What is the significance of the fall of Constantinople?


How do you know where to assign responsiblity? some books indicate that the repsonsibity extends far beyond one individual priest here and there.


I agree with your post.

I need to make some personal comments.

I am sorry some of the things I state here are offensive. I especially regret my reaction to Ridge, whom I respect even in disagreement. I shall try to be a bit more courteous in the future.

I am not interested in perpetuating hatred. Quite frankly I am far more likely to have ancestors who were involved in the Crusader conquest of the East Roman Empire than ancestors who were direct victims of it. Especially so since I am descended from Franks and Venetians :smiley: . If guilt for such offenses could pass to subsequent generations I might qualify, considering how many generations have passed it is likely that I am descended from hundreds of thousands of people from those areas in those years.

I think that the real outrage over it is a Greek thing, but one has to understand that it was their nation which was overrun and occupied for so long. It’s not like when the British burned Washington, they came, burned the place and left.

The event forced their church underground for decades, like the RC church in China today. It did permanent damage to the state which went into a tailspin shortly afterward. Most of Greece was occupied by Turks long before the great city also fell to the Turks, the Greeks were already on the outside under oppression watching that tragedy happen.

I don’t run into people in my church who talk about the affair, most probably don’t understand it very well. Their ancestors were from other places. I believe that no one cares very much about it in my parish it happened so long ago. Just like the Tatars overrunning Hungary, and the Normans taking England, details start to become very abstract after a long time.

Learning this story was a real lesson for me. What I think is most unfortunate about the whole affair was the way the crusaders rebounded so quickly from the condemnation of the Pope. In a very short time an Frankish king was on the throne, with Latin bishops, appointed by the Pope, blessing it. The excommunication must have been forgiven rather quickly.

There were Royal weddings and all kind of social events blessed by the church within a few short years. Crusaders were going home with wagons full of valuables, donating much to church for Masses for their souls. The church, as an institution, collaborated with the situation. Note, I am not talking about the religion of those people, or their beliefs. I am talking about the institution, and it failed miserably.

I guess one could say that the church was just being pragmatic, accepting the situation as they found it. Perhaps we could. But I don’t then see how we can be dismissive of the Greeks memory of those times, it really was a traumatic episode in their history and it calls for sensitivity. “Yeah, so what” doesn’t work.

My feeling is that Orthodox really love their Roman Catholic brothers, but they just don’t trust the institution. Now that these very same people are dialogging with Rome over the institution of the Papacy, I think everyone should understand how the mistakes of the past may figure in to the final outcome.

I might have comments about the fall to the Turks later (time permitting), which is really the subject of the OP. It had dramatic repercussions throughout eastern Europe, for the Orthodox, Roman Catholics and Eastern Catholics.

Unless (that is) someone else takes it up in pretty good detail. It is a subject fit for a real magnum opus, and more than one person could normally do well in this format.



Actually, I don’t believe that was ever suggested formally. There may have been individuals thinking like that but no record of it that I am aware of.

The Fathers of two Councils declared Constantinople next in honor after Rome. The church of the city of Rome had enormous prestige. Constantinople was New Rome.


Thanks Michael.

History clearly shows that the men occupying the papacy are not divinely protected from bad judgement, sin or poor reasoning. I hope we can establish dialogue based on mutual agreement of that fact without resorting to using examples of those kinds of failings as arguments against the infallibility of formal doctrine promulgated by the Holy See.

I can certainly understand EO objections to the actual papacy as taught by Catholicism. But it doesn’t help the discussion for any of us to use non-sequitors as clubs to whip up animosity. That’s what too often happens and why this forum changed recently. (Oops, and why I’m off topic!)

On topic, if nothing else, the tragedy of the sack is illustrative of what happens when we fail to heed Christ’s Will that we be unified. And there’s blame for that on all our heads. I doubt Islam would exist today if Christendom hadn’t been divided and squabbling amonst itself (with divisions within divisions within divisions…)


You miss the point. Whether the abuse was merely rogue individuals, or the addition of bishops with a penchant for coverup, or if certain bishops even SHARED the perverted behaviors, heck even if a pope took part, it wouldn’t prove the point that some try to make of it. These sins, however many commit them, do not have their source in catholicism or christian teachings. They do not spring up from some unhealthy repression of humanity that make up a part of christian teaching. Rather, they happened in SPITE of it.

Same goes for temporal crimes committed by catholic clergy and episcopacy in ages past. Power corrupts the behavior of people. This is NOT evidence that it can corrupt the TEACHINGS of the church. This is the great hope offered by the eastern churches and the dialogue happening with the EO: that dialogue can focus on the actual sticking points of teachings instead of the crimes and wrongs done.


I don’t think there is a lot that I would disagree with in this account, though Gibbon, who is cited in it as a source, is more detailed and is, as I recall, a bit dubious about some, though not all, of the account of Nicetas. Durant, who cites Gibbon as well as others, does not greatly differ from Gibbon or this account.

The account you cited does not seem to mention that the Pope excommunicated all who would attack Christians, which included both Zara and Constantinople. Possibly I missed it on a cursory reading.

But I do think it is pretty clear that, of all the villains, Enrico Dandolo, the doge of Venice was likely the worst, and probably manipulated everyone else involved in it. Dandolo was not only greedy of wealth and power (Though reputedly 90 years old, he might not have been.) but could be suspected of wanting revenge against the Greeks because of the reasons mentioned in both Durant and Gibbon. Still, that would have not been a valid excuse, and no one should have trusted him.

Alexius does not come off too well either, as he agreed to the deal in order to regain the throne of Constantinople, which rightfully was his father’s or his, depending on what his father really wanted, and reneged once he felt himself secure on it. Gibbon actually treats him a bit more kindly, as he considers it likely that Alexius meant to keep his word, but was pressured to renege (and was ultimately dethroned again) when the Greeks found out about the promises he made to Dandolo and the crusaders.

It was a terrible business all the way around.


It seems fairly likely to me that, had East and West fully united, even if only politically, Islam might have been pushed back and Eastern Christianity preserved.

However, it has to be realized that the Ottomans (narrowly) survived the onslaught of Timur (Tamerlane), fighting his forces to a precarious standstill just short of Byzantium. It has been opined by some that Christendom could not have withstood Timur, even had it united to do so.

Before that, the Mamluks (also Turks) defeated the earlier Mongol horde that likewise might have overcome Christendom all the way to the Atlantic.

It should be noted as well that the repeated waves of Muslim Turks were the real destroyers of Arab Islamic civilization; something for which Arab Islamists wrongly blame Christians.


Suppose though that there were two Churches. And in one Church this type of sin was widely prevalent, whereas in the other it was not being committed. Doesn;t that show that one Church possesses the mark of Holiness more so than the other. And the mark of Holiness is one of the marks of the true Church?


I think if anyone started attempting to prove the truth of his church vis a vis another by this method:
a. It could start a terrible round of slander. No church as old as the Catholic Church or the Orthodox Church is immune from having some of its members, even of its clergy, shown as venal in some respect or other, as anyone who has read any significant amount of history knows.
b. It would result in a great deal of uncharity.
c. It would corrupt the persons who delved into the archives to find this sin and that in order to hurl accusations.
d. It would be pointless. Jesus said that even the just man falls seven times a day. Peter denied Him three times “before the cock crowed twice”, knowing He was the Son of God, as we know. Jesus knew what men are and can do, and yet he founded His Church anyway. In saying the gates of hell would not prevail against it, does anyone suppose He meant this as some bland assurance that nothing could ever go wrong? No, He said this in order to assure us that His Church would prevail even though sometimes the gates of hell seemed very near.
e. Anyone attempting to show that the members of one Church or the other was more sinful than the other, would automatically be lying, because it is not given to us to know the state of any man’s soul.

I think this is a cup that ought to be passed.


I can understand why you would not want to discuss this too much.


This is more productive. Yes, the massacre of civilian Italian, or more accurately, Venetian merchants in Constantinople was a terrible affair but it obviously did not just come out of nowhere. Perhaps you could enlighten us as to what were the circumstances leading up to and prompting such an outrageous act. Was the Church in Constantinople complicit in this atrocity or was it a purely secular affair. Was it condemned by the Church in Constantinople? Did the Church in Constantinople profit from it? Did it take advantage of the situation?


In that era, as in our own, nothing “just came out of nowhere”. I would have to re-read the history of the event. I do recall that, at the time, there was a lot of commercial rivalry going on all over the Mediterranean, and those rivalries frequently became the occasion for violence. Few shrank it, or from giving better reasons than greed for their actions.

It was an era in which the clergy were excessively involved with the “state”, though “the state” took different forms in the west and in the east. Commercial interests were more intertwined with politics than in our own time (though the comparison perhaps gives us little to choose between them). My recollection is that there were lots of unholy church/state/commercial entanglements.

Pending review, I’ll leave it there. If the “whole story” is as tawdry as nearly every other struggle of the time, it might be more charitable to those now living, not to return to it.


I see your point and will expand upon it. Since it can be conclusively shown from christian scriptures that a full 1/12th of the hand picked apostles of Jesus were faithless traitors, it necessarily follows that this man is a fraud and the stories of his resurrection must be phony. Obviously the REAL God would have been better judge of character.

Guess I’d better go check out that Muhammed guy…


Yes. I thought that you would always be able to know which Church was the true Church, if it had the four marks: one, holy, catholic and apostolic.


Those are certainly the marks. Are you proposing that we define “holy” as the church with the shorter list of sins and atrocities or is there some other message you are trying to tell me?

My admittedly poor 70’s education says that holy means “set apart” (specifically set apart for God), not necessarily “less sinful than you.”

I don’t want to fight, really I don’t. I think I hear your point that you find the personal failures of a list of popes, bishops, priests and laymen to be evidence against the claims of the Catholic church to be THE catholic church. And it disappoints me.


Yes. It looks like I have strayed off topic here, but in response to what you have written here, I would only add that I have been very disappointed and devastated by what I have been reading in the newspapers. And it is not just one or two reports. And I have been very disappointed in the marriage annulment situation since Vatican II.
I apologise for going off topic here.


You guys blame the Holy Catholic Church for the fall of Constantinople more than you do the Muslims, even though the “Catholic Church” was not responsible.

IMO, the fall of Constantinople and the turning of the Cathedral into a Mosque was a divine chastising…of the Eastern Orthodox for separating from the Catholic Church.


It’s an opinion, which I strongly disagree with, but it can’t really be proven one way or another. For example, I could say the same thing about the Protestant Reformation. IMO, the fall of much of Europe to Protestantism was a divine chastising of the Roman Catholic Church for separating from the Eastern Orthodox Church.


In some sense, one could say the Protestant separation; the military abandonment of the West by Byzantium in favor of more lucrative war against Persia, consequent Western canoodling with rapacious Teutons, the fourth crusade, the fall of Constantinople are all chastisements of a sort. Certainly, human weakness was involved in all.

But I am slow to believe that God, seeing the faults and sins of men, caused those tragedies in order to punish His Church. Rather, it has seemed to me He allowed the natural consequences of mens’ sins to proceed, in which case, men brought about the chastisements of the Church which had been entrusted to them, and are responsible for it, not God.


I share in your disappointment in (presumably) the behavior of a number of priests and bishops in the last several decades.

My disappointment as regards marriage is more in the poor preparation and attempts to discern impediments BEFORE marriage is attempted rather than the dispersement of annullments afterwards.

Nevertheless, my hope isn’t in the behavior of the hierarchy, it is in the Gospel of Christ and the security that the faith handed down to me is unsullied by error in teaching.

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