Constantine XI Palaiologos

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Saint Constantine XI Palaiologos the Ethnomartyr (Gr: Κωνσταντίνος ΙΑ' Δραγάσης Παλαιολόγος, also Dragases ), was the last reigning emperor of the Palaiologos Dynasty as well as the last of the Roman Emperors. Born in 1404 AD in Mystras, he ruled from 1449 until his death on May 29, 1453, at the Fall of Constantinople.

Brief history

Constantine was the son of Emperor Manuel II. He was trained as a soldier and in 1441 conquered the Morea Peninsula of Greece. It had long been under the Frankish principality of 'Achaia' [1] Constantine was crowned Emperor January 6, 1449 AD succeeding his brother. A little less than five years later in 1453 AD he was killed during the final assaults by the Turkish Sultan, Mehmed II on Constantinople. Constantine, with some 8,000 Greeks, Venetians, and Genoese, had faced 150,000 Turkish besiegers under the Sultan, and after almost two months of heroic defense, directed by the emperor, the city and the empire fell. Constantine died fighting with the last of his men.[2]. Going back to Augustus and the ancient Roman Empire, he was the 138th and last Roman Emperor.

Saintly Status

Eastern Orthodox and Greek-Catholics consider Constantine XI a saint, but he has not been officially recognized as such. One of the reasons for this was that in the centuries of Ottoman rule, any effort on the part of the Orthodox Church to officially glorify Constantine XI as a saint would have been seen as an act of rebellion, and hence decidedly ill-advised. After the Greek War of Independence (1821-1831), when the Greek Orthodox Church once again had freedom to act, an official act of glorification was thought to be superfluous, on account of longstanding veneration as a saint and martyr, specifically, a national martyr or ethnomartyr, (Greek: Eθνομάρτυρας). However, the erection of the statue of "Saint Constantine XI the Ethnomartyr" in the square in front of the Metropolitan Cathedral of Athens, with the formal blessing of the Church authorities, appears to be a semi-official act of recognition. His feast falls on 29 May.[3].

The Russian Menologion indicates commemoration days for the Emperor on May 29 and May 30. The entry under May 30 is as follows: ‘On this day we commemorate the suffering of the right-believing Emperor Constantine under the ungodly Turkish King, who himself became ruler.’ The entry for May 29 reads simply: ‘Emperor Constantine, who suffered under the Turks.’[4].

See also

Further Reading


  1. 'Achaia': A state established by the Crusaders.
  2. Columbia Encyclopedia: Constantine XI.
  3. Constantine XI: Unofficial Saint at Wikipedia.
  4. A Special Note Concerning the Status of Blessed Constantine XI. Society of St. John Chrysostom of Ayatriada Rum Katoliki Kilise.
  5. Before becoming a nun and assuming the name Ipomoni, Helena was was the mother of Constantine XI Palaiologos. She lived a monastic life for over 25 years, after entering into the habit after the death of her husband. She died 1450AD and is commemorated by the church May 29. The relics of her skull and her icon are found at the Monastery of St. Patapios, Loutraki of Korinthos, Greece.

External Links

Coinage of Constantine XI: