The history of the Byzantine empire has always fascinated me, but alas, I have not studied Latin nor ancient Greek so, even though I studied History for my Bachelors I did not end up going into medieval history as my concentration. There's quite a few myths that have been associated with the Fall of Constantinople. That, the last king of the Byzantine empire, Constantine the 11th (Constantine XI Dragases Palaiologos), carried a portrait of the holy mother, the Virgin Mary, into battle with him; that he is buried under the only church in Istanbul that is still Christian to this day and was still standing when Constantinople fell. Indeed, the Renaissance would not have started without the Fall of Constantinople in 1453 as, fleeing scholars from Constantinople fled to other cities in Italy bringing with them their knowledge and Greek texts that they had taken with them from the imperial library in their flight.(1)
However, in order to understand the importance of Constantinople in the history of Christianity as a whole, one must first get a brief history of Constantinople first. The capital city of the Byzantine empire, the seat of the monarchy was in Constantinople, named after the first emperor that had ruled over it, Constantine the Great. The city would, of course, be renamed Istanbul after the city and the last anchor of the Byzantine empire itself fell to the Ottoman Empire in 1453. As the story goes, the first Constantine converted to Christianity in 337 AD upon his deathbed, after having been visited by an angel during the Battle of the Milvian Bridge in 312 AD. That angel ensured Constantine that only under the Christian God would he be ensured victory in the ensuing battle and prosperity over the newly formed Roman empire.
The Roman Empire, as it was thereafter known, would continue on until 1806 when it finally fell to Napoleon during the Napoleonic wars. However, the Roman empire itself had been split in two in 395 AD into two separate regional empires, the Western Roman Empire and the Eastern Roman Empire, with the Eastern Roman empire having its capital seat in Constantinople and the Western Roman Empire with its capital seat in Rome. In 476, the Western Roman empire fell, a product of the empire stretching itself too thin. In the 300s, the Roman empire constantly had to fight battles with neighboring enemies, such as the Visigoths , whom were a constant threat to the empire. The Empire itself under constant threat from the Visigoths for decades also was raided in 455 AD by vandals, and finally in 476, the Germanic leader Odacer deposed the reigning monarch of the Roman empire, Romulus Augustulus, and ensured the final economic death toll for the empire.(2) In 800 AD, several centuries after the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476, Pope Leo the III would crown Frankish king Charlemagne the emperor of a newly revived Western Roman Empire though the empire would go by an entirely different name, the Holy Roman Empire. It was this empire, the Holy Roman Empire that eventually fell to Napoleon in 1806.(6)
The Byzantine empire, aka the Eastern Roman Empire continued on until 1453 however, by 1453, the empire itself had been mostly broken up and the only remaining territory at that point in time was the capital Constantinople which fell to the Ottoman Turks, led by Mehmet II. (3)
Notable achievements of the Byzantine empire include the Council of Nicea in 325 AD which brought together all the notable Christian scholars to decide a Christian creed and laws for Christianity as a whole. This is where the idea of the trinity, god the father, Jesus the son and human embodiment of God, and Spirit were decided upon and put into Christian law. Constantinople was also a major trade base, straddling both east and west and was a major port along the Silk Road bringing silks from Asia Minor and spices from India to the western lands of Europe.(4)
Constantinople as a whole never fully recovered from when it was sacked during the Fourth Crusade in 1204, an event that led to most of its wealth being taken to Venice where many still remain in Venetian museums today.(5)
5. Matthews, R. (2017, March 17). Sack of Constantinople. Retrieved December 18, 2020, from The Sack of Constantinople
6.For more information about the Holy Roman Empire and its origins, please see this site. Holy Roman Empire