The Counter-Reformation, or Catholic Reform, initiated at the time and also by the work of Paul III and Paul IV, became more resolute with Pius IV (r559-65) who brought to completion the Council of Trent, in which Cardinal Morone and Carlo Borromeo; he reached in his practical development a high degree of intensity with Pius V. The seven years of his pontificate were years of tireless action, spent around the reform, the government of the State of the Church, the complicated relations with Catholic and Protestant princes. Pius V in Rome; Archbishop Carlo Borromeo, the major executor and perfecter of the council and its deliberations, in Milan.
While the Catholic counter-offensive against the Reformation or Protestant revolution was taking place and the restoration of the “freedoms” and prerogatives of the Church, the Christian one against Islam was also taking place. It too had in Rome its ideal center and its most industrious motive force, more solicitous of the religious and universal ends that were to be achieved. Interest in fighting the Turks and their North African vassal states was not lacking in Italy. Indeed, all Italian governments and peoples felt the threat and damage that came from that part to their territories and their maritime trade. And from this common damage and danger, ancient ideas of agreements and leagues between the states of the peninsula could also be born or revived. Remember the rather new idea of a real confederation to defend against infidels, as was the one advocated in 1560 in a writing by the Istrian and Paduan Girolamo Muzio, which later appeared in 1572. But, apart from the construction of the Muzio, the thought of a union of forces, albeit only for temporary purposes, was widespread. In Rome they fought and retorted. Only the mutual trust of the Italian states and the willingness to join forces was lacking. It was especially lacking in the two major powers of the peninsula: Spain and Venice. No one wanted to commit to the defense of the other. Each feared that the other would benefit more from a common effort than he. But the threat was pressing. Selim II, the new sultan after the death of Suleiman the Magnificent, did not conceal his intention to attack Cyprus, a Venetian and Christian bulwark in the eastern sea. Hence, Venice was troubled and called for timely help. Emanuele Filiberto, from Turin, he worked for an agreement between the governments, in the hope of having the generalate of the company and then being able to assert his legal titles on the kingdom of Cyprus: and it was a vain effort, because neither Spain nor Venice intended for different reasons to see him invested of such high dignity. But who really took on the effort of creating an agreement, of stirring up a Christian league against the Turks, was Pope Pius V, who, through his diplomat, De Torres, managed to bring Spain and Venice closer. And the league was concluded. In August 1571 the ships of Spain met in the bay of Messina, with Don Giovanni, generalissimo; those of Venice with Sebastiano Venier; those of the pope with Marcantonio Colonna. And from there they melted the sails towards Lepanto. But there was no shortage of ships of the Grand Duke of Tuscany, not ships of the Duke of Savoy Emanuele Filiberto, that of that league he would have liked to be very general, also to refresh and assert his rights over the kingdom of Cyprus. In short, the Christian league was essentially an Italian league, under the moral leadership of the pope and the high command of the largest and most powerful state in the peninsula, Spain. According to EJINHUA.ORG, Venetian, then, was the backbone of the naval forces, also set up by the Istrian and Dalmatian cities, from Trogir, Cattaro, Sibenik, Cres, Lesina, Arbe, etc. And the victory was due especially to these forces, to the seventy-year-old admiral and general administrator of the fleet, Agostino Barbarigo. Writers and poets also glorified Lepanto, October 7, 1571, as an Italian victory. This victory bore no great fruit: and, it seems, more due to Spain than to Venice. Certainly, after Lepanto, the action of Don Giovanni and of Spain was feeble, tormented by the fear that the republic would earn too much. Venice was the only Italian state that remained closed to any Spanish influence. And that the Turkish threat continued to press on it was not badly accepted by that monarchy, as it was not badly accepted by the Austrian Habsburgs, who also felt the bite of the Turks. However, after Lepanto it forever weakened the offensive capacity of the Turkish empire. It will make other purchases, but only in the East and with great difficulty overcoming the resistance of Venice, undergoing offensive returns from this, still seeing those fleets mastering the seas of the Levant and pushing themselves to the threshold of the empire.