The Fall of Constantinople-1

Saturday, May 29, 2010

THE FALL OF CONSTANTINOPLE-END OF AN EMPIRE


The Final assault began after midnight, into the 29th of May 1453.

Wave after wave the attackers charged. Battle cries rang out, the sound of drums, trumpets and fifes, filled the air.

The bells of the city churches began ringing frantically. Orders, screams and the sound of trumpets shattered the night.

First came the irregulars, an unreliable, multinational crowd of Christians and Moslems, who were attracted by the opportunity of enriching themselves by looting the great city, the last capital of the Roman Empire.

They attacked throughout the line of fortifications and they were massacred by the tough professionals, who were fighting under the orders of Giustiniani.

The battle lasted two hours and the irregulars withdrew in disorder, leaving behind an unknown number of dead and wounded.

Next came the Anatolian troops of Ishak Pasha. They tried to storm the stockades and they fought tenaciously, even desperately trying to break through the compact ranks of the defenders.

The narrow area in which fighting went on helped the defenders, as they could hack left and right with their maces and swords and shoot missiles onto the mass of attackers without having to aim.

A group of attackers crashed through a gap and for a moment it seemed that they could enter the city. They were soon assaulted by the Emperor and his men and were slain. The second attack also failed.

But now came the Janissaries, disciplined, professional, ruthless warriors, superbly trained, ready to die for their master, the Sultan.

They assaulted the now exhausted defenders, and they were pushing their way over bodies of dead and dying Moslem and Christian soldiers.

With a tremendous effort the Greek and Italian fighters were hitting back and continued repulsing the enemy.

Then a group of enemy soldiers unexpectedly entered the city from a small sally-port called Kerkoporta, on the wall of Blachernae, where this wall joined the triple wall.

Fighting broke near the small gate with the defenders trying to eliminate those intruders.

It was almost day now, the first light, before sunrise, when a shot fired from a calverin hit Giustiniani. The shot pierced his breastplate and he fell on the ground.

Shaken by his wound and physically exhausted, his fighting spirit collapsed.

Despite the pleas of the Emperor, who was fighting nearby, not to leave his post, the Genoese commander ordered his men to take him out of the battle-field.

A Gate in the inner wall was opened for the group of Genoese soldiers, who were carrying their wounded commander, to come into the city.

The soldiers who were fighting near the area saw the Gate open, their comrades carrying their leader crossing into the city, and they though that the defence line had been broken.

They all rushed through the Gate leaving the Emperor and the Greek fighters alone between the two walls.

This sudden movement did not escape the attention of the Ottoman commanders. Frantic orders were issued to the troops to concentrate their attack on the weakened position.

Thousands rushed to the area.

The stockade was broken.

The Greeks were now squeezed by crowds of Janissaries between the stockade and the wall. More Janissaries came in and many reached the inner wall.

Meanwhile more were pouring in through the Kerkoporta, where the defenders had not been able to eliminate the first intruders.

Soon after, the first enemy flags were seen on the walls.

The Emperor and his commanders were trying frantically to rally their troops and push back the enemy.

It was too late.

Waves of Janissaries, followed by other regular units of the Ottoman army, were crashing through the open Gates, mixed with fleeing and slaughtered Christian soldiers.

Then the Emperor, realizing that everything was lost, removed his Imperial insignia, and followed by his cousin Theophilus Palaeologus, the Castilian Don Francisco of Toledo, and John Dalmatus, all four holding their swords, charged into the sea of the enemy soldiers, hitting left and right in a final act of defiance.

They were never seen again.

Now thousands of Ottoman soldiers were pouring into the city.

One after the other the city Gates were opened.

The Ottoman flags began appearing on the walls, on the towers, on the Palace at Blachernae. Civilians in panic were rushing to the churches.

Others locked themselves in their homes, some continued fighting in the streets, crowds of Greeks and foreigners were rushing towards the port area.

The allied ships were still there and began collecting refugees.

The Cretan soldiers and sailors, manning three towers near the entrance of the Golden Horn, were still fighting and had no intention of surrendering.

At the end, the Ottoman commanders had to agree to a truce and let them sail away, carrying their arms.

The excesses which followed, during the early hours of the Ottoman victory, are described in detail by eyewitnesses.

They were, and unfortunately still is, a common practice, almost a ritual, among all armies capturing enemy strongholds and territory after a prolonged and violent struggle.

Thus, bands of soldiers began now looting.

Doors were broken, private homes were looted, their tenants were massacred.

Shops in the city markets were looted.

Monasteries and Convents were broken in.

Their tenants were killed, nuns were raped, many, to avoid dishonor, killed themselves.

Killing, raping, looting, burning, enslaving, went on and on according to tradition.

The troops had to satisfy themselves.

The great doors of Saint Sophia were forced open, and crowds of angry soldiers came in and fell upon the unfortunate worshippers.

Pillaging and killing in the holy place went on for hours.

Similar was the fate of worshippers in most churches in the city.

Everything that could be taken from the splendid buildings was taken by the new masters of the Imperial capital.

Icons were destroyed, precious manuscripts were lost forever.

Thousands of civilians were enslaved, soldiers fought over young boys and young women.

Death and enslavement did not distinguish among social classes. Nobles and peasants were treated with equal ruthlessness.

In some distant neighborhoods, especially near the sea walls in the sea of Marmora, such as Psamathia, but also in the Golden Horn at Phanar and Petrion, where local fishermen opened the Gates, while the enemy soldiers were pouring into the city from the land Gates, local magistrates negotiated successfully their surrender to Hamza Bey's officers.

Their act saved the lives of their fellow citizens. Furthermore their churches were not desecrated.

Meanwhile, the crews of the Ottoman fleet abandoned their ships to rush into the city.

They were worried that the land army was going to take everything.

The collapse of discipline gave the Christian ships time to sail out of the Golden Horn.

Venetian, Genoese and Greek ships, loaded with refugees, some of them having reached the ships swimming from the city, sailed away to freedom.

On one of the Genoese vessels was Giustiniani.

He was taken from the boat at Chios where he died, from his wound, a few days later.

The Sultan, with his top commanders and his guard of Janissaries, entered the city in the afternoon of the first day of occupation. Constantinople was finally his and he intended to make it the capital of his mighty Empire.

He toured the ruined city.

He visited Saint Sophia which he ordered to be turned into a mosque.

He also ordered an end to the killing.

What he saw was desolation, destruction, death in the streets, ruins, desecrated churches.

It was too much.

It is said that, as he rode through the streets of the former capital of the Christian Roman Empire, the city of Constantine, moved to tears he murmured:

"What a city we have given over to plunder and destruction".

PROLOGUE

After the death of Constantine in battle during the fall of Constantinople, he became a legendary figure in Greek folklore as the "Marble Emperor" who would awaken and recover the Empire and Constantinople from the Turks.

the only way the Emperor was later identified was by his Imperial boots. His body was then decapitated and his head sent across Asia Minor to legitimize the victory.

Although it is claimed by some that his corpse was identified after the battle by his purple boots, others claim that the Turks were never able to identify his body, and that the last Roman Emperor was very likely buried in a mass grave alongside his soldiers.

A legend tells that when the Ottomans entered the city, an angel rescued the emperor, turned him into marble and placed him in a cave under the earth near the Golden Gate, where he waits to be brought to life again to conquer the city back for Christians.

While serving as ambassador to Russia in February 1834, Achmet Pacha presented Tsar Nicholas with a number of gifts, including a jewel-encrusted sword supposedly taken from Constantine XI's corpse .

Constantine XI's legacy was used as a rallying cry for Greeks during their war for Independence with the Ottoman Empire. Today the Emperor is considered a national hero in Greece.

During the Balkan Wars and the Greco-Turkish War, under the influence of the Megali Idea the name of the then Greek king used in Greece as a popular confirmation of the prophetic myth about the Marble King who would liberate Constantinople and recreate the lost Empire.

It is said that when Mehmed stepped into the ruins of the Boukoleon, known to the Ottomans and Persians as the Palace of the Caesars, probably built over a thousand years before by Theodosius II, he uttered the famous lines of Persian poetry:

The spider weaves the curtains in the palace of the Caesars;

the owl calls the watches in the towers of Afrasiab.

After the Fall of Constantinople, Mehmed claimed the title of "Caesar" of Rome (Kayser-i Rûm), although this claim was not recognized by the Patriarch of Constantinople, or Christian Europe. Mehmed's claim rested with the concept that Constantinople was the seat of the Roman Empire, after the transfer of its capital to Constantinople in 330 AD and the fall of the Western Roman Empire.

Mehmed also had a blood lineage to the Byzantine Imperial family, as his predecessors like Sultan Orhan I had married a Byzantine princess. He was not the only ruler to claim such a title, as there was the Holy Roman Empire in Western Europe, whose emperor, Frederick III, traced his titular lineage from Charlemagne who obtained the title of Roman Emperor when he was crowned by Pope Leo III in 800 - although never recognized as such by the Byzantine Empire.

Steven Runciman recounts a story by the Byzantine historian Doukas, known for his colorful and dramatic descriptions,in which Mehmed II, upon the conquest of Constantinople, was said to have ordered the 14-year old son of the Grand Duke Lucas Notaras brought to him for his personal pleasure. When the father refused to deliver his son to such a fate he had them both decapitated on the spot. Another contemporary Greek source, Leonard of Chios, professor of theology and Archbishop of Mytilene, tells the same story in his letter to Pope Nicholas. He describes Mehmed II requesting for the 14 year old handsome youth to be brought "for his pleasure" .

Reference is made to the prospective conquest of Constantinople in an authentic hadith, attributed to a saying of the Prophet Muhammad. "Verily you shall conquer Constantinople. What a wonderful leader will he be, and what a wonderful army will that army be!" Ten years after the conquest of Constantinople Mehmed II visited the site of Troy and boasted that he had avenged the Trojans by having conquered the Greeks (Byzantines)

Friday, May 28, 2010

THE FALL OF CONSTANTINOPLE -THE SIEGE


Following his accession to the Ottoman throne, Mehmed had been applying pressure on Constantinople and the Byzantines by building forts along the Dardanelles. On 5 April, he laid siege to Constantinople with an army numbering 80,000 to 200,000 men. The city was defended by an army of 7,000 of whom 2,000 were foreigners. According to Islamic tradition, before the beginning of hostilities, the Sultan demanded the surrender of the city, promising to spare the lives of its inhabitants and respect their property.

In a proud and dignified reply the Emperor rejected Mehmed's demand and almost immediately the Ottoman guns began firing.

The siege began with heavy Ottoman artillery firing at the city's walls while a smaller Ottoman force captured the rest of the Byzantine strongholds in the area. Ottoman attempts to blockade the city completely failed at first owing to the boom blocking the entrance to the Golden Horn thus allowing four Christian ships to enter the city.
The continuous bombardment soon brought down a section of the walls near the Gate of Charisius, north of the Emperor's position.

When night fell, everyone, who was available, rushed to repair the damage. Other units began attempts to mine weak sections of the wall and on the port area a first attempt by the Ottoman fleet to test the defenders' reaction failed.

While the Ottoman troops were trying to fill the foss (a ditch dug as a fortification having a parapet of the excavated earth in front of it), particularly in areas in front of the weak sections of the walls which were now constantly bombarded.

The Ottoman guns did not stop pounding the walls until the end of the siege and heavy damage was inflicted. At the same time, the defenders did their best to limit the damage. They hanged bales of wool, sheets of leather. However, nothing could really help.

The section of the walls in the Lycus valley, near the Emperor's position, was heavily damaged. The foss was almost filled by the bodies of the besiegers.

Behind it, the defenders erected a stockade and night after night men and women came from the city to repair the damaged sections.

The first assault was launched during the night of April 18, 1453. Thousands of men attacked the stockade and attempted to burn it down

Giustiniani, his men, and their Greek comrades fought valiantly. They were well armed, protected by armor, and fighting in a restricted area. After four hours of bloody struggle they succeeded to repulse the enemy.

On Friday, 20 April, in the morning, four large vessels loaded with provisions for the city appeared in the sea of Marmora, near Constantinople. Three of them were Genoese and one, a big transport, was Greek.

Baltoghlu dispatched immediately his fleet to attack and capture the ships. The operation seemed easy and soon the ships were surrounded by the smaller Ottoman vessels.

Everyone in the city, who was not busy with the defence, rushed to the sea-walls to watch the spectacle.

The Sultan on horseback, his officers and a multitude of soldiers, as well rushed to the shore to watch the battle. Excited and unable to restrain himself, screaming orders at Baltoghlu, the young Sultan rode into the shallow water.

During the fighting, the big ships continued pushing the smaller ones, and helped by the wind they were now close to the south-eastern corner of the city. Then the wind dropped and the current began pushing them towards the coast on which stood the Sultan and his troops.

The fighting raged on, with the Christian sailors hurling stones, javelins and all sorts of projectiles, including Greek Fire, on the enemy crews. Eventually the four vessels came so close to each other that they became bound together, forming a floating castle.

Around sunset the wind rose and the big ships, pushing their way through the mass, and the wrecks, of the enemy vessels, hailed by thousands of people who were standing on the walls, entered the Golden Horn.

The next morning Baltoghlu was dismissed by the Sultan, who was so furious that he ordered the beheading of his admiral, and the unlucky admiral was replaced by a favorite of Mehmed, Hamza Bey.

This event convinced the Sultan and his commanders that the city had to be more tightly besieged and that the naval arm of the besieged had to be neutralized.

Mehmed's ingenious plan, formulated before the events of April 20, consisted in bringing part of his fleet into the Golden Horn. Indeed, thousands of laborers had been building, for some time, a road overland from the Bosphorus, alongside the walls of Pera, to a place called Valley of the Springs, on the shore of the Golden Horn, above Pera.

On April 22 to the horror of the besieged a long procession of ships, sitting on wooden platforms were pulled by teams of oxen and men, over the road, into the port area and about seventy boats entered the Golden Horn.

The leaders of the defence immediately held an emergency meeting. Various plans were discussed and it was finally decided they would attempt to burn the enemy boats, which were now in the Golden Horn.

After a succession of postponements, the attempt was carried out during the night of April 28. However, it had been betrayed by someone from Pera, and it failed miserably.

Hit by Ottoman guns the Christian ships suffered heavy damage and about forty sailors captured by the enemy were executed.

Despite this failure the situation in the Golden Horn became, more or less, stable. Superior naval training, and better naval construction, eventually prevented Hamza's ships from inflicting serious damage on the allied units.

However, the Sultan's idea was a military success. Indeed, in 1204 the Crusaders had assaulted the city from the sea-walls and the Greeks had not forgotten it. They feared a repetition of that assault.

On the land side the bombardment continued, more walls collapsed, and when night fell everyone rushed to close the gap, reinforce the stockades, and build here and there.

Moreover, food was wanting and the authorities did their best to distribute it equally. Worse still, help was not coming. Yet, everyone was watching and waiting for the sails of the Western ships to appear coming out of the Dardanelles.

In early May a fast boat was sent out, to seek the allied fleet in the Aegean and tell its commanders to hurry.

During the night of May 7 a new assault was launched against the damaged section, where Giustiniani stood. It failed again and then in the night of May 12 another came and it failed as well.

During that time mining and countermining continued. Sometimes fighting went on underground. Sometimes the tunnels collapsed and suffocated the miners. On 22 May, the moon rose in eclipse prophesying the fall of the city and a few days later Constantine received news that no Venetian relief fleet was coming.

On May 23 the boat that had been sent out to locate the Christian fleet returned to the city. Its crew brought the bad news. Nothing was in sight. The defenders were alone, no help was coming.

The men of the crew, obeying their duty, decided to return to the doomed city. Realizing that everything was lost

Constantine's chief advisors begged him to leave the city. He could still get out and seek help. His father Manuel II had done the same in 1399, at the time of the blockade of the city by Sultan Bayazid.

The Emperor refused to discuss the issue. He had already decided to stay in his capital, fight for it and perish in it if need be...

Meanwhile, rumors were circulating in the Ottoman camp about the Venetians finally mobilizing their fleet, or about the Hungarians preparing to cross the Danube.

The siege looks as if it was to go on without an end in sight.

The Sultan's Vizier Halil Chandarli, had strong reservations about the siege from the beginning. He was worried about western intervention and he looked upon the whole operation with anxiety.

During a meeting of the Sultan's advisors, held on May 25, the Vizir told Mehmed to raise the siege. Pursuing it might bring unknown consequences to Ottoman interests.

The Sultan, also depressed because of the prolongation of the operation, finally decided to launch a grand scale final assault on the city.

He was supported by younger commanders like Zaganos Pasha, a Christian converted to Islam. Halil was overruled and all present decided to continue the siege.

Meanwhile the artillery continued pounding the walls without interruption, and preparations for the big assault, which was to take place on Tuesday 29 May, were accelerated.

Material was thrown into the foss which faced the collapsed ramparts, and the scaling-ladders were distributed.

The Magistrates of Pera were warned not to give any assistance to the besieged.

The Sultan swore to distribute fairly the treasures found in the city and according to tradition the troops were free to loot and sack the city for three days.

He assured his troops that success was imminent, the defenders were exhausted, and some sections of the walls had collapsed.

It would be a general assault, throughout the line of the land-walls, as well as in the port area.

Then the troops were ordered to rest and recover their strength.

The Last days

In the city everyone realized that the great moment had come. During Monday, May 28, some last repairs were done on the walls and the stockades, and the collapsed sections, were reinforced.

Meanwhile, the bells of the churches in the city rang mournfully, and citizens and soldiers alike joined a long procession behind the holy relics brought out of the churches.

Singing hymns in Greek, Italian or Catalan, Orthodox and Catholic, men, women, children, soldiers, civilians, clergy, monks and nuns, knowing that they were going to die shortly, made peace with themselves, with God and with eternity.

When the procession ended the Emperor met with his commanders and the notables of the city. In a philosophical speech he told his subjects that the end of their time had come.

In essence he told them that Man had to be ready to face death when he had to fight for his faith, for his country, for his family or for his sovereign.

All four reasons were now present. Furthermore, his subjects, who were the descendants of Greeks and Romans, had to emulate their great ancestors.

They had to fight and sacrifice themselves without fear. They had lived in a great city and they were now going to die defending it.

As for himself, he was going to die fighting for his faith, for his city and for his people. He thanked the Italian soldiers, who had not abandoned the great city in its final moments.

He still believed that the garrison could repulse the enemy. They all had to be brave, proud warriors and do their duty.

He thanked all present for their contribution to the defence of the city and asked them to forgive him, if he had ever treated them without kindness.

Meanwhile the great church of Saint Sophia was crowded. Thousands of people were moving towards the church. Inside, Orthodox and Catholic priests were holding mass.

People were singing hymns, others were openly crying, others were asking each other for forgiveness.

Those who were not serving on the ramparts also went to the church, among them was seen, for a brief moment, the Emperor.

People confessed and took communion.

Then those who were going to fight rode or walked back to the ramparts.

From the great church the Emperor rode to the Palace at Blachernae. There he asked his household to forgive him and he bade the emotionally shattered men and women farewell, left his Palace and rode away, into the night, for a last inspection of the defence positions.

Then he took his battle position.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

THE FALL OF CONSTANTINOPLE


Brief History
Constantinople was the largest and richest urban center in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea during the late Eastern Roman Empire, mostly as a result of its strategic position commanding the trade routes between the Aegean Sea and the Black Sea.
It would remain the capital of the eastern, Greek speaking empire for over a thousand years and it was the richest and largest European city, exerting a powerful cultural pull and dominating economic life in the Mediterranean. Visitors and merchants were especially struck by the beautiful monasteries and churches of the city, particularly Hagia Sophia, or the Church of Holy Wisdom.
It was especially important for preserving manuscripts of Greek and Latin authors throughout a period when instability and disorder caused their mass destruction in Western Europe and North Africa. The cumulative influence of the city on the west, over the many centuries of its existence, is incalculable. In terms of technology, art and culture, as well as sheer size, Constantinople was without parallel anywhere in Europe for a thousand years.
The Leader of the Greeks
Constantine XI February 8, 1404-May 29, 1453) was the last reigning Byzantine Emperor from 1449 to his death as member of the Palaiologos dynasty.
Constantine was born in Mistra as the eighth of ten children. He spent most of his childhood in Constantinople under the supervision of his parents. During the absence of his older brother in Italy, Constantine was regent in Constantinople from 1437-1440.
Constantine became the Despotes of Morea (the Medieval name for the Peloponnesus) in October 1443, ruling from the fortress and palace in Mistra. At the time, Mistra was a center of arts and culture rivaling Constantinople.
After establishing himself as the Despot, Constantine worked to strengthen the defense of Morea, including reconstructing a wall across the Isthmus of Corinth called the Hexamilion, "the Six Mile Wall."
In the summer of 1444, he launched an invasion of the Latin Duchy of Athens from Morea, swiftly conquering Thebes and Athens and forcing its Florentine duke to pay him tribute. The Duchy was ruled by Nerio II Acciaioli, a vassal of the Ottoman Sultan.
However, his triumph was short-lived. In the autumn of 1446, the Ottomans advanced on Morea with 50-60,000 soldiers. Constantine and his brother Thomas braced for the attack at the Hexamilion, which the Ottoman army reached on November 27, 1446. While the wall may have held against medieval attacks, Sultan Murad had cannons to supplement the usual siege engines and scaling ladders, leaving the Hexamilion in ruins by December 10. Constantine and Thomas barely escaped. The winter prevented a full conquest of Morea, and Murad left that to another day, but put an end to Constantine's attempt to expand his Despotate.
Constantine XI married twice: the first time on July 1, 1428 to Maddalena Tocco, niece of Carlo I Tocco of Epirus, who died in November 1429; the second time to Caterina Gattilusio, daughter of Dorino of Lesbos, who also died (1442). He had no children by either marriage.
After Caterina's death, in 1447, Constantine XI sent George Sphrantzes to the East to find a bride for the emperor in Trebizond and Georgia. The choice eventually fell on the Georgian princess, a daughter of George VIII but the negotiations took time and they were overtaken by the tragic events of 1453.
Despite the foreign and domestic difficulties during his reign, which culminated in the fall of Constantinople and of the Byzantine Empire, contemporary sources generally speak respectfully of the emperor Constantine.
When his brother, Emperor John VIII Palaiologos, died, a dispute erupted between Constantine and his brother Demetrios Palaiologos over the throne. Demetrios drew support for his opposition to the union between the Orthodox and Catholic churches. The Empress Helena, acting as regent, supported Constantine. They appealed to the Ottoman Sultan Murad II to arbitrate the disagreement.
Murad chose Constantine, who was crowned at Mistra on January 6, 1449. It was unusual to crown an emperor outside of Constantinople (and without a Patriarch of the Orthodox Church), and no ecclesiastical coronation was ever performed. Constantine was forced to seek passage to his capital on a Catalan ship, arriving in March 1449. Constantine XI attempted to marry a distant cousin, Maria Branković, the widow of Murad II, but the courtship failed.
Sultan Murad died in 1451, succeeded by his 19 year old son Mehmed II. (meh-MOOD).
Leader of the Turks
Mehmet II(also known as el-Fātiḥ , "the Conqueror" in Ottoman Turkish, or, in modern Turkish, Fatih Sultan Mehmet; Known as Mahomet II (March 30, 1432, Edirne – May 3, 1481, was Sultan of the Ottoman Empire (Rûm until the conquest) for a short time from 1444 to September 1446, and later from February 1451 to 1481. At the age of 21, he conquered Constantinople, bringing an end to the Byzantine Empire. Mehmet continued his conquests in Asia, with the Anatolian reunification, and in Europe, as far as Belgrade. Administrative actions of note include amalgamating the old Byzantine administration into the Ottoman state. Beside Turkish, he spoke French, Latin, Greek, Serbian, Persian, Arabic and Hebrew.
He had several wives: Valide Sultan Amina Gul-Bahar , an Orthodox Greek woman of noble birth from the village of Douvera, Trabzon,who died in 1492, the mother of Bayezid II, and Gevher Sultana; Gulshah Hatun; Sitti Mukrime Hatun; Hatun Çiçek; Helene Hatun, who died in 1481, daughter of Demetrios II Palaiologos, the Despot of Morea; briefly Anna Hatun, the daughter of the Emperor of Trebizond; and Hatun Alexias, a Byzantine princess. Another son of his was Djem Zizim, who died in 1495.
Early reignMehmed II was born in Edirne, the then-capital city of the Ottoman state, on March 30, 1432. His father was Sultan Murad II (1404–51) and his mother Valide Sultan Hüma Hatun, born in Devrekani county of Kastamonu province, was a daughter of Abd'Allah of Hum (Huma meaning a girl/woman from Hum). When Mehmed II was 11 years old he was sent to Amasya to govern and thus gain experience, as per the custom of Ottoman rulers before his time.
After Murad II made peace with the Karaman Emirate in Anatolia in August 1444, he abdicated the throne to his 12-year-old son Mehmed II.
During his first reign, Mehmed II asked his father Murad II to reclaim the throne in anticipation of the Battle of Varna, but Murad II refused. Enraged at his father, who had long since retired to a contemplative life in southwestern Anatolia, Mehmed II wrote: "If you are the Sultan, come and lead your armies. If I am the Sultan I hereby order you to come and lead my armies." It was upon this letter that Murad II led the Ottoman army in the Battle of Varna in 1444.
It is said Murad II's return to the throne was forced by Chandarli Khalil Pasha, the grand vizier at the time, who was not fond of Mehmed II's rule, since Mehmed II's teacher was influential on him and did not like Chandarli. Chandarli was later executed by Mehmed II during the siege of Constantinople on the grounds that he had been bribed by or had somehow helped the defenders.
He married Valide Sultan Amina Gul-Bahar, of Greek descent of noble birth from the village of Douvera, Trabzon, who died in 1492. She was the mother of Bayezid II.
Soon afterwards, Mehmed II began agitating for the conquest of Constantinople. Constantine threatened to release Prince Orhan, a pretender to the Ottoman throne, unless Mehmed met some of his demands. To Mehmed, this was the last straw, and he considered Constantine to have broken the truce. The following winter of 1451-52, Mehmed built Rumelihisari, a fortress on a hill at the European side of the Bosporus, just north of the city, as a prelude for a siege.
Desperate for any type of military assistance, Constantine XI appealed to the West and reaffirmed the union of Eastern and Roman Churches which had been signed at the Council of Florence. However, the union was overwhelmingly rejected by his subjects and it dangerously estranged him from Loukas Notaras, his chief minister and military commander. Although some troops did arrive from the mercantile city states in the north of Italy, the Western contribution was not adequate to counterbalance Ottoman strength. While Constantine also sought assistance from his brothers in Morea, any help was forestalled by an Ottoman invasion of the peninsula in 1452. The siege of the city began in the winter of 1452. Constantine faced a siege with 7000 men in his capital of 60,000 people.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

MARTYRED WHILE SERVING MUSLIMS

St. John of Matha
Feastday: December 17

John was born at Faucon, Provence, on June 23, 1160. He was educated at Aix, but on his return to Faucon, lived as a hermit for a time. He then went to Paris where he received his doctorate in theology, was ordained there in 1197, and then joined St. Felix of Valois in his hermitage at Cerfroid. He confided to Felix his idea of founding a religious order to ransom Christian prisoners from the Moslems, and late in 1197, the two went to Rome and received the approval of Pope Innocent III for the Order of the Most Holy Trinity (the Trinitarians), with John as superior, in 1198; they also secured the approval of King Philip Augustus of France. The Order flourished, spread to France, Spain, Italy, and England, sent many of its members to North Africa, and redeemed many captives. John died at Rome on December 17, and his cult was approved in 1655 and again in 1694. His feast day is December 17.


Bl. Adrian
Feastday: December 21
thirteenth century
Dominican martyr in Dalmatia. Adrian and twenty-seven others were executed by Muslims for confessing Christ.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

The great Eastern Schism - The most powerful empire and nearly half of Christendom fell away

The great Eastern Schism must not be conceived as the result of only one definite quarrel. It is not true that after centuries of perfect peace, suddenly on account of one dispute, nearly half of Christendom fell away.

Such an event would be unparalleled in history, at any rate, unless there were some great heresy, and in this quarrel there was no heresy at first, nor has there ever been a hopeless disagreement about the Faith. It is a case, perhaps the only prominent case, of a pure schism, of a breach of intercommunion caused by anger and bad feeling, not by a rival theology.

It would be inconceivable then that hundreds of bishops should suddenly break away from union with their chief, if all had gone smoothly before. The great schism is rather the result of a very gradual process. Its remote causes must be sought centuries before there was any suspicion of their final effect.

There was a series of temporary schisms that loosened the bond and prepared the way.

Strictly speaking, the present schism dates from the Eastern repudiation of the Council of Florence (in 1472). So although the names of Photius and Caerularius are justly associated with this disaster, inasmuch as their quarrels are the chief elements in the story, it must not be imagined that they were the sole, the first, or the last authors of the schism.

If we group the story around their names we must explain the earlier causes that prepared for them, and note that there were temporary reunions later.

The first cause of all was the gradual estrangement of East and West.

To a great extent this estrangement was inevitable. The East and West grouped themselves around different centres — at any rate as immediate centres — used different rites and spoke different languages.

We must distinguish the position of the pope as visible head of all Christendom from his place as Patriarch of the West.
The position, sometimes now advanced by anti-papal controversialists, and that all bishops are equal in jurisdiction, was utterly unknown in the early Church.

The difference between the East and West then was in the first place that the pope in the West was not only supreme pontiff, but also the local patriarch.

He represented to Eastern Christians a remote and foreign authority, the last court of appeal, for very serious questions, after their own patriarchs had been found incapable of settling them; but to his own Latins in the West he was the immediate head, the authority immediately over their metropolitans, the first court of appeal to their bishops.

So all loyalty in the West went direct to Rome.

Rome was the Mother Church in many senses, it was by missioners sent out from Rome that the local Western Churches had been founded.

The loyalty of the Eastern Christians on the other hand went first to his own patriarch, so there was here always a danger of divided allegiance — if the patriarch had a quarrel with the pope — such as would have been inconceivable in the West. Indeed, the falling away of so many hundreds of Eastern bishops, of so many millions of simple Christians, is explained sufficiently by the schism of the patriarchs.

Further points that should be noticed are the differences of rite and language.


REASONS OF THE PRESENT SCHISM

In this deplorable story we notice the following points. It is easier to understand how a schism continues than how it began. Schisms are easily made; they are enormously difficult to heal.

In its origin we must distinguish between the schismatical tendency and the actual occasion of its outburst. But the reason of both has gone now.

The tendency was mainly jealousy caused by the rise of the See of Constantinople.

That progress is over long ago. The last three centuries Constantinople has lost nearly all the broad lands she once acquired.

There is nothing the modern Orthodox Christian resents more than any assumption of authority by the oecumenical patriarch outside his diminished patriarchate.

The Byzantine see has long been the plaything of the Turk, wares that he sold to the highest bidder. Certainly now this pitiful dignity is no longer a reason for the schism of nearly 100,000,000 Christians.

It is not difficult to show that on all these points their own Fathers are with those of the Latin Church, which asks them only to return to the old teaching of their own Church.

That is the right attitude towards the Orthodox always.

They have a horror of being latinized, of betraying the old Faith.

One must always insist that there is no idea of latinizing them, that the old Faith is not incompatible with, but rather demands union with the chief see which their Fathers obeyed.

In canon law they have nothing to change except such abuses as the sale of bishoprics and the Erastianism that their own better theologians deplore.

Celibacy, azyme bread, and so on are Latin customs that no one thinks of forcing on them. They need not add the Filioque to the Creed; they will always keep their venerable rite untouched. Not a bishop need be moved, hardly a feast (except that of St. Photius on 6 Feb.) altered.

All that is asked of them is to come back to where their Fathers stood, to treat Rome as Athanasius, Basil, Chrysostom treated her.

It is not Latins, it is they who have left the Faith of their Fathers.

There is no humiliation in retracing one's steps when one has wandered down a mistaken road because of long-forgotten personal quarrels.

They too must see how disastrous to the common cause is the scandal of the division. They too must wish to put an end to so crying an evil. If they really wish it the way need not be difficult.

For, indeed, after nine centuries of schism we may realize on both sides that it is not only the greatest it is also the most superfluous evil in Christendom.

The great Eastern Schism - The most powerful empire and nearly half of Christendom fell away

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Sunday, May 29, 2005

The Fall of Constantinople-2-May 29 1453
In the city everyone realized that the moment had come. During Monday, May 28, some last repairs were done on the walls and the stockades, were reinforced. In the city, while the bells of the churches rang mournfully, citizens and soldiers joined a long procession behind the holy relics brought out of the churches.

Singing hymns in Greek, Italian or Catalan. Orthodox and Catholic, men, women, children, soldiers, civilians, clergy, monks and nuns, knowing that they were going to die shortly, made peace with themselves, with God and with eternity.

When the procession ended the Emperor met with his commanders and the notables of the city. In a philosophical speech he told his subjects that the end of their time had come. In essence he told them that Man had to be ready to face death when he had to fight for his faith, for his country, for his family or for his sovereign.

All four reasons were now present.

Furthermore, his subjects, who were the descendants of Greeks and Romans, had to emulate their great ancestors.

They had to fight and sacrifice themselves without fear. They had lived in a great city and they were now going to die defending it. As for himself, he was going to die fighting for his faith, for his city and for his people. He also thanked the Italian soldiers, who had not abandoned the great city in its final moments. He still believed that the garrison could repulse the enemy. They all had to be brave, proud warriors and do their duty.

He thanked all present for their contribution to the defense of the city and asked them to forgive him, if he had ever treated them without kindness. Meanwhile the great Church of Saint Sophia was crowded. Thousands of people were moving towards the Church.

Inside, Orthodox and Catholic priests were holding mass.

People were singing hymns, others were openly crying, others were asking each other for forgiveness. Those who were not serving on the ramparts also went to the Church, among them was seen, for a brief moment, the Emperor.

People confessed and took communion.

Then those who were going to fight rode or walked back to the ramparts. From the great Church the Emperor rode to the Palace at Blachernae. There he asked his household to forgive him. He bade the emotionally shattered men and women farewell, left his Palace and rode away, into the night, for a last inspection of the defense positions.

Then he took his battle position.

The assault began after midnight, into the 29th of May 1453.

Wave after wave the attackers charged.

Battle cries, accompanied by the sound of drums, trumpets and fifes, filled the air.
The bells of the city churches began ringing frantically. Orders, screams and the sound of trumpets shattered the night.

First came the irregulars, an unreliable, multinational crowd of Moslems, who were attracted by the opportunity of enriching themselves by looting the great city, the last capital of the Roman Empire.

They attacked throughout the line of fortifications and the tough professionals, who were fighting under the orders of Giustiniani, massacred them.

The battle lasted two hours and the irregulars withdrew in disorder, leaving behind an unknown number of dead and wounded.

Next came the Anatolian troops of Ishak Pasha.

They tried to storm the stockades. They fought tenaciously, even desperately trying to break through the compact ranks of the defenders.

The narrow area in which fighting went on helped the defenders. They could hack left and right with their maces and swords and shoot missiles onto the mass of attackers without having to aim.

A group of attackers crashed through a gap and for a moment it seemed that they could enter the city. They were assaulted by the Emperor and his men and were soon slain.

This second attack also failed.

But now came the Janissaries, disciplined, professional, ruthless warriors, superbly trained, ready to die for their master, the Sultan. They assaulted the now exhausted defenders; they were pushing their way over bodies of dead and dying Moslem and Christian soldiers.

With tremendous effort the Greek and Italian fighters were hitting back and continued repulsing the enemy.

Then a group of enemy soldiers unexpectedly entered the city from a small sally-port called Kerkoporta, on the wall of Blachernae, where this wall joined the triple wall.

Fighting broke near the small gate with the defenders trying to eliminate the intruders.

It was almost day now, the first light, before sunrise, when a shot hit Giustiniani. It pierced his breastplate and he fell on the ground. Shaken by his wound and physically exhausted, his fighting spirit collapsed. Despite the pleas of the Emperor, who was fighting nearby, not to leave his post, the Genoese commander ordered his men to take him out of the battle-field.

A Gate in the inner wall was opened for the group of Genoese soldiers, who were carrying their wounded commander, to come into the city. The soldiers who were fighting near the area saw the Gate open, their comrades carrying their leader crossing into the city, and they though that the defense line had been broken. They all rushed through the Gate leaving the Emperor and the Greek fighters alone between the two walls.

This sudden movement did not escape the attention of the Ottoman commanders.
Frantic orders were issued to the troops to concentrate their attack on the weakened position. Thousands rushed to the area. The stockade was broken.

Crowds of Janissaries between the stockade and the wall now squeezed the Greeks. More Janissaries came in and many reached the inner wall. Meanwhile more were pouring in through the Kerkoporta, where the defenders had not been able to eliminate the first intruders.

Soon the first enemy flags were seen on the walls.

The Emperor and his commanders were trying frantically to rally their troops and push back the enemy.

It was too late.

Waves of Janissaries, followed by other regular units of the Ottoman army, were crashing through the open Gates, mixed with fleeing and slaughtered Christian soldiers.

Then the Emperor, realizing that everything was lost, removed his Imperial insignia and followed by his cousin Theophilus Palaeologus, the Castilian Don Francisco of Toledo and John Dalmatus, all four holding their swords, charged into the sea of the enemy soldiers, hitting left and right in a final act of defiance.

They were never seen again.

Now thousands of Ottoman soldiers were pouring into the city.

One after the other the city Gates were opened. The Ottoman flags began appearing on the walls, on the towers, on the Palace at Blachernae.

Civilians in panic were rushing to the churches.

Others locked themselves in their homes, some continued fighting in the streets, and crowds of Greeks and foreigners were rushing towards the port area.

The allied ships were still there and began collecting refugees. The Cretan soldiers and sailors, manning three towers near the entrance of the Golden Horn, were still fighting and had no intention of surrendering. At the end, the Ottoman commanders had to agree to a truce and let them sail away, carrying their arms.

Eyewitnesses describe the excesses that followed, during the early hours of the Ottoman victory, in detail.

They were and unfortunately still are, a common practice, almost a ritual, among all armies capturing enemy strongholds and territory after a prolonged and violent struggle.

Thus, bands of soldiers began now looting.

Doors were broken, private homes were looted, their tenants were massacred.
Shops in the city markets were looted.

Monasteries and Convents were broken in. Their tenants were killed, nuns were raped, many, to avoid dishonor, killed themselves.

Killing, raping, looting, burning, enslaving, went on and on according to tradition. The troops had to satisfy themselves.

The great doors of Saint Sophia were forced open, and crowds of angry soldiers came in and fell upon the unfortunate worshippers.

Pillaging and killing in the holy place went on for hours.

Similar was the fate of worshippers in most churches in the city.

The new masters of the Imperial capital took everything that could be taken from the splendid buildings. Icons were destroyed, precious manuscripts were lost forever.

Thousands of civilians were enslaved; soldiers fought over young boys and young women.
Death and enslavement did not distinguish among social classes. Nobles and peasants were treated with equal ruthlessness.

Meanwhile, the crews of the Ottoman fleet abandoned their ships to rush into the city. They were worried that the land army was going to take everything.

The collapse of discipline gave the Christian ships time to sail out of the Golden Horn. Venetian, Genoese and Greek ships, loaded with refugees, some of them having reached the ships swimming from the city, sailed away to freedom. On one of the Genoese vessels was Giustiniani. He was taken from the boat at Chios where he died, from his wound, a few days later.

The Sultan, with his top commanders and his guard of Janissaries, entered the city in the afternoon of the first day of occupation.

Constantinople was finally his and he intended to make it the capital of his mighty Empire. He toured the ruined city. He visited Saint Sophia, which he ordered to be turned into a mosque. He also ordered an end to the killing.

What he saw was desolation, destruction, death in the streets, ruins and desecrated churches. It was too much. It is said that, as he rode through the streets of the former capital of the Christian Roman Empire, the city of Constantine, moved to tears he murmured:

"What a city we have given over to plunder and destruction".

Sunday, May 29, 2005


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The Fall of Constantinople-1-May 29 1453

When the tragic hour struck, the emperor had only about 7000 men, including all foreign succour. Since March, 1453, the Turks, to the number of 200,000, had invested the city; the preceding year they had built on the Bosporus the redoubtable fortress of Rumeli-Hissar.

Their fleet also held the entrance to the Dardanelles, but was prevented from entering the Golden Horn by a strong iron chain that barred its mouth. But Mohammed II caused seventy of his ships to slide on greased planks behind Galata; in this way they entered the Golden Horn (22 April). He then cast across it a bridge of boats broad enough to allow the passage of five soldiers abreast, while his troops, constantly renewed, kept up without ceasing their attacks by land.

Eventually the defenders were exhausted by the toils of a continuous and hopeless conflict, while their ranks grew steadily thinner through death or wounds. The population gave no help and was content to taunt the Latins, while waiting for the miracle of Heaven that was to save them. Finally, 29 May, 1453, about 4 o'clock in the morning, a furious assault of the Turks broke down the walls and gates of the city, and the besiegers burst in from every side.

Emperor Constantine fell like a hero at the gate of St. Romanus. St. Sophia was immediately transformed into a mosque, and during three days the unhappy city was abandoned to unspeakable excesses of cruelty and debauchery.

The next year, at the demand of the sultan himself, Gennadius Scholarius, Rome's haughty adversary, was appointed Patriarch of Constantinople, and soon the Greek Church was reestablished, almost in its former position.

Thus was granted the sacrilegious prayer of so many Greeks, blinded by unreasoning hate, that henceforth, not the tiara, but the turban should rule in the city of Constantine. Even the name of the city was changed. The Turks call it officially (in Arabic) Der-es-Saadet, Door of Happiness, or (chiefly on coins) Konstantinieh. Their usual name for it is Stamboul, or rather Istamboul, a corruption of the Greek expression eis ten polin (pronounced stimboli), perhaps under the influence of a form, Islamboul, which could pass for "the city of Islam".

Most of the churches, like St. Sophia, were gradually converted into mosques. This was the fate of SS. Sergius and Bacchus -- a beautiful monument built by Justinian, commonly called "the little St. Sophia"; of the church of the monastery of Khora, whose splendid mosaics and pictures, mostly of the fourteenth century, are among the principal curiosities of the city; of the churches of the celebrated Pantocrator and Studium monasteries, etc.

Other churches were demolished and replaced by various buildings; thus the church of the Holy Apostles gave way to the great mosque built by the conquering Sultan Mohammed II. The imperial tombs in this church were violated; some of their gigantic red porphyry sarcophagi were taken to the church of St. Irene. The latter is the only church taken from the Greeks that has not been changed into a mosque or demolished; it became, and is yet an arsenal, or rather a museum of ancient weapons.