Tuesday, May 29, 2012

On May 29, 1453, did a Pacific volcano change Western history?

Sultan Mehmet II and the Fall of Constantinople

1453 The 'fall' of Constantinople preceded by heavenly wonders

On a Tuesday, Constantinople (now Istanbul) fell to the Turks, or, so it is said in the Muslim world, Constantinople was liberated, after a siege, ending the Byzantine Empire

It was a major turning point in world history, as Constantinople, founded by the Roman Emperor, Constantine 'the Great', was a seat of learning and the tangible presence of Western civilisation in the East. It has been said that the flight of many scholarly refugees from Constantinople to Italy was the single most important driving force of the European Renaissance. Yet the antagonists of the siege of Constantinople had the minds of the Middle Ages era, and the effect of 'ominous' heavenly wonders probably affected the outcome.

During the preceding weeks, the city had suffered many heavy rains and hailstorms. Being medieval men, the leaders believed that the Christian city would not fall to the siege of the Ottoman armies under Sultan Mehmed II Fatih unless there was a mysterious sign in the moon. Unfortunately for them, the moon went into a long and dark eclipse on May 22, displaying a thin crescent – the image of the Turkish standard flying over Mehmed's camp.

On the 26th, an unseasonable, thick fog fell upon Constantinople. By nightfall, the fog lifted and the Christians were appalled by what they saw: the buildings of the city glowed in ominous shades of red. Even the enormous copper dome of the imposing cathedral, the Hagia Sophia (which has been a mosque ever since) appeared to be engulfed in flames, but it never burned. Phrantzes, a friend of the emperor, wrote that the light remained over the city for an entire night ...

Read on at the Constantinople page at the Scriptorium


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