A Dark Day in History

Chronicles Magazine | Srdja Trifkovic | May 29, 2007

On May 29, 1453, the city of Constantinople fell to the Muslims. It was a dark day for Christendom and for all civilized humanity. His pleas ignored in the West, his supplies running out after six weeks’ siege, his soldiers outnumbered 15 to one, Emperor Constantine XI Dragas knew that his cause was hopeless. Like Prince Lazar at Kosovo 64 years earlier, he chose martyrdom.

On May 22 the moon, symbol of Constantinople since its founding, rose in dark eclipse, fulfilling an old prophecy on the city’s demise. Four days later the Bosphorus was shrouded by thick fog, a phenomenon unknown in eastern Mediterranean in late spring. When the final assault started on the 29th and the walls of the city were shattered, the Emperor discarded his purple cloak and led the last defenders to charge into the breach. The Turks were never able to identify his body; the last Roman Emperor was buried in a mass grave along with his soldiers.

When it was all over, bands of Turks went on a rampage. Pillaging and killing went on for three days. The blood ran down the steep streets from the heights of Petra toward the Golden Horn. All the treasures of the Imperial Palace were promptly removed. Books and icons were burnt on the spot, once the jeweled covers and frames had been wrenched off. In the monastery of the Holy Savior, the invaders first destroyed the icon of the Mother of God, the Hodigitria, the holiest icon in all Byzantium, painted—so men said—by Saint Luke himself. When the Turks burst into the Hagia Sophia, Sir Steven Runciman tells us in his Fall of Constantinople.

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12 thoughts on “A Dark Day in History

  1. We shouldn’t forget that thanks to the Catholic Church and the western europeans the Byzantium and Conastinople was weak and in a very bad state!

    Unfortunately today our Orthodox brothers in Tukrey still suffer!!

    God bless and help our brothers in need

  2. The West and Catholics may have walk through that door but it was the Easterns and Orthodox who opened it.

  3. In the tourism section of the Turkish On-Line newspaper Zaman, I read an article that nearly broke my heart, Uzungöl and Sümela monasteries: The Black Sea’s biggest draw for tourists

    Apparently abandoned Orthodox churches and monasteries are popular tourist destinations in Turkey. Even though the Turks expelled the Christians and continue to force them out, they are able to cash in handsomely on tourism and historical interest in the Christian presence that once covered their land. Everywhere one travels in Turkey, there are found empty Churches with faded mosaics, broken walls of Byzantine and Crusader fortresses and the fallen marble columns from ancient Greek and Roman settlements, and all of these are mentioned prominently in Turkish Tourism publications.

    Two million Christians were expelled from Turkey in 1923, a huge number. The Sumela monastery once an important center for both Russian and Greek Orthodox religious artists, was also closed that year.

    The Sümela Monastery, also known as “Meryem Ana” (The Virgin Mary), stands on the foot of a steep cliff facing the Coşandere valley in the region of Maçka in Trabzon, Turkey. It is nearly 300 meters high and was built in the tradition of monasteries located in forests outside the cities, near caves and water. The monastery was built in honor of the Virgin Mary. It took the name “Sümela,” which derives from “Melas,” meaning black. .. It is known that many icons of the Virgin Mary were produced in the l2th century by Georgian artists. These icons, known as Black Madonnas, found their way into a number of monasteries.

    I think it is profoundly tragic that Orthodox Christians have been cut off from an important part of their history and heritage. Orthodox churches and western nations should more aggressively engage the Turkish government in discussions with the goal of allowing Christians to resettle in Turkey, regain control of historically Christian sites and in general reconnect with their history.

    Every nation that has joined the European Union has had to tone down its nationalism and open itself up to free entry by citizens from other EU natiuons. Turkey, if it joins the EU should be no different. Christian resettlement in Turkey should not be threatening to the Turks since no territorial claims on their land woud be made.

  4. @ Dean S.
    Yeah right, dream on…!
    Deluded liberal thinking of this kind (inviting aliens of a different culture into one’s country) is only possible in our western countries, the US and the EU. Turks (and all Muslims) know that these “invited” Christians would be a mortal thread to their illogical religion, because they would make it possible for Muslims to have an opportunity for comparison…!
    It will never happen!
    Unless, however, you have the gonads and take back the whole of what they stole from the Eastern Roman Empire. But then, who would you settle there? Atheistic, post-Christian Europeans? They already hold all the nude beaches around the Mediterranean.
    But never mind, we can all dream….

  5. The whole point of dangling EU membership in front of the Turks is to make them rethink how they conceive of their national identity and choose what path they want their nation to take.

    Do they want to be part of the backward middle-east, living under intolerant, fundamentalist theocracy? Do they want to to live under a nationalist, military semi-dictatorship, where they can be arrested and tortured for any form of dissent? Or, do they want to join the community of modern nations who live under democratic rule of law and enjoy the economic benefits of full integration into the global market place.

    If they choose the last path then there are certain changes they have to make, and one of them is to be more welcoming and tolerant towards non-Turkish minorities. They shouldn’t be allowed to prosper from tourist interest in the ruins and vestiges of the non-Turkish peoples who once populated their land, while at the same time continuing to persecute and harrass thr decendents of those people.

    Comments like “Unless, however, you have the gonads and take back the whole of what they stole from the Eastern Roman Empire” are just stupid, not only because they are practiclally impossible, but also because they provide the Turks with the excuse they need to contunue harrasing their Greek and Armenian minorities.

    The only way Christains can claim any part of their legacy in Asia Minor is by bringing Turkey into the European Union where it will be forced to abide by the rules of internatonal law in order to continuue receiving the benfits of membership.

  6. Once Turkey gets EU membership, it will not feel compelled to follow any of its rules. That is how they operate.

  7. @Dean S.
    “… stole from the Eastern Roman Empire” are just stupid, …”ever heard of hyperbola? Sarcasm? Cynicism?
    I just have one question to you, what planet are you living on? It certainly isn’t anywhere in this solar system. If there was ever a “stupid” idea then you have given birth to it with your above posting, “The only way Christains can claim any part of their legacy in Asia Minor is by bringing Turkey into the European Union where it will be forced to abide by the rules of internatonal law in order to continuue (sic) receiving the benfits(sic) of membership.”
    Yeah, right that should work. Do you have any exposure to anything Turkish? Did you ever had any? You know, Turkey isn’t a province of your liberal la-la-land.
    Just in case you have forgotten, they tried to enter Europe at several occasions…. ask the people who prevented that. Now you want to invite the people who actually tried to conquer the whole and stole part of your land into the rest of Europe, then “force” them to obey your laws by threatening to withhold welfare benefits. Well that IS stupid and only a liberal mind could come up with that idea. Oops sorry, the EU is already doing that.

  8. I agree that it is difficult to predict what the Turks will do. Clearly, Turkey is undergoing an national identity crisis between the three paths I outlined above, (1) Islamic republic, (2) Secular, nationalist semi-dictatorship, or (3) European style democracy. There are Turkish constituencies supporting each one of these, and we don’t know which path the Turks will ultimately choose to take, so admitedly that is a major source of uncertainty.

    What we do know is that option number three – European style democracy – offers the greatest liklihood that the rights of non-Turkish, Christian minorities will be respected and protected. Therefore, logically that is the outcome we should be working to help to bring about. Greece has recognized this which is why they have been a consistent supporter of Turkey’s EU membership application

    Continuing to insult the Turks as unwanted savages undermines this goal, and helps push the Turks towards the Islamist and Nationalist paths where Christian minorities will find themselves in a more difficult and perilous position.

    Ultimately the Turks have to “want” to be part of the EU. They may decide that joining the EU requires them to surrender too much sovereignty or that they don’t need Europe. But at this point we don’t know what they are going to do and we have to give it more time to play out.

  9. Dean S.

    I look at you post and have to laugh about you contention that Christians and other minorities will be protected by the EU and European style democracies.

    When you consider how impotent the EU was in dealing with the Balkans crisis it’s hard to believe they would be able to handle any internal Turkish issue.

  10. JBL – Can you think of a better option?

    How would a Turkey run by ultra-nationalist Generals, or Islamists, be any more hospitable to Christian minorities than a Turkey that is part of the European Union?

  11. Dean, are you going to answer Tom C’s question about Al Gore’s global warming business scheme?

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