Episode 22 AD 1414 – 1453

The Fall of Constantinople

Part 2 – In 1453 the Turks took Constantinople. This event finally ended the last remnant of the Roman Empire. It also shook Europe, challenged accepted beliefs about divine Providence and destroyed ancient certainties about the natural order of the world.

1453 was also the year in which the Valois monarchy won the 100 Years War, crystallizing for the future two distinct political ‘communities of identity’ – that of an England and that of a France.

Such enormous endings and new beginnings, happening simultaneously, provide for us a threshold historical moment, from which we can look out upon the period we call the Renaissance.

Contents of the video (61 mins.)

  • As the 100 Years War dragged on, Henry V Plantagenêt (king of England, Duke of Aquitaine) defeated his Valois rival, the king of France. An alliance with the Duke of Burgundy against the Valois made him the heir to the crown of France.
  • The emergence of ‘Middle English’ language, a compound of Anglo-Saxon roots with a heavy overlay of French, which is the basis of the English we speak today.
  • It seems that the Plantagenêt dynasty would become kings of France. The fortunes of the beleaguered Valois were restored by Jeanne d’Arc, a 17-year old religious visionary.
  • The princely, or Renaissance, court as a new political and social phenomenon. The most famous princely court was that of the Dukes of Burgundy.
  • The Duke of Burgundy fell out with the English lords of northern France, and re-allied himself with Charles VII de Valois, creating the conditions for a French victory.
  • Charles VII de Valois creates the first features of a standing army. His first enterprise was a failed attempt to take Genoa, his second was a campaign to retake Normandy.
  • In 1453 the Valois dynasty – ‘France’ – won the 100 Years War. England descended into civil war – the ‘War of the Roses’.
  • At the same moment, Constantinople was falling to Turkish Sultan Mehmet II.
  • Everyone could see this calamity coming, but western Europe was too politically self-consumed to come to its aid.
  • At Constantinople the union of the Orthodox and Latin churches was rejected for a final time.
  • John Hunyadi of Hungary’s relief Crusade was annihilated at Varna.
  • As the great siege began, Venice and the pope sent some help, while the Genoan warrior-noble Giustiniani took command of the backbone of the city’s defenders.
  • The final moment of the Roman Empire came as Emperor John Palaiologos was killed facing the Turks as they stormed through the Romanos Gate.
  • The hours immediately following the fall of the City.

Now with the audio-only version included

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