The Venetians through the centuries were well-known for their seamanship and endeavours in trade. But, they were also tenacious fighters whose gallies came to the rescue of Europe on more than one occasion.
The greatest moment in the history of Venice occurred on the morning of October 7, 1570 at Lepanto. The Turks who had threatened many times to conquer Italy and Europe had amassed an armada of ships in the Gulf of Patras and yet again a divided Europe left Venice to take up the challenge.
Both sides were evenly matched, and the Christians led by the Venetians immediately attacked the Turkish fleet. Over 200 galleons engaged in head-to-head combat. The battle raged all day, as each of the opposing forces tried to out-manovour the other, appalling loses were sustained by both sides. It was estimated that the Christians lost 15,000 men, the Turks twice as many.
Finally, as the flagship of the Turkish fleet was taken and the admiral beheaded the battle drew to an end. With their flagship taken and their admiral dead, the Turks lost heart and tried to flee. Over 8,000 of them were taken prisoner by the Christians.
On October, a Venetian galley entered the bay of San Marco trailing the Turkish banners in the water behind her stern, with her deck piled high with trophies. Within an hour the whole of Venice was celebrating the victory.
Upon hearing the news, the Pope ordered the church bells of all the churches to ring at midday to celebrate the victory. As so today, at the stroke of midday, the chimes of the bells ring out still celebrating this famous Venetian victory.