Constantine, the emperor who is famous for integrating the Church into the Roman Empire, built his capital city on the borders of nowadays Turkey in 330 AD, and called it Constantinople. This city was a major trade, learning and cultural center.
Constantinople continued to be a thriving city until the fourth crusade in 1204. The city was ransacked by the crusaders who wanted money and it weakened considerably. Then, in 1261 it was captured again, was eventually freed, but it was now completely helpless as far as defenses and fighting were concerned.
On top of being captured twice, the Black Plague raged throughout the city from 1346 to 1349. During this devastating incident Constantinople lost half its population.
It was at this time that Mehmed II, young sultan of the Ottoman Turks, decided that it was the perfect time to conquer the famous city.
The current emperor, the renowned Constantine XI, turned to the rest of Europe for help. He sent messages to all the countries and to the papacy, but in vain. The Great Schism and the fourth crusade had all but severed the ties between the now severely shrunk Eastern Roman Empire and the western world. All that arrived at Constantinople’s gates was a small legion of 2,000 soldiers. Added to the existing 5,000 fighting men, the total defenders of the city numbered 7,000.
The Turks, on the other hand, had no less than a mind blowing 80,000. On top of this enormous amount of troops, the intelligent sultan had prepared 100 ships, which, once the battle had commenced, were rolled on wooden platforms into the harbor.
The stout, resolute Christian soldiers desperately tried to defend their beloved city, but the Turks were too powerful. The Ottomans tried to mine tunnels under the city but these were all discovered and the efforts of the besiegers were brought to a halt.
Finally the Turks decided that the only way to conquer the city was to overcome it by brute strength. They fell upon the walls and effected a breach, pouring men into the terrified city.
The Emperor was killed and the city was looted by the Turkish troops for three days. At the end of that time, the sultan recalled his men and invited all the inhabitants to remain in their homes and continue their previous lifestyle. The famous Christian cathedral Hagia Sofia was changed into a Muslim mosque, and all the liturgical vessels, ornaments, etc., were minted into coins.
The fall of Constantinople signifies three things:
- The end of the Middle Ages
- The beginning of the Renaissance
- The end of the once glorious Roman Empire.