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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Lamentation for the Fall of Constantinope on this day 1453

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The preceding weeks had passed full of omens. A lunar eclipse; an inexplicable darkness; and a strange light playing about the towers of the great cathedral of the Hagia Sophia (later a mosque, now a museum):  The priests muttered prayers and crossed themselves and said the Holy Spirit was departing the city. Constantine Palaiologus, the last of the Caesars, grim with the afflatus of 1,500 years, removes the imperial purple so as to be indistinguishable from any other soldier before joining his troops in battle and is presumed killed defending the city walls. To the Sultan's terms of surrender he had responded: 

"To abandon 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." One legend says the emperor was turned to marble by an angel and secreted within a cave beneath the Golden Gate, where he sleeps to this day, sword in hand, until Christian Europe needs him again. In reality he was most likely cut to pieces by Ottoman swords and buried in a mass grave. With him died the Byzantine Empire (that is, the Eastern Roman Empire) and the last echo of the classical world ("Homer and Plato have died a second death", a contemporary chronicler lamented). The Modern Era is traditionally reckoned from this date.
In two parts


O God, the heathen have come into your inheritance, they have defiled your holy temple, O Lord. They have given the dead bodies of your servants to the beasts of the earth. They have shed their blood like water round about Jerusalem and there was no one to bury them. We have become a reproach to our neighbors, subjected to scorn and derision from those around us. How long, O Lord? Again how long, O Lord? Will you be angry forever? How long shall your jealousy burn as fire? Pour out your wrath on the nations that do not know you, and on kingdoms which have not called upon your name. Do not remember our old sins, but quickly help us, and have mercy on us.


Apparently the choir dress of the Great Church- rhe cantors (psaltes) wore wide-brimmed hats (skiadion) or tall "bullet" hats (skaranikon) and dressed in special cloaks (kamision and phelonion) girded with a belt (sfiktourion). This cantors' costume tradition was lost after the Fall of Constantinople in 1453 leaving the cantor dressed only with a black robe (rason) of the Eastern Church.
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