What is the significance of the fall of Constantinople?


What are we to make–if anything–of the conquest of the Holy City of Constantinple by Muslims in the 15th century?

Is there any theological significance to this event?

What are the odds of our reconquest of our beautiful city to celebrate Divine Litergy in the Haiga Sophia again?

God bless,




You are likely to hear a lot from the Eastern Orthodox on here about it. They blame the Catholic Church for it; though that’s not deserved. The Turks were so powerful at that time, and the Byzantine Empire so weak, that it’s imaginable, but barely so, that had all the Christian powers in Eastern and Western Europe not then already under the dominion of the Turks (and lots were) joined together, they might have been able to defeat the Turks. But the Turks did take Constantinople and turned Hagia Sophia into a mosque.

Russia has historically wanted to “own” Constantinople, and, had the Reds not taken over the country, Russia might have done it after World War I, due to the weakness of Turkey at the time.

After World War I, the best chance presented thereafter for the recapture of Constantinople came when the Greeks decisively beat the Turks in the early stages of a war. But the Greeks advanced too far into Anatolia (and underestimated their adversary), and ended up losing that war. But had Greece won the war, they would have found themselves in possession of a city of millions of Turks. I’m not sure what they would have felt themselves able to do about that, and I’m not sure they were equal to it.

Later, under secular Turkish rulers, Hagia Sophia was turned into a museum. There is no possibility at all of “recapturing” Constantinople, now Istanbul, without getting into a war with Turkey that would make the war in Iraq x 5 look like a walk in the park. The Turks have a modern army and, as they proved in Korea, are as tough as they come. Right now, there seems to be little prospect of Christian renovation of Hagia Sophia, as Turkish Islamists would like it to be a mosque again, and the Turkish government is unlikely to cause further unrest among the already restive Islamists by handing it back to Christians.

Eastern Christians, both Catholic and Orthodox, would have to speak for themselves as to its theological significance to them. My impression is that the loss of Constantinople and Hagia Sophia are, to them, a tragedy almost beyond measure.

The one thing that might be worth thinking about it this. There are a lot of “Turks” who are actually the descendants of Greek Christians, and know they are. The “real” Turks (and nobody knows how many there really are) are a harsh bunch. About 1/3 of the country is, though Islamic, Kurdish, and would prefer to secede from Turkey. But Turkey is determined not to allow that, and has killed a lot of Kurds in preventing it. It has also repressed Christians severely. The relative Kurdish/Turkish birth rates are such that the majority of “Turks” will be Kurds sometime in the 21st century. Someday, that whole structure might fall apart.


None of us have felt the urge in the last (almost) 24 hours to say much.

They blame the Catholic Church for it; though that’s not deserved.

I believe it is God chastising His Church for her sins, though He certainly used Rome to help achieve those ends. Have you forgotten how many years the looting of Constantinople went on for after the fourth crusade.

The Turks were so powerful at that time, and the Byzantine Empire so weak,

and why was the Roman Empire so weak? It had been stripped of its wealth by the fourth crusaders.


I’m not sure what you mean by the last 24 hours. Did something happen?

You may believe as you wish concerning God’s chastisement. I do not feel it is my place, as a Latin, to address that.

The Eastern empire was weak in the end for a lot of reasons. It was already weak when 7,000-8,000 western outlaws, excommunicated by the Pope for doing it, took it in the fourth crusade. It was weak when 200,000 much better-armed Turks later took it. It was weak because of its ruinous and bootless earlier wars with Persia. It was weak because of its internal divisions, both secular and religious, its incessant palace intrigues and coups d’etat. It was weak because Islamic Arabs took advantage of those divisions and the consequent lack of loyalty it inspired in its Middle Eastern subjects. It was weak because its plutocrats impoverished and demoralized its citizens and hinterlands and lost all hope of the aid and friendship of neighboring Orthodox people. It was weak because it increasingly came to rely on mercenaries to fight its wars instead of training its citizens to fight. It was weak because it abandoned the West to the tender mercies of Germanic invaders, thus causing the West to turn its back on the East. It was weak because it saw advantage in allying itself with Turks to subdue other Orthodox peoples, thus helping the Turks establish themselves in formerly Christian lands, particularly those on the European shore, and thereby winning the enmity of its neighbors. It was weak because it squandered its wealth in luxury, the hiring of mercenaries and by paying huge sums in tribute to the Turks, both before and after the Fourth Crusade. It was weak because it was distrusted by those in the West who might have otherwise been its allies and, for a time, were.

But, it must be recognized, finally, that if it couldn’t resist the 7,000-8,000 poorly organized, half-starved and outnumbered Franks of the fourth crusade, it could never have resisted the 200,000 much better organized, much better supplied and much better armed Turks that finally brought an end to the Byzantine Empire, even if the fourth crusade had never happened. The causation proposition just doesn’t pass muster.

And “Rome”, by which you mean the Catholic Church, was not responsible for Constaninople’s downfall, any more than “Constantinople”, meaning Orthodoxy, was responsible for the “filioque” you disdain so much, by abandoning Rome to the Teutonic peoples who favored it.

I’m truly sorry that Constantinople was taken by the Turks. I truly am. You should be grateful that southern Russia, most of the Balkans and Greece were liberated from their dominion, with considerable direct and indirect help from the West in doing so, instead of blaming Catholicism for something Catholicism didn’t cause and, of itself, almost certainly couldn’t have prevented.


Here’s what Speros Vryonis wrote concerning the fourth crusade:
“The Latin soldiery subjected the greatest city in Europe to an indescribable sack. For three days they murdered, raped, looted and destroyed on a scale which even the ancient Vandals and Goths would have found unbelievable. Constantinople had become a veritable museum of ancient and Byzantine art, an emporium of such incredible wealth that the Latins were astounded at the riches they found. Though the Venetians had an appreciation for the art which they discovered (they were themselves semi-Byzantines) and saved much of it, the French and others destroyed indiscriminately, halting to refresh themselves with wine, violation of nuns, and murder of Orthodox clerics. The Crusaders vented their hatred for the Greeks most spectacularly in the desecration of the greatest Church in Christendom. They smashed the silver iconostasis, the icons and the holy books of Hagia Sophia, and seated upon the patriarchal throne a whore who sang coarse songs as they drank wine from the Church’s holy vessels. The estrangement of East and West, which had proceeded over the centuries, culminated in the horrible massacre that accompanied the conquest of Constantinople. The Greeks were convinced that even the Turks, had they taken the city, would not have been as cruel as the Latin Christians. The defeat of Byzantium, already in a state of decline, accelerated political degeneration so that the Byzantines eventually became an easy prey to the Turks. The Crusading movement thus resulted, ultimately, in the victory of Islam, a result which was of course the exact opposite of its original intention”


well its sad indeed, the 4th crusaders did horrible things, its good that the Pope is not on their side and excommunicated them all.


and installed a Latin Bishop on the Patriarchal throne, and received a great wealth of stolen relics, icons and precious metals into the churches of the West. He may have excommunicated them, but he took full advantage of the situation as it presented itself.


Would it be too much to ask what your sources are?


As I advised Tex at the very beginning, I knew some EO would do this. In the “horrible massacre” your Greek source mentions, 2,000 Greeks died, including combatants. This was dwarfed by the Greek massacre of 10,000 civilian Italian merchants in Constantinople that preceded it and was part of the vengefulness of the Venetians who brought the excommunicated crusaders to Byzantium to start with. It was, nevertheless, evil of them to do it, and nobody in the West justifies it.

No matter what source I cite concerning the progressive weakness of the Byzantine empire in its last few centuries, you will not acknowledge the truth of it, because blaming Catholicism for the loss of your empire is central to the hostility you wish to justify. In doing so, I think you have inadvertently answered his question concerning your view of the theological implications of the event.

Suffice it to say that an “empire” that could not resist 7,000-8,000 disorganized Germans whom the Greeks had tried to starve, was too weak to have, even then, resisted 200,000 better-armed, better organized Turks. Your causation argument just won’t wash.

When your compadre blamed “Rome” right at the start, not withstanding that neither the City of Rome nor the Catholic Church had any hand in it, I knew the anti-Catholic propaganda had started. I have no desire to get into one of the endless religious food fights you love so well. I simply advise Tex, if he’s interested in the real history of the Byzantine Empire, to independently investigate the history of the era. It was complex, and will take a substantial amount of study, because so many of the “historical accounts” are just propaganda.


You might then consult the archives at the Catholic university of Fordham, for a more objective account:
Robert de Clari, ch. lxxiii-xxiii, in Hopf: Chroniques, pp. 57-58. Old French:
"LXXIII. Then it was announced to all the host that all the Venetian and every one else should go and hear the sermons on Sunday morning; [Apr 11, 1204] and they did so. Then the bishops preached to the army, the bishop of Soissons, the bishop of Troyes, the bishop of Havestaist [Halberstadt] master Jean Faicette [De Noyon, chancellor of Baldwin of Flanders], and the abbot of Loos, and they showed to the pilgrims that the war was a righteous one; for the Greeks were traitors and murderers, and also disloyal, since they had murdered their rightful lord, and were worse than Jews. Moreover, the bishops said that, by the authority of God and in the name of the pope, they would absolve all who attacked the Greeks. Then the bishops commanded the pilgrims to confess their sins and receive the communion devoutly; and said that they ought not to hesitate to attack the Greeks, for the latter were enemies of God."
and from the archives of the Catholic university:
"Nicetas Choniates: Alexii Ducae Imperium, ch. iii-iv, in Recueil des historiens des Croisades, hist. grec., 1, 397. Greek.

  1. … How shall I begin to tell of the deeds wrought by these nefarious men! Alas, the images, which ought to have been adored, were trodden under foot! Alas, the relics of the holy martyrs were thrown into unclean places! Then was seen what one shudders to hear, namely, the divine body and blood of Christ was spilled upon the ground or thrown about. They snatched the precious reliquaries, thrust into their bosoms the ornaments which these contained, and used the broken remnants for pans and drinking cups,-precursors of Anti-christ, authors and heralds of his nefarious deeds which we momentarily expect. Manifestly, indeed, by that race then, just as formerly, Christ was robbed and insulted and His garments were divided by lot; only one thing was lacking, that His side, pierced by a spear, should pour rivers of divine blood on the ground.

Nor can the violation of the Great Church [Hagia Sophia] be listened to with equanimity. For the sacred altar, formed of all kinds of precious materials and admired by the whole world, was broken into bits and distributed among the soldiers, as was all the other sacred wealth of so, great and infinite splendor.

When the sacred vases and utensils of unsurpassable art and grace and rare material, and the fine silver, wrought with go , which encircled the screen of the tribunal and the ambo, of admirable workmanship and the door and many other ornaments, were to be borne away booty, mules and saddled horses were led to the very sanctuary of t temple…
4. Nay more, a certain harlot, a sharer in their guilt, a minister the furies, a servant of the demons, a worker of incantations and poisonings, insulting Christ, sat in the patriarch’s seat, singing an obscene song and dancing frequently. Nor, indeed, were these crimes committed and others left undone, on the ground that these were of lesser guilt, the others of greater. But with one consent all the most heinous sins and crimes were committed by all with equal zeal. Could those, who showed so great madness against God Himself have spared the honorable matrons and maidens or the virgins consecrated to God?

Nothing was more difficult and laborious than to soften by prayers, to render benevolent, these wrathful barbarians, vomiting forth bile at every unpleasing word, so that nothing failed to inflame their fury. Whoever attempted it was derided as insane and a man of intemperate language. Often they drew their daggers against any one who opposed them at all or hindered their demands.

No one was without a share in the grief. In the alleys, in the streets, in the temples, complaints, weeping, lamentations, grief, t groaning of men, the shrieks of women, wounds, rape, captivity, t separation of those most closely united. Nobles wandered about ignominiously, those of venerable age in tears, the rich in poverty. Thus it was in the streets, on the corners, in the temple, in the dens, for no place remained unassailed or defended the suppliants. All places everywhere were filled full of all kinds of crime. . Oh, immortal God, how great the afflictions of the men, how great the distress!"


While I am by no means an expert on the fall of Byzantium, nor that era of history in general, I am not sure what good the constant scratching at scabs and scars does. The schism between east and west is one of the saddest chapters in the history of Christianity and goes directly against the prayer of our Lord that we (His Church) would be one as He and the Father are one. While I believe that honest and sincere dialogue is needed between east and west on many issues related to church governance and theology, I do not see the point in people of the 21st century getting angry with eachother over things that happened in the 16th century.

I pray that the efforts of Pope Benedict and Patriarch Bartholomew to reunite the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church (east and west) will be fruitful.


YES, you, a Roman Catholic, decided to start slinging mud. Telling the OP what to expect and putting your words into the place of Orthodox, who were quite content to let the subject rest in this forum, which is not intended for Orthodox Christians and where Orthodox Christians rarely visit any more.

Then you posted a whole bunch of irrelevent material. You couldn’t leave well enough alone…like to stir up the pot don’t you?

I am Orthodox and I never really think about these things, but you like to inflame the subject and put us in a position of explaining it all over again.

You seem to know next to nothing about this event. But we have been over this before, so you have no excuse.

The attack was planned well in advance, contracts were signed with Venice to provide ships, munitions, food. (It took Venice two years to build all of the ships contracted for, using the latest techniques perfected at that city.) The leaders were experienced professional soldiers, some of whom had launched an invasion of the Byzantine nation before and were repulsed.

Roman Empire (purple) before the conquest shown with neighbors

It was very well organized. The attack on Constantinople was the SECOND major Christian city to get the sack from these men. And they had rampaged through the countryside on the Asian coast populated by Christians under the Christian emperor, burning villages, disrupting trade and otherwise engaging in standard military tactics to weaken the capital.

They were well fed, because they had the whole countryside at their disposal. You are being so deceptive I wonder how you can post here without feeling pangs of guilt and remorse.

If they were as you describe them, what in the world were they doing deep in the Roman Empire without visas?

Crocadile tears?

Let us not forget that this was no mere riot for bread, and it was no mere passing affair over the fate of one city. It was nothing less than the occupation of a region much larger than modern Greece, (which means the seige and capture of many more cities was to follow) and was intended to be permanent.

Route of the Invasion according to plan

The Byzantine empire was busted into the latin kingdom and three rump states, which had to fight not only the Latin occupiers, but the Turks and rivals to establish a new dynasty and reconstitute the nation. The process of liberation took 74 years of war, essentially three or four generations. There was no one left alive who had been adults under the old empire.

Map of the occupation

During the occupation, the leading industry seems to have been the export of antiquities. The occupiers treated it like a milk cow.

It went from a stable and still prosperous trading state to a debtor nation, with a balance of trade deficit and many industries in decline, some in ruins. Trade routes now often bypassed the great city. The nation itself was reduced in size with an eroded tax base that could support only a much reduced professional field army.




I’m not going to argue history with you for the umpteenth time. I encouraged Tex and whoever else wants to read it, to do their own research. I think they will find that the secular sources support what I said, and more. It was a tawdry business on all sides.

My problem, Hesychios, and I’m sure you know it, is blaming it on “Rome”, by which the first EO poster meant to imply that the Catholic Church was responsible for the fourth crusade. I did warn Tex that EO blame the Catholic Church for it, and you do.

As you know, the Pope condemned both the taking of the formerly Venetian city of Zara, which you mentioned, and the attack on Constantinople.

The fourth crusaders turned into freebooters in conspiracy with the Venetians. They were condemned by the Church for it then, and are now.

You got your maps on and everything. I’m willing, as I was before, to let people research their own history. Are you?


Of course!

The information is available for anyone to do their own research through independent reputable sources, and they are all welcome to.



I aready gave a reference to a Medieval Sourcebook of the Fourth Crusade from collected sources as located in the online archives of the Catholic school: Fordham university:


awww. I miss Latin Patriarchs. Does anyone know how many are left?


Just to clarify my post above, I DON’T miss religious relics and icons being stolen.


Jerusalem, Patriarch Sabbah administers a real church of Palestinian Arabs.

That’s about it in the east. The rest of them were just nominal anyway, after the crusading era.

The Latin Patriarchs in the west may be different some how. I forget how many there are, but one is in Portugal, another in Italy (Venice?) unless it has been suppressed.

Interestingly, the Pope once (when he was still a cardinal) proposed introducing a functional Patriarchal system in the RC. In effect subdividing the church regionally with super-Metropolitans. It looks like that idea went nowhere, but it could be why he quietly dropped the title of Patriarch for his own office.

Quietly from his perspective that is, but noticed right away by everybody (including Orthodox) anyway.



The trouble with history is that you can’t ask the people what their motives were. They ain’t talkin’! So you have to read between the lines. Its awfully hard to do that when you bring biases to the table, which we all do.

The victim of priest sex abuse sees the church differently than I do, understandably so. That doesn’t make his leap of responsibility assignment from the abuser onto the Church itself justified, but it sure requires us to be gentle in refuting him.

Ironically, the modernists and secularists do the same thing as some eastern christians. They note horrible abuses in the past and presume that those incidents prove that such behavior is CAUSED by religious belief and Catholcism in particular. They have a hard time seeing that the behavior is due to the tragic fallenness we ALL inherited from Adam and Eve rather than the prevalent nominal religion professed by the people in the examples cited.

The world was a violent place 1,000 years ago. And 700 years ago. And 60 years ago… The circumstances change, but the root cause doesn’t. Humans keep sinning, even those who ought to know better. To make the leap of assigning blame for the greed, ambition and violence of individuals to the divinely appointed structure of the Church is as much a tragedy as the violence itself -because it only perpetuates the hatred.


While I don’t claim to be an expert, when Rome lost its prominence, the eastern christians wanted to move the Chair of Peter to Constantinople since it had replaced Rome as capital of the empire. Now that Constantinople has fallen to the muslims, following that same logic, would suggest that it had to be moved to the biggest city in Chritendom.

I suppose that would make it Mexico City?

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