June 11

Newsletter Archive

This Day in the Life of the Church

June 11, 2024

The Fall of the City


After the capture of the city of Constantinople, Sultan Mehmet II found Monk Gennady Scholarios enslaved in Adrianople. He ransomed him and offered a patriarchal post knowing that he was against the union and therefore would not side with the westerners. Mosacis in the headquarters of the Ecumencial Patriarchate in Fenar, Istanbul

Constantinople was taken over by Sultan Mehmet II on this day in 1453.

An attempt of the crusade against the Ottomans in 1444, mostly composed from Central and Eastern European warriors, resulted in the fiasco in the Battle at Varna.

By the beginning of 1453 Constantinople was surrounded by the Ottomans. The sea remainded the only venue connecting the City with the outside world.

During the siege, which began in April 1453, the empire had only eight thousand troops against one hundred thousand the Ottomans. Mehmet II was determined to take Constantinople since he controlled all surrounding lands. Therefore, I believe that the empire used all its available potential…

For Western Europeans, the capture of the Imperiall City by the Turks was an apocalyptic event of the same caliber as had been centuries earlier, the fall of Rome to the Huns. People expected the end of the world in 1492. Notably, the last emperor Constantine XI is considered by some Greeks an "ethnomartyr.” This following account is “a snap-shot” of what happened on these days 571 years ago.The author is the Genoese merchant Angelo Giovanni Lomellino. He was the last podestà (governor) of Pera (Since 1273 the Genoese district of Constantinople).

Mehmet (Fatih-conqueror) did not realize that it was not just him who captured the New Rome, but it was also Konstaninopolis, which has left forever, by the thought of the late Dr. Adrian Saundres, an indelible mark on "House of Osman.” The account follows below: 


My noble and beloved brother. You must forgive me, if I have not written before, and if even in this letter I do not answer yours.

I have been so constantly filled with sorrow and distress, that at the present time I wish I were dead rather than alive. You will have heard by now, I am sure, of the unexpected fate of Constantinople, captured by the Turkish Sultan on the twenty-ninth of last month, a day which we longed for, because it seemed to us that our victory was assured. The Sultan attacked from all sides throughout the night. As morning came, Giovanni Giustiniani (a Genoese nobleman, and mercenary captain, who died defending Constantinople) received a (…) and left his gate, and went towards the sea, and by this same gate the Turks entered, finding no resistance, and this was the end of it; one would not expect to lose even a single house so cheaply. I can well believe that it came about because of our sins.

Now, my dear brother, you see my position, may God give me strength to bear it. They put the city to the sack for three days, and you never saw such suffering; the extent of their plundering cannot be calculated. I sent to the defense of the city all the mercenaries from Chios, and all those who had been sent from Genoa, and a great number of the citizens and burghers from here, with my nephew Imperiali and members of my own establishment. For my part, God knows that I did whatever was possible, since I knew that once Constantinople had fallen, this place was also lost. They captured most of the city. A few terrified persons managed to reach here, and other merchants and citizens were able to escape, and most of them rejoined their families. Some were captured by the palisade [harbor], because the masters of the ships were so overcome by fear that they would not wait for anyone. With the greatest of difficulty I brought back some of those who were by the palisade; you never saw such a terrible sight.

Seeing the position I was in, I thought it better to lose my life than desert the city; if I had gone, it would have been sacked at once. I decided, on the contrary, to take steps for its safety, and at once sent ambassadors to the Sultan with fine gifts, saying, “We have a good pact between us,” and asking in submissiveness that he should be willing to continue it with us. But no answer was given. The ships dragged themselves to a place where they could raise their sails.

I sent a message to the [ship] masters, that for the love of God and for pity's sake they should stay the next day, since I was sure we would reach an agreement with the Sultan. They would have nothing of it, but made sail in the very middle of the night. In the morning, when the Sultan heard the news that the ships had gone, he told our ambassadors that he wanted the city thrown open to him, and we were barely able to keep our persons and our possessions safe; he said that we had done as much as we could to save Constantinople, and that we had stopped him from capturing it on the very first day. Here indeed he spoke the truth, and we were in the greatest danger. To escape his rage, we had to do what he wanted, as you will see from the enclosed; everything was done in the name of the burghers. I thought it best not to take part in anything, but afterwards I visited the Sultan, who came here twice. He caused destruction everywhere. The towers on the walls [of the Pera district] were broken down, and much of the foss filled in, and he had the Tower of the Holy Cross pulled down; also part of a curtain wall inside the barbican, and part of the barbican. The sea walls were left standing. He took all our cannon, and intends to take all the weapons and means of making war which the citizens have. He has also had lists made of all the property belonging to the merchants and citizens who have left here, saying, “If they return, they shall have them back, and if not, it will all belong to me.”

Because of this, we arranged for a message to be sent to Chios, to tell all the merchants and citizens who had left here that they could come back; and if they did, they would have their property. With the Sultan's messenger we sent Antonio Cocca, and told all the merchants how the Venetians had left all their stocks of goods here.

As to our own citizens who had gone away with their families and households, this letter informed them in the same way that all Genoese could travel on business in these parts.

That night the Sultan went back to Adrianople, and there he sent for Hall Pasha and made him pay a huge sum of money. At this time too he had the Bailo [the leader of the colony] of the Venetians decapitated, with his son and seven other Venetians, and also the Catalan consul with five or six other Catalans. Now you can see whether we were in any danger. He looked for Maurizio Cataneo and Paolo Bocchiardi, who went into hiding, and sent one of his officers here to guard the place; while he sent other officers to Constantinople with about fifteen hundred janissaries. He sent an officer to Chios, as it is said, to demand that a transit tax should be levied, and it is said that he is sending one here, and intends to do the same in Caffa [Theodosia in Crimea] and all the larger ports. He also demanded from the Despot of Serbia certain territories which had been held by his father, and the Despot was most unwilling to hand them over. In sum, he [Mehmet] has become so insolent after the capture of Constantinople that he sees himself soon becoming master of the whole world, and swears publicly that before two years have passed he intends to reach Rome; and by the OneTrue God, unless the Christians take action quickly, he is likely to do things that will fill them with amazement. On the other hand, if they make the necessary preparations, Constantinople will be the beginning of his ruin.

For your information, the terms of the agreement which has been made are that our citizens can appoint a senior official to administer justice among them. When this agreement had been made, I planned to leave the Residence, and find a house for myself. But the citizens asked me to stay in the Residence and continue governing them until such time as it was possible for me to leave. For a number of reasons I was happy to agree to their request, although not, you will understand, because it included any salary.

The Sultan does not propose to levy any taxes, except for a polltax; but the Compere [Genoese trading associations] have lost the places which belonged to them. I would most strongly recommend to our Doge that he should arrange for a full-scale embassy to come here, to discuss everything that applies to our places of business; at the same time, he should not relax his efforts to organize the Christian nations, and should do what has been done up to now. We are continually looking for aid; our forces now consist of one small vessel with a hundred and forty eight men, such as they are. I can see the hand of God in this whole affair, because no one played his part properly, neither the Greeks nor the Venetians. By the One True God, unless some action is taken by the Christians, the Sultan will surprise them; all his aspirations are in the direction of further wars.

My nephew Imperiali was captured, and I have done everything possible to get him back. His identity was discovered, and they would not allow him to be ransomed. Then the Sultan heard of him, and took him, and another, a Venetian, with him; the reason being, that he wants to have some Latins at his court, which has thrown me into such melancholy that I scarcely know how to go on living. (...)

My deepest respects to our master the Doge; I am not writing to him, because my spirits are so low. My respects too, if you please, to my father-in-law, to whom I have not written for the same reason, and you can read this letter to him. Commend me to my father and your wife, and give my greetings to the others.

Angelo Giovanni, merchant.


The Siege of Constantinople 1453: Seven Contemprorary Accounts (Amesterdam, 1972)


This project has been supported by the Fund for Assistance to the Russian Church Abroad


Copyright 2023 Andrei Psarev.

This is e-mail has been designed exclusively for Patreon subscribers. https://www.patreon.com/rocorstudies. Citation without written permission is prohibited rocorstudies@gmail.com (or Patreon e-mail)



Sent via