>>909745 Before the beginning of the siege, Mehmed II made an offer to Constantine XI. In exchange for the surrender of Constantinople, the emperor's life would be spared and he would continue to rule in Mistra; to which, as preserved by G. Sphrantzes, Constantine replied:
>To surrender the city to you is beyond my authority or anyone else's who lives in it, for all of us, after taking the mutual decision, shall die out of free will without sparing our lives.
He led the defence of the city and took an active part in the fighting alongside his troops in the land walls. At the same time, he used his diplomatic skills to maintain the necessary unity between the Genoese, Venetian and the Greek troops.
He died the day the city fell, 29 May 1453. There were no known surviving eyewitnesses to the death of the Emperor and none of his entourage survived to offer any credible account of his death. According to Michael Critobulus (writing later in Mehmed's service) he remarked, "The city is fallen and I am still alive." Then he tore off his imperial ornaments so as to let nothing distinguish him from any other soldier and led his remaining soldiers into a last charge where he was killed.
>>909846 They were well-advised to do so, for that fate was horrible indeed. By noon the streets were running red with blood. Houses were ransacked, women and children raped or impaled, churches razed, icons wrenched from their golden frames, books ripped from their silver bindings. The Imperial Palace at Blachernae was left an empty shell. In the church of St Saviour in Chora the mosaics and frescos were miraculously spared, but the Empire's holiest icon, the Virgin Hodegetria, said to have been painted by St Luke himself,1 was hacked into four pieces and destroyed. The most hideous scenes of all, however, were enacted in the church of the Holy Wisdom. Matins were already in progress when the berserk conquerors were heard approaching. Immediately the great bronze doors were closed; but the Turks soon smashed their way in. The poorer and more unattractive of the congregation were massacred on the spot; the remainder were lashed together and led off to the Turkish camps, for their captors to do with as they liked. As for the officiating priests, they continued with the Mass as long as they could before being killed at the high altar; but there are among the Orthodox faithful those who still believe that at the last moment one or two of them gathered up the most precious of the patens and chalices and mysteriously disappeared into the southern wall of the sanctuary. There they will remain until the day Constantinople becomes a Christian city once again, when they will resume the liturgy at the point at which it was interrupted.
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