Spanish Culture | The Feast of the Holy Name of Mary

September 12th is the feast of the Most Holy Name of the Blessed Virgin Mary – Festividad del Dulce Nombre de María – which is celebrated four days after the Feast of the Birth of the Blessed Mother (September 8th · la Natividad de la Virgen María). Of course, September 8th is a local fiesta in Xàbia, marking the final day of the festivities honouring the patron saint of the maritime zone, Mare de Déu de Loreto.

The feast day originated in Spain in 1513 as a local fiesta in Cuenca, more than 500 years ago. By 1622, it was being celebrated in Toledo and within fifty years, it was extended to the entire Kingdom of Spain. Although it was removed from the universal calendar by the Vatican in 1970, the festivity was reinstated in 2003 by Pope John Paul II as an “optional memorial”.

The name ‘Mary’ has its roots in many ancient languages: Hebrew: ‘Myriam’; Aramaic: ‘Maryam’; Greek Old Testament: ‘Mariam’ and Greek/Latin New Testament: ‘Maria’. Studies have suggested that the name means “lady, beautiful one, well-beloved”

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The feast day of September 12th also has special significance. In 1683, the Ottoman forces of Sultan Mohammed IV resumed their aggression against Christian Europe and by July they had laid siege to Vienna, forcing Leopold I, the Holy Roman Emperor, to flee the city. For two months, the city was defended by just 15,000 Christian troops against an estimated 300,000 soldiers of the Ottoman Empire.

On September 12th 1683, Christian forces led by John III Sobieski, the King of Poland, defeated the besiegers, a result which has been considered to be the turning point for the Ottoman expansion into Europe and in the years following the battle, the Holy Roman Empire would largely clear much of southern Hungary and Translyvania of Muslim forces. The Treaty of Karlowitz of 1699 would cede much of Hungary to the Habsburgs.

As a result of the Christian victory in the Battle of Vienna, Pope Innocent XI declared September 12th as a date to honour Mary after Sobieski and his troops begged for the Blessed Mother’s protection as they travelled south to Vienna, just has she had done over 100 years earlier at the Battle of Lepanto which halted Ottoman expansion across the Mediterranean when The Holy League credited the victory to the Blessed Virgin Mary through her intercession with God after they had implored for victory through the use of the Rosary.

The significance of this date cannot be underestimated when considering a possible reason for the date selected by the Islamic terrorists who attacked the United States: September 11th 2001.