The Fall of Constantinople - May 29, 1453


My beloved spiritual children in Our Risen Lord Jesus Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,



The Fall of Constantinople (Greek: 'Αλωσις τής Κωνσταντινουπόλεως) was the capture of the capital of the Byzantine Empire by an invading Ottoman army on 29 May 1453. Our Holy Greek Orthodox Church commemorates the anniversary of this event which sent shock waves throughout Christendom. The attackers were commanded by the 21-year old Sultan Mehmed II, who defeated an army commanded by Emperor Constantine XI Palaiologos and took control of the imperial capital, ending a 53-day siege that began on 6 April 1453. After conquering the city, Sultan Mehmed transferred the capital of the Ottoman State from Edirne to Constantinople and established his court there.

The capture of the city marked the end of the Orthodox Byzantine Empire, a continuation of the Roman Empire, an imperial state dating to 27 BC, which had lasted for nearly 1,500 the years. The conquest of Constantinople also dealt a massive blow to the defense of mainland Europe, as the Muslim Ottoman armies thereafter were left unchecked to advance into Europe without an adversary to their rear.

It was also a watershed moment in military history. Since ancient times, cities had used ramparts and city walls to protect themselves from invaders, and Constantinople's substantial fortifications had been a model followed by cities throughout the Mediterranean region and Europe. The Ottomans ultimately prevailed due to the use of gunpowder (which powered formidable cannons).

The army defending Constantinople was relatively small, totaling about 7,000 men. At the onset of the siege, probably fewer than 50,000 people were living within the walls. The Ottomans had a much larger force. Recent studies and Ottoman archival date state that there were about 50,000-80,000 Ottoman soldiers including between 5,000 and 10,000 Janissaries (Γενίτσαροι).

The Ottoman army had made several frontal assaults on the land wall of Constantinople but was always repelled with heavy losses. On 21 May, Mehmed sent an ambassador to Constantinople and offered to lift the siege if they gave him the city. He promised he would allow the Emperor and any other inhabitants to leave with their possessions. Moreover, he would recognize the Emperor as governor of the Peloponnese. Lastly, he guaranteed the safety of the population that might choose to remain in the city. Constantine XI only agreed to pay higher tributes to the sultan and recognized the status of all the conquered castles and lands in the hands of the Turks as Ottoman possession.

"Giving you though the city depends neither on me nor on anyone else among its inhabitants; as we have all decided to die with our own free will and we shall not consider our lives."

State of the Byzantine Empire

Constantinople had been an imperial capital since its consecration as the first Christian capital in 330 A.D. under the first Christian Roman Emperor Constantine the Great (later Saint Constantine). In the following 11 centuries, the city had been besieged many times but was captured only once: during the Fourth Crusade in 1204. Mutinous Crusader armies sent from the Latin West and Pope Innocent III, looted, and destroyed parts of Constantinople. The Crusaders looted, terrorized, and vandalized Constantinople for three days, during which many ancient and medieval Roman and Greek works from the Hippodrome were sent back to adorn the facade of St. Mark's Basilica in Venice, where they remain. The Crusaders systematically violated the city's holy sanctuaries including the Cathedral of Saint Sophia which was desecrated and destroying or stealing all they could lay hands on; thousands of sacked churches, monasteries and convents. Women, including nuns, were raped by the Crusader army. The Crusaders' decision to attack the world's largest Christian city was unprecedented and immediately controversial. Reports of Crusaders looting and brutality scandalized and horrified the Orthodox Christian world; relations between the Catholic and Orthodox were catastrophically wounded for many centuries afterward.

The Byzantine Empire was left much poorer, smaller, and ultimately less able to defend itself against the Ottoman Turkish conquest that followed; the actions of the Crusaders thus directly accelerated the collapse of Christendom in the East, and in the long run facilitated the expansion of Islam into Europe. (Wikipedia)

(To be continued)


Glory Be To GOD For All Things!" -- Saint John Chrysostomos


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

+Father George