Lepanto is the Italian name for the Greek port of Naupaktos, where a famous naval battle took place in 1571 in which a coalition of Christians trounced the Ottoman Empire. (Actually, there were also battles in 1499 and 1500, but since the Europeans lost to the Turks, we tend to quietly forget them.) The Christian victory in 1571 is attributed to Our Lady of the Rosary (la Virgen del Rosario), so every two years, Barlovento stages a re-enactment of the battle as part of the annual fiesta in August. Even better – they do it on dry land.
This sounds delightfully silly, so I was very keen to see it.
Yup, it’s silly.
The original battle involved something like 80,000 men, which is almost the population of the whole island. So I was expecting a cut-down version. Heck, Shakespeare did battles by having one man come on stage and say, “Imagine the battle…”
Barlovento had a rather good toy castle with about 12 visible defenders, and the sultan gave a speech about the original battle. Then a ship came up behind the castle. At this point I realised that I was in the wrong position to see the naval battle, but I got to see the sails of the two ships waving over the tree tops.
They had lots of dramatic bangs which threw dust up into the air – I think they must have buried explosives in advance.
Eventually, of course, they Christians won, and took all the Muslims prisoner.
They had a brief pause to wash the dirt out of their mouths, so I went around the back.
At that point, I finally got a good look at the Christian ship.
Then the victors marched their prisoners into the village.
(I’m sure it’s against the Geneva Convention to force a prisoner along with a pike when he’s already got a sword stuck through him.)
They took the prisoners to the church, where, surprise, surprise, they all converted to Christianity – politically correct NOT! But then I’m sure that somewhere there’s an equivalent Muslim fiesta which ends with all the Christians converting to Islam.
Altogether, a rather good laugh.
Of course the fiesta carried on with music in the plaza and dancing long into the night.