Bad elites hastened the fall of Constantinople

December 12, 2013

Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, Turkey.

Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, Turkey.

Resolved to defend the capital unto the very last breath, Constantine [XII] searched for help on all sides. He first turned his gaze to Rome. Shortly before his death, the Emperor John had distanced himself from unity with the Catholic Church. Constantine implored Pope Nicholas V for assistance and offered to bring about this Union between the two churches. Though so often deceived before, the Pope sent a Legate, and on December 12, 1452, a solemn ceremony took place in the Church of Hagia Sophia, betokening that West and East were united in the same faith, in one God, and one Eucharist.

Mehmed II, Entering to Constantinople. Painting by Fausto Zonaro

Gennadius Scholarius meeting Mehmed II upon his entering into Constantinople. Painting by Fausto Zonaro

But when the Greeks saw the West’s priestly vestments, the breaking of the unleavened Bread, and the addition of cold, not warm water into the chalice, they were appalled and hurriedly left Hagia Sophia, seeking counsel in the monastery cell of Gennadius Scholarius,* whom they considered to be a saint. The fanatic told them: “”O unhappy Romans [Byzantines], why have you forsaken the truth? Why do you not trust in God, instead of in the Italians? In losing your faith you will lose your city.” Now the nuns, “pure as angels, but proud as she-devils,” rejected all communion with those siding with the Latins. The mob cursed anyone who favored Union. The sailors on the docks toasted to the ruin of the Pope and his slaves, and emptied their cups in praises of the Most Holy Virgin. “What do we need the help of the Latins for?” Even the Lord High Admiral, Loukas Notaras, declared that he much preferred to see Mohammed’s turban in Constantinople, than the tiara of the Popes or the red galero of the Cardinals. All winter long thunderous tirades were heard from pulpits against anyone who wanted Union with Rome: “Not even on one’s deathbed, can one receive Holy Communion from such a person!” The Church of Hagia Sophia was avoided as if it were a pagan temple. No remedy could avail such situation. Those whom God wishes to destroy, He first abandons to insanity.


*’s note: Somewhat surprisingly, on June 1, 1453, just three days after the fall of Constantinople, Gennadius Scholarius was chosen by Mehmed II to be the new Greek Orthodox Patriarch. The Sultan received Gennadius graciously and personally invested him with the crosier and mantle—the symbols of his new office.


Johann Baptist von Weiss, Historia Universal, ed. Rev. Fr. Ramón Ruiz Amado, S.J., (Barcelona: Tipografia La Educación, 1929), Vol. VIII-1, 49-50. ( translation.)

Short Stories on Honor, Chivalry, and the World of Nobility—no. 342


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