Fall of Constantinople




  1. Students should know that 1000 years after the fall of Rome, Constantinople fell to the Moslems named Turks.
  2. Students should have some idea why this is important in history.


Possible Lesson Plan:

  1. Open with prayer.
  2. Tell the story of the Fall of Constantinople:


In 1451 the Moslem Turks had a new king, Mehmet. Mehmet had only one idea in his mind; he told his generals, “There is only one thing I want: Give me Constantinople!” Mehmet was sure he could conquer the great capital of the Byzantine Empire. So, he gathered a great army to prepare for his attack, and built huge numbers of ships until he had the greatest navy in the East. He also built a great cannon, so big that it had to be drawn by 60 oxen and loaded by 200 men. The cannon was a new weapon; could the walls of the city withstand it?

Constantinople, weakened by the Crusaders, had only an army of 8000 soldiers and 30 ships. But, the city was built on a peninsula -- a strip of land surrounded on three sides by the sea. See the picture of the city on the next page. A giant cable, or boom, protected the Golden Horn side from enemy ships entering. There were huge walls around the whole city; these had held off many Moslem armies over hundreds of years. The Byzantine Christians sent a plea to the Bishop of Rome, the Pope, for help, but none was granted officially since the churches had officially separated 400 years before. Nevertheless, a few hundred soldiers and a dozen ships came across the sea to help their fellow Christians against the Moslems.

Mehmet moved his army into place on the day after Easter in 1453. He asked the Emperor to surrender and give the city to the Moslems; the Emperor would not give up that easily. Soon the huge cannons were pounding the walls, but the walls held. Mehmet’s ships held the waterways and kept food from reaching the city. But, he could not enter the city. Finally, Mehmet built a huge pontoon bridge across the water. Now his armies could attack from both sides. There were not enough Christians to defend the entire wall! The Christians were hungry and weak. But, they continued to fight.

Finally, the Turks prepared for their last big attack. The Emperor spoke to his people and told them to be ready to die for their Lord and their homes. Then the Christians all took commun­ion in the many churches of the city and went to the walls to be ready for battle. In the middle of the night, Mehmet attacked. The thick walls of the city were no match for the huge cannon. This time his troops rushed up the walls of the city and charged into Constantinople. For three days, the Moslems sacked the city, killing all Christians they could find, stripping all the riches of the homes and churches, and burning whole sections of the wonderful city. The great Church of St. Sophia was renamed a Moslem mosque. The Byzantine Empire, outliving Rome by a thou­sand years, was finally defeated.


  1. Discuss for a bit weapons of war. Boys will like this lesson. What weapons can they think of? What were some early weapons? (bows and arrows, spears) Draw them. How might an army attack a city like Constantinople with these weapons? How did a war with these weapons sound? Look? How might the city be defended? How would a city be built so as to be easy to defend? With the invention of gunpowder and cannons (and later, guns), all war was changed. How might an army with cannons attack a city? What about sound and sights now? War has now become noisy! How can the city be defended? Were castles and walls as important as before?


  1. Play a learning game: Pass the Ball. Hold a small ball. Sit in a circle. Begin the story of the fall of Constantinople. Pass the ball to the next student, who must continue the story. He passes it to the next student and on and on until the entire story is reviewed.


  1. Make “Headline Stories”: Give students a pile of old newspapers. Have each come up with a good headline for today’s lesson, along the lines of “Walls of Constantinople Today Fall Before Turks”. Cut out letters from headlines in newspaper and glue to a piece of construction paper to make their own headline.


  1. Close with prayer: Lord, give us the courage of those brave Christians in Constantinople when Mehmet attacked.