Lepanto and the Litany of Loreto

The Marian Library at the University of Dayton has an interesting page on the Litany of Loreto, including an illustration for each invocation:

The Marian Library has in its possession rare books of the eighteenth century with engravings by the renowned Augsburg artist, Josef Sebastian Klauber (ca. 1700-1768). The highly symbolic and illustrative reproductions are typical of the Baroque period. Their message is of great spiritual riches. Mary’s profile is that of the exalted Mother, Virgin, and Queen, as suits the period. We limited ourselves to the illustrations of the Marian titles . . .

The illustration above is for the invocation “Help of Christians,” which invocation is connected, interestingly enough, to the Battle of Lepanto:

The invocation Auxilium Christianorum (Help of Christians ) originated in the sixteenth century. In 1576 Bernardino Cirillo, archpriest of Loreto, published at Macerreta two litanies of the Bl. Virgin, which, he contended, were used at Loreto: One a form which is entirely different from our present text, and another form (“Aliae litaniae B.M.V.”) identical with the litany of Loreto, approved by Clement VIII in 1601, and now used throughout the entire Church. This second form contains the invocation Auxilium Christianorum. Possibly the warriors, who returning from Lepanto (7 Oct., 1571) visited the sanctuary of Loreto, saluted the Holy Virgin there for the first time with this new title; it is more probable, however, that it is only a variation of the older invocation Advocata Christianorum , found in a litany of 1524. Torsellini (1597) and the Roman Breviary (24 May, Appendix) say that Pius V inserted the invocation in the litany of Loreto after the battle of Lepanto ; but the form of the litany in which it is first found was unknown at Rome at the time of Pius V (see LITANY OF LORETO; Schuetz, “Gesch. des Rosenkranzgebets”, Paderborn, 1909, 243 sq.).

Whatever the historical origins of the invocation and its place in the litany, the illustrator clearly associates the title with Lepanto. The Battle is actually depicted beneath the Virgin and Child and flanked on either side by the coat of arms of the opposing armies. The caption from the Book of Judith reads: Woe the nations that rise against my people! The Lord Almighty will requite them (16:17).

There are several other chivalrous titles from the Litany of Loreto, and the Marian Library has some great accompanying illustrations:

Virgo Potens (Virgin Most Powerful)

Turris Davidica (Tower of David)

For a better look at the illustrations right click on the image and select “view image.” Your pointer should change into a magnifying glass when you role over the image. Click and you should get a larger image.

I conclude this post with a meditation of Cardinal Newman on the invocation “Tower of David, pray for us”:

A TOWER in its simplest idea is a fabric for defence against enemies. David, King of Israel, built for this purpose a notable tower; and as he is a figure or type of our Lord, so is his tower a figure denoting our Lord’s Virgin Mother.

She is called the Tower of David because she had so signally fulfilled the office of defending her Divine Son from the assaults of His foes. It is customary with those who are not Catholics to fancy that the honours we pay to her interfere with the supreme worship which we pay to Him; that in Catholic teaching she eclipses Him. But this is the very reverse of the truth.

For if Mary’s glory is so very great, how cannot His be greater still who is the Lord and God of Mary? He is infinitely above His Mother; and all that grace which filled her is but the overflowings and superfluities of His incomprehensible Sanctity. And history teaches us the same lesson. Look at the Protestant countries which threw off all devotion to her three centuries ago, under the notion that to put her from their thoughts would be exalting the praises of her Son. Has that consequence really followed from their profane conduct towards her? Just the reverse—the countries, Germany, Switzerland, England, which so acted, have in great measure ceased to worship Him, and have given up their belief in His Divinity while the Catholic Church, wherever she is to be found, adores Christ as true God and true Man, as firmly as ever she did; and strange indeed would it be, if it ever happened otherwise. Thus Mary is the “Tower of David.”

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