Niccolo Capponi
Victory of the West: The Story of the Battle of Lepanto.
Da Capo, 412 pages, $27.50

“Lepanto” is a word that has only lost its symbolic power in the last generation. In our parish church in Kensington, there is a stained glass window that depicts the battle. As the church was bombed in the Blitz, this window dates only from the post-war period. There is nothing unusual about this. Lepanto is there to remind the faithful that their civilization is under constant threat, whether from the Ottomans or the Nazis, and must be defended by force of arms. Not for nothing is the church dedicated to Our Lady of Victories.

Yet this spirit of the crusade is a stranger to contemporary culture. Lepanto left its mark on literature from the sixteenth to the early twentieth centuries. But these works, which exulted in the triumph of Christianity over Islam, have been driven into obscurity by...