The Vision Of The Pope

: 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


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.