being carefully noted. They ordered further, that when sealed, the
document should be deposited for safety in the house of a lawyer. This,
it will be remembered, was on October 7, but the first news of the
battle was not received in Rome till the 26th, when a messenger arrived
from the Doge of Venice, Mocenigo, followed three or four days later by
one from Don John himself. Then calculations were made of the difference
of time between the longitude of Rome and that of the islands off the
Greek coast where the battle was fought, with the result that it was
proved that the vision of the Pope had occurred at the precise moment in
which Don John had sprung, sword in hand, from his place in the centre
of his galley to beat back the Turks who were swarming over the
bulwarks.

The repelling of the attack had turned the scale in the fortunes of the
day, and the power of the Turks over Christendom was broken for ever.





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