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Article: The Last Sunrise

May 29, 2007

Paul J. Cella III on the Muslim conquest of Constantinople:

Five hundred and fifty-four years ago on this day the Roman Empire was at last extinguished. By then the Empire was, of course, Greek not Roman; Christian not pagan; and no longer strong but pitifully weak. Dispossessed of all its Anatolian and Asian province, and most of its European, all that remained was the great city of Constantinople, much of which was reduced by privation, disease, and depopulation to overgrown ruins. The Turks under a great conqueror, Mehmet II, besieged the city beginning in April, the day after Easter. They outnumbered the defenders at least 10 to 1; possibly the fell Janissaries alone outnumbered the defenders. A pious, brave and noble man, by grim irony named Constantine, was the last Byzantine Emperor: he led his small force of Greek and Italian soldiers with stoic dignity and courage. He died on the very walls of the city with which he shared a name.

A series of omens shook the city in its last days: a lunar eclipse; thick fog for days, a phenomenon unheard of in those lands; an eerie red glow around the dome of Hagia Sophia. Some historians now attribute these latter phenomena to local affects of a massive volcano in the Pacific Ocean; but the pious and mystical Byzantines naturally interpreted it as the withdrawal of the protection of divine providence from the Second Rome.

A mass was said at Holy Wisdom on Monday, May 28; at last, in this final hour, Catholic and Orthodox joined together in worship of the Risen Lord. Greeks who had sworn oaths never to darken the doors of a church contaminated by Romish heretics heard liturgy next to Italians who had declared the Orthodox more loathsome than the infidel Turk. There, in that last agony of the Roman Empire, Christendom was unified, and the Church breathed with both her lungs. There, in the person of the ragged remnants of Constantinople’s defenders, the sons of the Church Universal joined in true fellowship. There, in this greatest of tragedies, and only at the bitter end, was a true Christian brotherhood of Greece and Rome…

Read full article here.

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