Saturday, May 29, 2021

Today on the Almanac, we examine the year 1453 and its significance for the modern age.

*** Notes for Today’s Show ***

It is the 29th of May 2021. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at I’m Dan van Voorhis.

There are certain years burned into our collective memories. From 1066 to 1776, perhaps a 476, 1917 is wild, 1517 marks a Renaissance in the church and is obviously important around here. 2020 will probably have more “retrospectives” in the next decade than the above years.

But in order to highlight the gravity of today’s memorial, I’d like to add the year 1453 to the tops of “most important year” conversations.

And, it’s worth noting, that we have spent a good amount of time in just the past month or so with the Eastern Empire and the Eastern Orthodox Church.


It was on this, the 29th of May in 1453 that a months-long siege of Constantinople by Mehmed II and his Ottoman Troops finally breached the walls of Constantinople. Here is Diarmaid MacCulloch’s description of this day:

“On this final day, 29 May 1453, matins was still in progress in the Great Church at the summit of a city overwhelmed with murder, rape, and looting, when the Ottoman soldiers battered down the massive door reserved for imperial processions and overwhelmed the worshippers during their defiant last act of divine praise. The Emperor’s head was stuffed with straw and paraded around the cities of the Muslim world; his dynasty was scattered from the city of Constantine.”

Fun fact: the Ottomans used canons to breach the walls. The biggest was built by a Hungarian named Orban. It was 27 feet long and the barrel had a diameter of 30 inches (big enough for a human to crawl in!) It needed to be taken to Constantinople, 140 miles away. Something like 200 men and 60 oxen had to haul it for 6 weeks.

- It marks the end of the post-Classical Millennium (a fancier, and nicer way of saying “Middle Ages”)

- It marks the end of the “Roman Empire”

- It dashed the hopes for an Eastern and Western ecclesiastical rapprochement

- The Mediterranean would be displaced as the “center” of the Northern Hemisphere (See the Atlantic, Spain, Portugal, the New World, and Russia)

- The dispersion of power, power vacuums, would lead to new schisms and socio-political developments (see the Renaissance and Reformation)

-The rise of the Ottoman Empire (the “new Mongols”)

THIS WAS NOT, however, the “end” of the Eastern Orthodox Church. This church would adapt to Ottoman rule, establish relationships with other Eastern churches across the Middle East and Asia, and remain a significant public religious presence in the Mediterranean and beyond.

But the empire was finally dead. The glory of Rome was now officially extinguished and the modern world was ready to flower. The turning point came on this, the 29th of May in 1453 with the fall of Constantinople.

The last word for today comes from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah- this is from the 43rd chapter starting at verse 18:

“Remember not the former things,

nor consider the things of old.

Behold, I am doing a new thing;

now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?

I will make a way in the wilderness

and rivers in the desert.

The wild beasts will honor me,

the jackals and the ostriches;

for I give water in the wilderness,

rivers in the desert,

to give drink to my chosen people,

the people whom I formed for myself

that they might declare my praise."

This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 29th of May 2021 brought to you by 1517 at

The show is produced by Christopher Gillespie who reminds you that the Ottomans tried to ban coffee.

The show is written and read by Dan van Voorhis who, on this day in 2009 became a father for the first time. Happy Birthday, Coert!

You can catch us here every day- and remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness, and the redemption of all things are true…. Everything is going to be ok.

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