By Theodore Shoebat
The government of Turkey just shifted the status of the Hagia Sofia from being a museum to now a mosque. This has sparked the attention of Russia where the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church, Kirill, declared:
“A threat to Hagia Sophia is a threat to the whole of Christian civilisation, and therefore to our spirituality and history… To this day, for every Russian Orthodox person, Hagia Sophia is a great Christian shrin”
According to Al-Jazeera:
Erdogan made the announcement on Friday an hour after the court ruling was revealed, despite international warnings not to change the status of the nearly 1,500-year-old monument, revered by Christians and Muslims alike.
“The decision was taken to hand over the management of the Ayasofya Mosque … to the Religious Affairs Directorate and open it for worship,” the decision signed by Erdogan said.
Erdogan had previously proposed restoring the mosque status of the UNESCO World Heritage Site, a focal point of both the Christian Byzantine and Muslim Ottoman empires and now one of the most visited monuments in Turkey.
Earlier, a top Turkish court revoked the Byzantine-era Hagia Sophia’s status as a museum. The Council of State, which was debating a case brought by a Turkish religious organisation, cancelled a 1934 cabinet decision that defined the sixth-century building as a museum.
“It was concluded that the settlement deed allocated it as a mosque and its use outside this character is not possible legally,” Turkey’s top administrative court said in the ruling.
“The cabinet decision in 1934 that ended its use as a mosque and defined it as a museum did not comply with laws,” it said.
Constantinople has been place of immense reverence to God, but also of immense suffering and conflict. The Muslim Turks conquered this famed city in 1453, and such an event — although centuries old — caused a wave of ripples that reverberated into the modern world. The Russians still wanted this city in World War One and today the Hagia Sofia is still demanded by both Greek and Russian Orthodox Christians. For the sake of this most recent event, I would like to present a short recounting of the conquest of Constantinople of 1453 which I wrote a number of years ago. Let this history be a reminder of what innocent blood was spilt in the Islamization of this city and the Hagia Sophia Church, and the spiritual significance of this place….
It was the year 1453, Mehmet II was now the sultan of the Ottoman Empire, and he believed that with the aid of Allah “and the prayers of the prophet, we shall speedily become the masters of Constantinople.”
We are now in the city of Constantinople. The emperor Constantine XI is within the senate house; the faces of all present express nothing but weariness. Constantine XI is adorned with imperial garb, his hair is braided and ornamented, and his head is adorned with the dome shaped crown of Byzantium. A man rushes into the room, he is an envoy who comes with a message from Mehmet II:
“The preparations for the assault have been concluded. It is now time to consummate what we planned long ago. Let us leave the outcome of this undertaking to God. What say you? Do you wish to quit the City and go wherever you like together with your officials and their possessions, leaving behind the populace unharmed by us and by you? Or do you choose to resist and to lose your life and belongings, and to have the Turks take the populace captive and scatter them throughout the earth?”
The emperor and the senators arose, and Constantine XI told the envoy to return to the Turkish tyrant with these words:
“If you so wish, as your fathers did before you, you too, by the grace of God, can live peacefully with us. Keep the fortress and the lands which have been unjustly seized from us as justly yours. Extract as much tribute annually as we are able to pay you, and depart in peace. Can you be certain that victory instead of defeat awaits you? The right to surrender the City to you belongs neither to me nor to anyone who dwells therein. Rather than to have our lives spared, it is our common resolve willing to die.”
The herald left to give the message, leaving the Christians with no time to prepare, giving them nothing but anguishing suspense and the fear of not knowing what is to come.
THE DANCE OF THE DERVISHES
As the Christians stood in fear, a crowd of dervishes–those Sufis who kept up the spirit of Jihad– visited the tents of the Muslims and danced to the sound of the mystical and wild music of the Orient, and with the harmony of lute, kaval, drum and voice, they instilled in the warriors the fearlessness of death and the hope of the gardens of paradise where flowed rivers of wine and where reposed the black eyed and voluptuous virgins.
Mehmet II stood before his ruthless troops and told them that when they take the city, Constantinople’s walls and buildings will be in his possession. He looked to his warriors, rapacious and urging booty, and remarked that as for captives and treasures, “Let those be your reward.” The whole body of soldiers, with their fickle and volatile minds, screamed that there is no god but Allah and Muhammad is his messenger.
BETWEEN SAINTS AND WIZARDS
The sun now descended to its slumber while the souls of the city were kept awake by the plague of trepidation and angst. The sea, from a pristine body of water, appeared now to be an endless void as black as the abyss and as hopeless as the desert from where Muhammad came with his heresy. Bright lights began to be seen from a distance; within a moment all of the sea appeared as though the fires of hades had bulged out from beneath the ocean floor, while piercing lights were seen above the lands outside of the city, illuminating Constantinople with radiating brilliance as bright as the sun.
It appeared as though the surface of the water was transformed into lightening. Out ran the Romans who thought that a fire had fallen on their military camp, only to see that no arson was done. Torches were lit all about the land, and in all the hundreds of Turkish ships on the sea. Their lights broke the evening darkness and when they looked out the city walls all they could see before their weary eyes were hundreds of thousands of Turks dancing like wild men, screaming, roaring and shouting their cries of battle. “Spare us, O Lord,” prayed the watchmen, “from Thy just wrath and deliver us from the hands of the enemy.” This was a plea to Heaven of the purest sincerity, and it was unlike any frivolous prayer that is done so frequently today.
They rushed back and alarmed the inhabitants, and now the city was so worried that the air itself was plagued with the virus of fear. It spread throughout, afflicting terror to all those hearts residing in this once great beacon of Christendom. The Christian fighters joined together and there arose an impetus of zealous unity to the highest degree: they wailed and wept, embraced one another, devoted their lives to Christ, and took their stations. The emperor, with some faithful companions, entered the Church of St. Sofia and with fervent tears running down their faces received the sacraments of the Holy Communion. Constantine XI at times reclined in his palace, which was now surrounded with cries and lamentations, pled for forgiveness from anyone who he may have injured in the past, and rode off on his horse to his men.
As this was occurring Mehmet II relied on astrology for wisdom, and concluded that the attack must be commenced at dawn. He was a seeker after stars, auspices, and the harbingers of dreamers, and thus was this a war between wizards and saints.
A POORLY DEFENDED CITY
The break of dawn arrived, and by this time small skirmishes between Turk and Christian commenced, but nothing too grave–nothing major occurred until the ninth hour of the day. An army of Muslims came in front of the Golden Gate, and upon the waters did one see eighty ships fit for war lurking about like infernal leviathans ready to devour, stationed from the Xyloporta Gate to the Plataea Gate, all entrances into the city. Other ships encircled the city, covering numerous areas. Just at the moment when the sun set, the call to battle arose and the souls of the fighters vibrated with an impenetrable motivation. Mehmet gave battle with his ten thousand slaves–all men with great muscular physic and robust statures, who fought so viciously that they were compared to combating lions. To the rear and on both sides of the city more than one hundred thousand Muslims were making their assault.
To the south of these and as far as the Golden Gate there were another one hundred thousand heretics and more. From where Mehmet stood there was stationed fifty thousand warriors of Allah’s crescent. A small number of three thousand Italian fighters made a stand, alongside hundreds of crossbowmen, archers, and gunmen, all under the command of their Genoese general Giovanni Giustiniani. To the eternal shame of Christendom almost no help came to the aid of the city, and only three ships were given by the pope. Throughout the evening these were watchmen on the wall, neither resting nor slumbering. The Christians were kept awake by fear, the Muslims by the hope that the rising crescent of Islam was soon to ascend above the world.
NOT THE FIRST TIME THE MUSLIMS TRIED TO CONQUER CONSTANTINOPLE
The Muslims always wanted to take Constantinople; for it was the city of eastern Christendom, built by Constantine, the pious emperor who orchestrated the Council of Nicaea which first confronted the evil of Arianism, the heresy that would influence Muhammad who would in turn begin his cult. Not only that, but Constantine built Constantinople to be a city without the blemish of heathenism and idolatry, without the worship of demons and pagan temples. The desire to take this metropolis was rooted into their bowls: the very thought of capturing the renown metropolis excited the god of their bellies; it rallied their hearts and ascended their spirits to the call of the prophet who declared that the first Muslim army who could take Constantinople would have their souls cleansed and their sins forgiven.
Let us imagine to ourselves the first time the Muslims attempted to take the city in 654 under Muawiyah. They were preparing for this conquest in Tripoli (located in Phoenicia), and two zealots, noticing their plan, rushed to the commander of the city and killed him and his men, burned all of their gear, and ran off to Romania. But now we are in the fifteenth century, and the Muslims have arrived with a force far more organized and far more ruthless than the Romans could have ever imagined.
THE TURKS OVERRUN THE CITY
The Turks had come and in their midst was a weapon never before seen nor used in Christian lands: a prodigiously colossus cannon, built by a heretic from Hungary named Urban who engineered the contrivance for the enemies of God the Turks. The monstrous machine was twenty seven feet long, a muzzle eight inches wide, and so heavy was it that when it was seen by the terrified Christians it came toward them being carried by sixty oxen and seven hundred men. No wall in the world was strong enough to withstand it, no man of war to prevail over it. As the rays of the sun dissipated in darkness of eve, a shot was fired which struck the soul with a harrowing sound, and a one thousand two hundred pound ball crashed into the city walls. But still there stood the emperor Constantine with sword in hand, ready to lead his men.
The Turks rushed the walls and from the ground did numberless scaling ladders ascend against the city. The sounds of battle and death was drowned by the Turkish bands who pounded their drums and blew their trumpets. Mehmet was amongst his troops with a sadistic dispossession as he brandished an iron mace and vociferously forced his archers to attack the walls. As the wicked growled in fury, the Christians held their holy icons around the walls and through the city in procession. Giovanni and his Italians, and the emperor and his troops fought with all the strength any supreme warrior could muster. A Turk fired a musket and the ball pierced through Giovanni’s arm and broke through his Roman breastplate. The bullet is in his chest; the wound is dismaying. “Stand your ground bravely,” he cried, “and I will retire to the ship to attend to my wound. Then I will quickly return.”
The general retreated and so did the morale of the fighters. The emperor lost heart, but his mind prevailed over his emotions and he continued to fight, leading the men with great intensity. A swarm of Turks was seen gradually making their way toward the walls with shields hovering above their bodies; the reflection of the sun’s light from the metal was a sight for soar eyes. Then suddenly their arose from this hoard multiple scaling ladders whose tops now rested on the walls. As they were trying to ascend the ladders down came boulders from the watchmen which crushed the Turks and repulsed their assault. But lo, there was a sally port left open, to which fifty of Mehmet’s slaves leaped. They climbed to the top of the walls filled with rage and thirst for blood. They killed anyone they found and cut to pieces the warriors who defended the city from scaling Turks. Other soldiers could not bear such a sight and leaped out of the walls to land to their deaths. Many fled as soon as they spotted the flag of the Turk waving within their sights.
Now were the walls finally defenseless; the Turks threw up their scaling ladders and ascended like crawling spiders. In another part of the city Constantine XI and his troops still kept fighting without knowledge that much of the enemy were already within the walls and were now within Constantinople. The emperor and his garrison were outnumbered twenty to one, and were nowhere near as conditioned and battle hardened for war as these Mongol barbarians and their Slavic auxiliaries. As they were fighting, with Roman sword hitting against Muslim scimitar, arrows darkened the sky and came from above like demons descending from heaven, tearing right through the flesh of the Christians as lightning bolts crack the peaks of mountains.
The arrows rushed down like a storm and their landing made a flood of human blood. They tried to run back through a major gate, but were unable to on account of their numbers. They were confounded and in chaos; the stronger soldiers trampled over the weak, and as Mehmet’s men saw this disorderly bunch, they screamed their war cry–their praise to Allah–and sharply commenced a charge. They stampeded the retreaters, crushing many with their feet, and hacking to death bodies of men with those thin but agonizing blades so popular in Muslim warfare. By the time they reached the gate their entering was hindered on account of the lofty pile of bodies which blocked the entrance. They came into the city through the breaches on the walls and they cut down all those they met. “The city is ours!” cried out Mehmet.
THE EMPEROR FIGHTS
There lied the emperor, alone and dismayed; despair and hopelessness are all one feels when setting sight on him. Imagine to yourself such a disquieting image: here lied the emperor of the most glorious Roman Empire, the history of which never ceases to be spoken of. And now it was all crumbling down into the ashes of history to the prevailing force of the Muslim. Constantine XI stood with his sword, no doubt especially made for an emperor, with its narrow blade, and handle shaped into the form of a cross, the symbol of his religion, the symbol of everything he fought for, and it was the symbol which the Muslims most hated, for it was on that Cross on Calgary where the greatest enemy to tyranny died to destroy the works of the Devil–the works of Allah.
His heart was plunged into sorrow and he cried out, “Is there no one among the Christians who will take my head from me?” A Turk came about and wounded him, but the emperor swiftly struck him. Another appeared and hit him from behind. The emperor quivered to the earth, and received the swords from his mocking enemy, only to die not with the honor of an emperor, but only as a mere civilian. Here lied the last of the Caesars, who did not leave this world to the sounds of funeral music, but to the cruel laughs of the conquering Muslim. The last remnant of soldiers were scattered about, some fleeing and some resisting to no avail, since two thousand of them were quickly slaughtered. The Janissaries–sinewy men from the Balkans who were stolen as Christian children by the Turks and made into Muslim killers–stormed the city’s palace, the Petra Monastery and the Monastery of Chora where they spotted a statue of Mary the mother of Christ, God in the flesh. One of them took it, and with an axe and demonic hatred hacked it to pieces. Like the Romans did with Christ’s garments, they casted lots for the fragments of the image before riding away.
A SURREAL SIGHT OF HUMAN SUFFERING
Romans ran as fast as they could to their homes to save their wives and children from the Turks who now lurked everywhere as Satan prows like “a roaring lion” “seeking whom he may devour”. (I Peter 5:8) Families were seen treading down a certain road, their bodies covered in blood and their demeanor appearing as soulless corpses. They passed by the Column of the Cross in the Forum of Constantine which was a symbol of Rome’s innovation; but now they were to be images to evoke the memories of past glory now at the edge of the cliff of destiny.
The women in most lamenting voices cried out to heaven, “What is to become of us?” A man arrived to the disquieted multitude of families and exclaimed with a fearful voice, “The Turks are slaughtering Romans within the City’s walls,” and they did not believe him, and in fact cursed the messenger for bringing such a terrifying message. But from behind him came a man, his clothes covered in blood, and then another arrived, he too stained with gore. It was almost a surreal thing to behold; a nightmare only existing in a slumbering mind came to past as sheer horror tainted the air of that once beautiful city. Monks and nuns, men and women, grasping onto their little ones with trembling hands, all ran as one into the Great Church of Constantinople. They burst into the sanctuary, bolted the doors, and sat and waited for an anonymous savior. From a distance were the Turks, killing and taking captives as they walked down that road which led to the church. The gates to the church were barred, but they hacked them apart with their axes and entered with swords unsheathed, beholding the defenseless people whom they saw as nothing more than open game. They were but sheep being taken to the slaughter. No man could describe the wailings and the cries of the babes, no chronicler the tearful screams of the mothers, no historian the lamentations of the fathers.
The loveliest maiden was sought out by the most degenerate Turk, and not even the nuns were spared by the rapacious Muslims who indulged themselves in the wickedest acts of rape and kidnapping. The braids of women were tugged and pulled by Turks who competed for them; they ripped through their garments and exposed their breasts and bosoms. People were driven out of the church and flogged, and within one hour all of the men where bounded together by a cord like the Hebrew slaves in ancient Egypt. They were chained together and were treated as though they were not human, but a herd of beasts. Over sixty thousand people were transported to the Muslim camps and ships, exchanged and sold, and dispersed throughout the provinces of the Ottoman Empire.
The Janissaries tore down the crucifix in the Hagia Sofia, placed a Turkish turbin on the thorn-pierced head and mockingly paraded through the streets as they scoffingly said, “Behold the God of the Christians.” Ever since then the Hagia Sofia has never been touched by Christian hands; it still remains in Turkey as a great bare slab in iconoclastic fury.
In another part of the city the citizens did not even expect the Turks to reach them. It was the Feast Day of the Holy Martyr Theodosia, and as their countrymen were reduced to the lowest of servility, women and men weeped all night in a vigil at the saint’s sepulchre. In the morning, these Christians set out to revere the saint in her church with their candle sticks and incense, and suddenly the Turks ambushed them mercilessly. Surely was this the hour of the City of Satan, surely was this the times of “the power of darkness.” (Luke 53)
They took up torches and burned the city from the Gates of Charisios and St. Romanos to the surroundings of the palace. Roman naval ships prevented further Turkish ranks from entering the city by launching boulders and arrows at them. When Romans, who were upon some of the walls, realized that the Turks were by then within the city and destroying her, they proclaimed an anguished cry of woe and threw themselves to their deaths. Upon this, Turks put up more scaling ladders and climbed over the wall. Once inside they pulled down the city’s gates and all the rest of them rushed inside. The grand duke, when seeing the enemy stampeding toward his post, fled with a few companions. Romans ran to their homes to save their families; others, when they came home saw no wife nor children–all was hopeless, all was despair. Before these fathers had time to groan and wail their hands were already bound behind them. Old men and elderly women who were too frail to move were slaughtered without pity for their infirmities. New born infants were found being tossed into the air and crushed. General Giovanni, after recovering from his gunshot wound, ordered that his inferiors and marines leave the ravished city.
The soldiers went into their ships, and saw before them men, women, monks, and nuns crying with the most horrid sound of agony, screaming with the highest tone of torment piteously pleading to them for rescue. The soldiers declined, they could not take them. Once they found their passage cleared, the ships sailed away out of the harbour, and still not even the sounds of the roaring waves could prevail over the blood chilling shrieks which resounded through the sky. Though their wailings dwindled away, with the axes of their pitiful cries they carved out an egress into the weary caves of the hearts of their listeners. The place once esteemed as “the highest glory of the Christian world,” was now a place of desolation. So great was this city, that before the time of its capture, one monk wrote of it thus:
“For if such a city had not been founded, where would the Christianity of the East have found a refuge?”
That city built by Constantine, who fought against the wiles of Arius, was now being vanquished by men who were mere products of Arianism.
THE ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION
Mehmet came to the Great Church, or the Hagia Sophia, and saw a Turk smashing a piece of marble pavement and asked why he was doing this. “For the faith,” replied the barbarian. He struck the Turk with his sword so forcefully that he fell to the floor half-dead. The tyrant then declared: “You have enough treasures and captives. The City’s buildings are mine.” The crosses were ordered to be thrown down, and the beautiful statues and mosaics were all gotten rid of, leaving the place from being a magnificent church to a white washed tomb. He summoned a vile sheikh to ascend the church’s pulpit, and when he did, he cried the Call to Prayer declaring that Allah is greater and thus expressing the superiority of Islam over Christianity. He then went on top of the great altar and preformed an Islamic prayer. The bringing of this prayer — the enemy of Orthodoxy — into the Hagia Sophia, was an abomination of desolation.
The Muslims in Constantinople then broke into the Temple of the Holy Trinity and transformed it into a mosque. The name of the church itself reflects what was done in the Council of Nicaea against Arianism, and now the new Arianism–Islam–has taken and made it into a church of Satan intentionally to obliterate the concept of the Holy Godhead. The libraries of the city were destroyed, with one hundred and twenty thousand volumes disappearing, since the Devil hates more than anything a knowledgeable people and thrives on vaguely thinking societies.
A few years later, after the destruction of Constantinople was done, after all of this torment and suffering occurred, a Greek historian named Doukas, wrote an account of it so that men in the future could never forget what took place (sadly most have). In this account he describes the sheikh who made the Call to Prayer in the Great Church as “The son of iniquity, the forerunner of Antichrist,” and at the end we read his awe-inspiring yet saddening words:
“O City, City, head of all cities! O City, City, the center of the four corners of the earth! O City, City, the boast of Christians and the ruin of barbarians! O City, City, a second Paradise planted in the West and containing within many plants, laden with spiritual fruits. Where is your beauty, O Paradise?”
The darkness of heresy overran the majestic metropolis, and only guile and fearful diplomacy sunk the churches into the grasps of Islam. The sultan approved of the election of Gennadius as patriarch of Constantinople and the two would have warm discussions on the comparisons between Islam and Christianity. Thus are the conversations between the master and his slave, and yet we–supposedly an enlightened and free people–have stooped into the same level, bestowing to Islam that fabricated and empty term, “Abrahamic.”
THE HEAD OF THE EMPEROR
Mehmet had the grand duke brought forth. He timidly approached the tyrant and bowed down to him, not in reverence, but in fear. “Did you do well not to surrender the City?” asked the Islamic despot, “Behold the damage and ruin! Behold the captivity of so many!” The duke replied: “Lord, we did not have the authority. Moreover, some of your own officials urged the emperor to do otherwise by writing such words as: Fear not. He will not prevail against you.” The very word “emperor” provoked Mehmet to ask concerning the fate of Constantine XI. The duke stated that he did not know, then two young Turks, the same soldiers who slew the emperor, stepped forward, and one proudly stated: “Lord, I slew him. I was in a hurry to enter the City with my companions to search for plunder, so I left him behind dead.” The second sadistic youth pompously said: “I struck him the first blow.” Mehmet commanded them to bring him the body as proof of their claim. They returned back with the emperor’s head. “Tell me truthfully”, said Mehmet to the duke, “if this is the head of your emperor.” “It is his, Lord.”
They attached the head to a column and let it remain there until evening, they then flayed its skin off and stuffed it with straw. Mehmet sent it around for the Arabs, Persians, and Turks to behold as a symbol of triumph for the Islamic empire. It is deplorable, after hearing of this story, to read the words of the pro-Islamic and deistic historian Edward Gibbon where he writes that Mehmet gave Constantine XI “the honors of a decent funeral.”
THE CRUEL SODOMITE SULTAN
The city was in complete anarchy, with Turk killing Turk–surely were they possessed by a dark spirit. As chaos took hold of Constantinople, Mehmet reposed in a banquet. Full of wine and drunk off cruelty he sent a message to the duke: “send your younger son to the banquet.” The father fully comprehended what this meant: the tyrant wanted his son for the vilest purpose of pederasty. Mehmet was truly demoniacal. The duke gave a stern response: “It is not our custom to hand over my own child to be despoiled by him. It would be far better for me if the executioner were sent to take my head.” But this would not suffice; the messenger persisted that the son must go. “If you want him”, said the duke, “you will have to seize him.” The messenger returned these words to Mehmet who then ordered him, “Take the executioner with you, and bring me back the boy. Let the executioner bring the duke and his sons.”
When they arrived the duke bade his wife farewell, and left with the executioner alongside his son and son-in-law, Kantakouzenos. Mehmet ordered that their heads be cut off. The young boy wept, but his courageous father told him to be of good cheer and be ready to die. Their souls were prepared for eternal glory, and their heads adorned with the crowns of righteousness. As the father watched his son’s head being severed off and his son-in-law being decapitated, he expressed the most sublime level of faith by murmuring, “I thank Thee Lord,” and “Thou art just, Lord.” What modern Christian today, who preaches nothing but watered down doctrine, empty love and vague faith, would be able to endure such torment and still exemplify this great degree of loyalty to God? This was Christianity in its purest form.
It was now the father’s turn to be beheaded. “Brother,” he told the executioner, “grant me a little time to pray.” The request was granted and he entered a small chapel that was within the palace. He made his prayer, exited the chapel, and as he was walking he looked and saw the two bodies of his sons and noticed that they were still twitching. He bowed, praised God, and down came the sword and took his head. The killer picked up the heads and presented them to Mehmet, who later ordered for the chief nobles of the city and palace officials to be slaughtered. From among their wives and boys he selected a multitude for his sadistic pleasure. The historian Phranza was amongst the Christians who were sold into slavery, and after four months of being yoked he escaped and ransomed his wife. His daughter murdered, and his two sons were forced to become the victims of Mehmet’s pedophilia. One of them, aged fifteen, refused to be raped and so was stabbed to death by the possessed sultan.
THE MARTYRS IN HEAVEN
The city was now empty, with nothing but bodies lying dead, soundless, and having neither form nor beauty. Quiet horror was all that could be felt, hope could have never been so absent. The souls of the dead transcended into the eternal realm, and now they sit amongst those saints who were seen by John who wrote of them in his Revelation:
“I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus; and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.” (Revelation 20:4)
The image is the Blackstone in the Kaaba, which the Muslims force Christians under penalty of death to bow down to. The mark is the words of the Call to Prayer, that there is no god but Allah and Muhammad is his messenger. It is the same remark that the sheikh cried in the Great Church of Constantinople. It is amazing to ponder on the fact that some of the greatest pagan kingdoms wanted to take either Rome, Constantinople, Jerusalem, or all three. Hannibal almost succeeded in taking Rome, the Sassanid Persians almost captured Constantinople and succeeded in stealing Jerusalem, but failed to take the Italian city. Islam, the ultimate Satanic religion, and the last of the two horns of the Beast, was able to capture the lands of the former powers of the East, such as Carthage and the rest of North Africa, Persia, Babylon, Assyria, Jerusalem, and all the Roman empire of Constantinople. When they tried to take Rome in Italy in 846, they plundered the churches of St. Paul and St. Peter, but they could never triumph over the city.
The terrified Constantinople was now to be ruled by cruel luxury, where the floating waters of the Bosporus are overshadowed by the silken tents of tyrants drunk off lusciousness, where sultans are unceasingly spoiled by the passions of the palaces of pleasure, and their eyes forevermore thirsting for the lustrous sight of gold, silver, and precious stones wrested from the hands of Christians now forced from a life of liberty to slavery. In time, the city, from the jewel of Christendom, would be a land where Christians were presented gasping for breath as they were impaled or hanging by their chins upon a sharp hook as sultans listened with ease in their palaces to the poet who sang, “Let us laugh, let us play, let us enjoy the delights of the world to the full”.
ROME RESPONDS WITH A CALL TO A CRUSADE
The invasion of Constantinople sent a shaking fear into the spines of Rome; no one expected such a tragedy to occur. The trembling Pope, Nicholas V, appealed to so many kings of Christendom, but none cared; none were unsettled on the blood which was shed by the greatest of heretics. Cardinal Bessarion, Bishop of Nicaea, awaited for help in Asia Minor where the devils had ravished the great city, but no one came. He wrote desperately and passionately to Doge Francisco Foscari of Venice who told the cardinal that he promised “war against the Turks.” The promise was not fulfilled and the Ottomans saw no obstacle. The pope persistently urged crusade, and he received nothing but pathetic excuses and cruel silence. England did not respond, Alfonso V of Aragon and Naples complained of an ulcer, Charles VII was indifferent, and the emperor Fredrick III did not even attend the Imperial Diet at Regensburg done to support the crusade. So far the only one who seriously cared was Hungary, and for good reason, since Mehmet II was targeting that country as his next victim. Pope Nicholas V, on 1454, died, and a new pontificate needed to arise –one who would comprehend the threat without politics nor diplomacy. This was the Spaniard Alfonso Borja, mostly known as Pope Calixtus III. He was a product of the Reconquest, who fully understand, on account of experience, the cruelty and expansionism of the Muslim. Because of his religious fervor and his grasp on the Islamic threat, Calixtus III was the only one at this time in Western Christendom to initiate a crusade with the uttermost of concern. At his papal consecration he declared:
“I, Pope Calixtus III, promise and vow to the Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, to the Ever-Virgin Mother of God, to the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, and to all the heavenly host, that I will do everything in my power, even if need be with the sacrifice of my life, aided by the counsel of my worthy brethren, to reconquer Constantinople, which in punishment for the sin of man has been taken and ruined by Mahomet II, the son of the devil and the enemy of our Crucified Redeemer. Further, I vow to deliver the Christians languishing in slavery, to exalt the true Faith, and to extirpate the diabolical sect of the reprobate and faithless Mahomet of the East. For there the light of faith is almost completely extinguished. If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand be forgotten. Let my tongue cleave to my jaws, if I do not remember thee. If I make not Jerusalem the beginning of my joy, God and His holy Gospel help me. Amen.”
THE CHRISTIANS FIGHT AGAINST THE TURKS FOR THE DEFENSE OF BELGRADE
The Pope sent cardinals to France, Germany, and Poland to preach the crusade against the Ottomans. Alfonso V of Aragon and Naples joined the cause and agreed to supply fifteen galleys for the crusading fleet. Afonso V of Portugal vowed to give twelve thousand men; and St. John Capistrano, a Franciscan preacher filled with fervor, raised many a man in Hungary and Transylvania to enter the crusade. He pulled men into the righteous cause with his words filled with zeal; men more concerned about image rather than our eternal war with evil discouraged him from preaching. But one day, during the Mass, he saw, in a vision, an arrow with the words, “Fear not, John. Go down quickly. In the power of my name and of the Holy Cross thou wilt conquer the Turks.”
And so he continued his mission. The Germans, on the other hand, did nothing to assist the cause of the Cross, and its bishops grumbled most impiously because of the crusading tax. The crusaders marched on to Belgrade, for if Belgrade fell the whole of southeastern Europe would be open to the Turks. Capistrano brought eight thousand men, while Hunyadi led about sixteen thousand. Such numbers were inferior to the eighty thousand jihadists Mehmet had under his grasp. Pope Calixtus III called on all archbishops, abbots and priests to pray, fast and give penance for deliverance from the Turks. The warriors arrived in Belgrade, Capistrano said Mass, and commanded the other priests present to not participate in the fighting, but to tend the wounded. Shells struck the walls of the city, and such a terrifying bombardment continued on for two weeks. But still the saints remained steadfast. It came to their knowledge that the Turks were planning on cutting off the city from all outside support, but to such a worry Capistrano left the city with a promise that he would return with another army. On his arrival he brought with him a rustic bunch; the Ottomans were already there, and their numbers caused so much fear that Hunyandi, looking upon the lowly army of Capistrano, even proposed retreating. Capistrano would not allow it, and he sharply told Hunyandi that they would never leave, but would go down fighting.
The Crusaders under Hunyandi advanced with two hundred boats, and as they fought a naval battle, Capistrano stood on the shore holding up high a crucifix which the pope had given him, declaring “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus!” The Christian prevailed on the waters, and the fighting continued in Belgrade itself. The Turks beat the walls with their canons, and at that time all seemed hopeless. Hunyandi again suggested retreat, and again Capistrano turned it down. The Turks penetrated the walls at certain parts of the city and were in the midst of the Christians. Turk and Christian fought hand to hand in the streets as Hunyandi directed them, and Capistrano held high the Holy Cross. As the crucifix remained ascended, the Christians advanced. On Every street and in almost every building fighting took place. Turkish artillery was now of little help; the gunners could not see the enemy. It was at this moment that the preying horned owls were blinded, and the strong falcons prevailed. By the next morning the Turks began their retreat from the streets which were now engulfed in blood. The Christians followed through and relentlessly pursued them to finish them off. Hunyandi was able to seize some of the Turks’ guns and use them on his enemy, and an arrow struck the body of Mehmet, the wound compelling the sound for the retreat. And as all of this took place, there stood the saintly fighter, Capistrano, with arms stretched above his head toward Heaven, and his hands gripped on the crucifix. By this we are so reminded of that holy day in which the Hebrew saints defeated the heathen Amalekites as Moses stood holding his staff up to the air:
“And it came to pass, when Moses held up his hand, that Israel prevailed: and when he let down his hand, Amalek prevailed. But Moses’ hands were heavy; and they took a stone, and put it under him, and he sat thereon; and Aaron and Hur stayed up his hands, the one on the one side, and the other on the other side; and his hands were steady until the going down of the sun. And Joshua discomfited Amalek, and his people with the edge of the sword.” (Exodus 17:11-13)
The Holy Spirit never ceased to work through His saints, from Israel onwards, it continued, from Moses to Capistrano, from Hunyandi to Joshua. The warpath of the infidel Turk had been hindered by this great victory, which moved Pope Calixtus III so much that he called it, “the happiest event of my life.” They massacred fifty-thousand Turks in that battle. Calixtus III would also appoint an ex-Muslim from Albania who converted to Christianity, named Skanderbeg, as “Captain-General for the Turkish war,” and he would lead successful attacks on the Turks until his death in 1468. Now was the time to set the final blow upon the Turk, if only Christendom arose at that moment the crescent would have been driven fully out of Europe.