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On May 29, 1453, Constantinople, the capital of the Byzantine Empire,fell to the Ottoman Turks, spelling the end of the Byzantine Empire and the beginning of the Ottoman Sultanate.

The Land Walls of Constantinople, close to where the final conflict took place in 1453.

In May 2003 an event was held in Melbourne, Australia, to mark the 550th anniversary of the city's capture, to celebrate the Byzantine Empire which preceded it and the Ottoman Turkish Empire which followed it, and to build bridges between the Greek and Turkish communities.


The interior of the great cathedral of Hagia Sofia (Holy Wisdom) in Constantinople/Istanbul - now a museum.

University doctors and professors, clerics, artists, film makers and interested lay people took part. A display of ikons was complemented by a showing of Turkish Iznik enamelled tile ware. The New Varangian Guard, along with Melbourne's Mehter band, were asked to add "colour and movement". Varangian re-enactors came from up to 2000 km away to take part. A contingent from the La Trobe University Mediaeval Society provided reinforcements.

Varangians with members of the Ottoman Turkish Mehter military band of Melbourne, the only Mehter band outside Turkey. We are standing in the entry hall of Flinders Street railway station in the centre of Melbourne, which just happens to have a wonderfully Byzantine look to it.

After a launch on May 29th, the anniversary of the Fall of Constantinople/Capture of Istanbul, the event was held on the following weekend. The venue was at the Catholic University of Melbourne, a central venue, and in keeping with the multicultural nature of the endeavour. The university's Central Hall is a magnificent, ornate Victorian-era building, which effectively provided a highly appropriate atmosphere for the event.


The New Varangian Guard acted as ceremonial "doorguards" outside the venues. .

Additionally, we put on two displays - on the first day, there was an inspection of the Varangian Guards by the Imperial court.


The Emperor and Empress, and their courtiers, inspect the Varangian Guards.

The second day the Varangians carried out military drill, with commands taken from Byzantine military manuals. Vlachernai (Melbourne) garrison drilled for weeks to get the commands right and sort out problems with the sequence of marching and other actions. Varangian contingents from garrisons as far away as Mildura, Ballaratt and Adelaide were intensively drilled before the event to bring them up to speed. They only made one mistake, despite the commands being in Greek! The drill included marching, wheeling right and left, countermarching, presenting arms, and finally, advancing towards the audience with spears lowered and axes raised.


Drill practice in the car park, and the Varangians gathering in the ikon display room after the display of Byzantine military drill.


Dr Tim Dawson, a guest speaker at Project 1453, who gave a lecture on Byzantine costume. Lara of the La Trobe University mediaeval society is with him.


The Varangians as honour guards to Mr Terry Papadis and Dr Susan Aykut, two of the presenters of the keynote address, which recounted the events of Constantinople's final days from contemporary accounts.

The finale of the event, with everybody on stage, including the Varangians, the Mehter band and the Byzantine choir.

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