Known in History as “The Conqueror,” St. Pius V’s Prayers Were What This Ottoman Sultan Feared the Most

August 13, 2020

Jean Parisot de Valette, Grand Master Jean de La Valette.

After the heroic defense of Malta by La Valette, Pius decided that the island must be strongly fortified as a bastion against the invasion of Italy—especially of Sicily and Naples—from which Europe could be overrun. . . .

The Grand Harbour of Malta, View of Valletta and Fort St Elmo in 1801

La Valette, knowing well he could not repair the wreckage done by the sultan and his Janissaries, had decided to abandon the defense of Malta and repair to Sicily. But Pius V would not hear of such a thing! Malta must be the first line of defense. In a letter dated March the twenty-second, 1566, he ordered the heroic garrison not to leave their post. He sent the knights 57,000 golden crowns and promised them 4,000 more each month to rebuild the ruined city. Hic Domus, hic requies mea! the Knights of St. John cried, as they kissed the papal brief. Six days later the first cornerstone of the city was laid which bears the name of its heroic defender. . . .

Suleyman, seeing himself outwitted, appeared next before Chios, one of the islands of the Greek archipelago and a lively trading center. . . .

Nikola Šubić Zrinski’s Charge from the Fortress of Szigetvár

Suleyman, intoxicated with victory and the lust of battle, sent ninety thousand men into Hungary where the siege of Szigeth was laid. Pius V was distraught when news of these terrible happenings reached Rome. He ordered the Forty Hours’ devotion and public prayers. He himself took part in three great processions. It is recorded that Suleyman, when advised of what the pope was doing, declared: “I fear the prayers of the pope much more than I do the arms of his soldiers!” On the day of the third procession the sultan suddenly died! But Szigeth fell three days later after resisting to the last. Then the Janissaries left to offer their obeisance to the new sultan, Selim II.

Lillian Brown-Olf, The Sword of Saint Michael: Saint Pius V  1504–1572 (Milwaukee: The Bruce Publishing Company, 1943), 245–7.

Short Stories on Honor, Chivalry, and the World of Nobility—no. 739



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