This article describes a wondrous tour in Constantinople to investigate credible information on an exciting scenario regarding the burial ground of Constantine Palaiologos. The information we gathered is astounding! Even though we were wandering around for several hours without finding exactly what we were looking for, we at least had the chance to daydream for a while. To us Greeks, Constantinople is the legendary city of our hearts, where we are allowed to daydream without the risk of being misjudged as stargazers.
The soldiers who defended Constantinople just before the Fall were hopelessly few, because the city's population was small and many young men betook to monasteries in order to avoid the recruitment. When Constantine Palaeologus asked to know about the last general recruitment’s results before the final confrontation with the Ottomans, his close partner Frantzis told him that only 4,937 out of 30,000 men were finally conscripted because the rest of them weren't able to carry arms. The king then sighed and asked him to keep the number secret.
We arrived at the Church of St. Mary of Blachernae on Easter Eve, right before the beginning of the Mass and our glance fell on the marble plate, where the Akathyst Hymn, a hymn of the Eastern Orthodox tradition, was engraved.
The Greeks remaining in Constantinople are few but there are plenty of Greek Orthodox churches. Even if all of the Orthodox population went to church every day, some of them would be empty. But that does not stop the Greeks from finding ways to liven up the churches and prevent them becoming decorated. Every Good Friday they worship the Seven Epitaphs , ensuring that all processions have a small number of attendees. Orthodox Patriarch Athenagoras used to say: "We the Greeks of Constantinople are few, but countless".
Zografeion Greek High School, which is in the historical district of Peran, was built in 1893. It was mainly funded by the benefactor Christakis Zografos and the lead architect was Pericles Photiades. Today it has only 42 students, many of whom live far from the school and even have a boat ride in front of them in order to get there. They uncomplainingly wake up very early in the morning, under hard weather conditions and cross long distances, not only to obtain Greek education but also to meet with other Greeks and keep their school and their nation alive.
Once the lights are switched on, Constantinople looks like something out of a fairytale. Its position between sea and land, its mosques and churches, the densely populated neighborhoods, the bazaars and expressive people, everything seems beautiful and exotic.
Eighty six years have passed since the Greek daily newspaper "Evening Post" was first released in Constantinople. Along with the Turkish Cumhuriyet, they are both Turkey's oldest newspapers. The Evening Post used to sell 30,000 papers, which was more than the Turkish newspapers used to sell, as the Greeks were numerous and they used to read a lot, due to their high educational level. Nowadays it sells 600 papers, 90% of which are being sold in Constantinople and the rest of them in Greece. As the number of the Greek-speaking families in Constantinople is equal to the Evening Post's circulation, this newspaper could be easily included in the Guinness Book, since it's being read by the 99,9% of its potential readers.
According to tradition, on May 29th 1453, a monk of Baloukli Abbey in Constantinople was frying fish beside the holy water springing out of the monastery’s foundation, when someone informed him that the city had been conquered. "I shall believe you only if the fish jump out of the frying pan and dive into the Holy Water", the monk answered. He had just uttered the phrase when the half-fried fish jumped into the water. That is how the Zoodohou Pigi's monastery got the name Baloukli. It derives from the Turkish word "balik", which means fish.
In February of 1451 sultan Murad died and he was succeeded by his son Muhammad, who was barely twenty years old. Constantine Palaeologos seemed to be happy when the young sultan promised to maintain the peaceful coexistence of Greeks and Turks in Byzantium, and continuing his father's policy.
The Greek hospital Baloukli in Constantinople was founded in 1753 and has 800 beds distributed in 17 buildings spread over 42,000 square metres. Its financial resources come from the exploitation of real estate and Greek family's manors, and from patients' medical expenses. The indigent Greek patients are treated free of charge and the hospital is reasonably priced for the rest of Turkish and Greek patients.
Baloukli's Greek nursing home is situated beside the Greek hospital of Constantinople. Its financial resources come from the exploitation of real estate and Greek family's manors while it only houses Orthodox Greeks, free of charge. Today more than 110 elderly live there.
In the awful morning of the 29th of May 1453 Hagia Sophia was crowded with women, children and elderly people who were attending their last service. When the Ottomans arrived, stirring trouble outside the church the heavy door was bolted. At first they tried to open it by clanking their swords on it and pushing it with their bodies. The door was not budging, until they struck it with heavy wooden beams.