Anniversary of the Fall of Constantinople (1453)

St. Isaakios the Confessor

Beloved brothers and sisters in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,


I thank You O Holy Lady Theotokos, the light of my darkened soul, my hope, protection, refuge, consolation and joy, that You enabled me, the unworthy, to become a partaker of the pure Body and precious Blood of Your Son. As Birth-Giver of the True Light, enlighten the noetic eyes of my heart. As bearer of the source of immortality, give me, deadened by sin, life.

Compassionate, Mother of the merciful God, have mercy on me. Give my heart remorse and contrition, my mind humility. Release my thoughts from their captivity. Make me worthy, until my last breath, to receive the sanctification of the pure mysteries, for the healing of my body and soul. Grant me tears of repentance and confession that I may praise and glorify you all the days of my life. For you are Blessed and Glorified now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.


On May 30th ( May 29th:The Fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Turks in 1453) Our Holy Orthodox Church commemorates, honors and entreats the holy intercessions of the following Saints, Forefathers, Fathers, Patriarchs, Prophets, Apostles, Preachers, Evangelists, Martyrs, Confessors, Ascetics and Teachers of Our Holy Orthodox Christian faith: Saint Isaakos the Confessor, Egoumenos (Abbot) of Dalmatus Monastery.

SAINT ISAAKIOS THE CONFESSOR, EGOUMENOS OF DALMATUS MONASTERY. Saint Isaakios was a desert hermit when he heard about the persecutions of Orthodox by the Arian-influenced Emperor Valens. Valens at this time was about to encounter the Goths in battle. St. Isaakios stood before Valens and told him to open the churches and God would bless his efforts. The next day, he repeated his warning, but the emperor's Arian adviser prevailed. The third day, St. Isaakios grabbed the reins of the emperor's horse and pleaded with him to open the churches. For this, he was thrown into a swamp. On the fourth day, he foretold Valens' death by fire and the defeat of his troops.  The defeat came to pass; the emperor escaped and hid with his adviser in a hayloft, where they were trapped and burned. The new emperor, having heard of the pleas and prophecy of Isaakios, showed respect to him and opened the churches, and the Arians (heretics) were negated. A monastery was built for Saint Isaakios, where he performed miracles and died peacefully.

+By the holy intercessions of Your Saints, O Christ Our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.


Holy Epistle Lesson: Acts 23:1-11
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. John 16:15-23


"Conquering sin in himself through Christ, man overcomes death. If you have lived the day without vanquishing a single sin of yours, know that you have become deadened. Vanquishing one, two, or three of your sins, and behold: you have become younger than the youth which does not age, young in immortality and eternity. Never forget that to believe in the Resurrection of the Lord Christ means to carry out a continuous fight with sins, with evil, with death" (St. Justin of Serbia).


"On May 29th, 1453, a civilization was wiped out irrevocably. It had left a glorious legacy in learning and in art; it had raised whole countries from barbarism and had given refinement to others, its strength and its intelligence for centuries had been the protection of Christendom. For seven centuries Constantinople had been the centre of the world of light. The quick brilliance, the interest and the aestheticism of the Greek, the proud stability and the administrative competence of the Roman, the transcendental intensity of the Christian from the East, welded together into a fluid sensitive mass, were put now to sleep." [Sir Steven Runciman, a British Historian]

"It is the seers of Byzantium foretold, the prophets that spoke incessantly of the fate that was coming, of the final days of the City. The weary Byzantine knew that the doom so often threatened must someday surely envelop him. And what did it matter? It was needless to complain. This world was a foolish travesty, haunted with pain and with sorrowful memories and foreboding. Peace and true happiness lay beyond. What was the Emperor, the Peer of the Apostles, what even was Constantinople itself, the great City dear to God and to His Mother, compared to Christ Pantokrator and the glorious Courts of Heaven?" [Steven Runciman].

Constantinople (Greek: Κωνσταντινούπολις). It was founded in 330 A.D., at ancient Byzantium as the new capital of the Roman Empire by Constantine I, after whom it was named. The city was the largest and wealthiest European city of the Middle Ages, and shared the glories of the Byzantine Empire, which was eventually reduced to the city and its environs.

"Although besieged on numerous occasions by various peoples, it was taken only in 1204 by the army of the Fourth Crusade, in 1261 by Michael VIII, and in 1453 by the Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II. An inner wall was erected by Constantine I, and the city was surrounded by a triple wall of fortifications, begun during the 5th century by Theodosius II. The city was built on seven hills as well the Bosporus, and thus presented an impregnable fortress enclosing magnificent palaces, domes and towers. The Church of Hagia Sophia (dedicated to the Holy Wisdom of God), the sacred palace of the emperors, the hippodrome, and the Golden Gate were among the largest of the many churches, public edifices, and monuments lining the arcade avenues and squares.

Constantinople had a large amount of artistic and literary treasure before it was sacked in 1204 and 1453. It was virtually depopulated when it fell to the Ottoman Turks. The city of Constantinople had a population of 1,000.000 inhabitants.

The city was originally founded as a Greek colony by Byzas and was named Byzantium in the 7th century BC [671-662]. On November 8th AD 324 Constantine I, created his new Roman capital, Konstantinoupolis ("city of Constantine", Constantinople). The modern Turkish name Istanbul derives from the Greek phrase eis tin polin (εις την πόλιν), meaning "in the City" or "to the City".

Constantinople was built over six years, and consecrated on 11 May 330. Constantine divided the expanded city, like Rome, into 14 regions, and ornamented it with public works worthy of an imperial metropolis. Yet, at first, Constantine's New Rome did not have all the dignities of old Rome. It possessed a proconsul, rather than an urban prefect. It had no praetors, tribunes, or quaestors. Although it did have senators, they held the title clarus, not clarissimus, like those of Rome. It also lacked the panoply of other administrative offices regulating the food supply, police, statues, temples, sewers, aqueducts, or other public works.

Constantine laid out a new square at the centre of old Byzantium, naming it the Augustaeum. The new senate-house (or Curia) was housed in a basilica on the east side. On the south side of the great square was erected the Great Palace of the Emperor with its imposing entrance, the Chalke, and its ceremonial known as the Palace of Daphne. Nearby was the vast Hyppodrome for chariot-races, seating over 80,000 spectators, and the famed Baths of Zeuxippus. At the western entrance to the Augustaeum was the milion, a vaulted monument from which distances were measured across the Eastern Roman Empire.

The emperor Justinian (527-565) was known for his success in war, for his legal reforms and for his public works. Emperor Justinian had "Anthemius and Isidore demolish and replace the original Church of the Holy Apostles built by Constantine with a new church under the same dedication. This was designed in the form of an equal-armed cross with five domes, and ornamented with beautiful mosaics. This church was to remain the burial place of the Emperors from Constantine himself until the 11the century. When the city fell to the Muslim Turks in 1453, the church was demolished to make room for the tomb of Mehmet II the conqueror. Justinian was also concerned with other aspects of the city's built environment, legislating against the abuse of laws prohibiting building within 100 feet of the sea front, in order to protect the view.

Throughout the late Roman and early Byzantine periods, Christianity was resolving fundamental questions of identity, and the dispute between the Orthodox and the monophysites became the cause of serious disorder, expressed through allegiance to the horse-racing parties of the Blues and the Greens.


The great historian of the Crusades, Sir Steven Runciman, wrote that the sack of Constantinople is "unparalleled in history".

"For nine centuries," he goes on, "the great city had been the capital of Christian civilization. It was filled with works of art that had survived from ancient Greece and with the masterpieces of its own exquisite craftsmen. The Venetians, wherever they could, seized treasures and carried them off. But the Frenchmen and Flemings were filled with a lust for destruction: They rushed in a howling mob down the streets and through the houses, snatching up everything that glittered and destroying whatever they could not carry, pausing only to murder or to rape, or to break open the wine-cellars. Neither monasteries nor churches nor libraries were spared. In Saint Sophia itself, drunken soldiers could be seen tearing down the silken hangings and pulling the silver iconostasis to pieces, while sacred books and icons were trampled underfoot. While they drank from the altar-vessels, a prostitute sang a ribald French song on the Patriarch's throne. Nuns were ravished in their convents. Palaces and hovels alike were wrecked. Wounded women and children lay dying in the streets. For three days the ghastly scenes continued until the huge and beautiful city was a shambles. Even after order was restored, citizens were tortured to make them reveal treasures they had hidden."

For the next half-century, Constantinople was the seat of the Latin Empire. The Byzantine nobility were scattered. In 1261, Constantinople was captured from its last Latin ruler, Baldwin II, by the forces of the Nicaean Emperor Michael VIII Palaeologus. Although the city was retaken by Michael VIII, the Empire had lost many of its key economic resources, and struggled to survive. When Michael VIII captured the city, its population was 35,000 people, but, by the end of his reign, he had succeeded in increasing the population to about 70,000 people.


On 29th May 1453, Turkish sultan Mehmed II "the conqueror" entered Constantinople after a 53-day siege during which his cannon had torn a huge hole in the Walls of Theodosius II. Constantinople became the third capital of the Ottoman empire. Mehmed had begun the siege on April 6, 1453. He had engineers to build cannons and bombs for the occasion. He gave the Byzantine Emperor Constantine Palaeologus (1449-1453) three chances to surrender the city, a duty enjoined by the Shariah (Muslim holy law).

Once the fighting started, it went on for forty-eight days. The wall was beginning to collapse when Constantine sent a letter to the pope asking for help. The pope responded by sending a token force of about five ships.

The first group of Ottomans who entered the city were killed almost immediately, with the effect that the other Muslims began to retreat. Witnessing this, the sultan encouraged his soldiers. Soon after the sultan's encouragement the Muslims broke the wall in two places and entered the city. In a last attempt to protect it, Constantine attacked the enemy sword raised; however he was defeated and killed.

An observer describes the scene:

"Nothing will ever equal the horror of this harrowing and terrible spectacle. People frightened by the shouting ran out of their houses and were cut down by the sword before they knew what was happening. And some were massacred in their houses where they tried to hide, and some in churches where they sought refuge.

The enraged Turkish soldiers had massacred and there was no longer any resistance, they were intent on pillage and roamed through the town stealing, disrobing, pillaging, killing, raping, taking captive men, women, children, old men, young men, monks, priests, people of all sorts and conditions. There were virgins who awoke from troubled sleep to find those brigands standing over them with bloody hands and faces full of abject fury. This medley of all nations, these frantic brutes stormed into their houses, dragged them, tore them, forced them, dishonored them, raped them at the cross-roads and made them submit to the most outrages. It is even said that at the mere sight of them many girls were so frightened that they died from fright. Greek children were kidnapped and raised as Turks and formed troops called the Janissaries which were trained to kill their own people. Other children were kidnapped into slavery as palace officials, eunuchs and concubines. It is practices like these that have left dark memories in Balkan peoples and Armenian people about the long years of Muslim rule and enslavement.

Mehmet II entered the great church of Hagia Sophia, the premier cathedral of Eastern Christendom, and rather than respecting its religious integrity, expropriated it for Islam, formally transforming it into a mosque. Today the church of St. Sophia is used by the Turks as a museum and is open to tourists. By the 16th century, the Balkans as a whole had come under Muslim rule and enslavement that lasted 500 years.

With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+Father George