The Conquest of Constantinople was, beyond the shadow of a doubt, the most important event in Turkish history. On May 29th 1453, Mehmet II breached the Theodosian Walls, and the Ottomans began a lengthy reign as one of the world’s most powerful empires. Today, near the exact spot of the Byzantine Empire’s final stand, there’s a museum which recreates the battle in stunning detail.
The Panorama 1453 History Museum is unlike anything we’ve ever seen. A massive dome is painted on all sides with a 360° depiction of the siege, immersing visitors into the battle. The detail is amazing. Scenes of sword fights, Byzantine archers firing from atop the walls, soldiers pouring down hot wax onto their enemies, giant siege engines carrying marauding Turks, and literally hundreds of other figures create a feast for the eyes. In the foreground are replicas of the cannons used to attack the wall, and to the west, you can spot the conquering Sultan himself. Sitting atop his horse, Mehmet II cuts a noble figure as he surveys the destruction of the walls with grim satisfaction.
We visited on a Saturday afternoon, and were in agreement that the only thing more amazing than the museum itself was its popularity. Maybe it’s not surprising that a museum celebrating their people’s greatest victory should be a hit with Turks, but this place was packed. So full, that it was difficult to even move around. Luckily, this didn’t really detract from the experience; to the contrary, being squished in among such an enthusiastic crowd only intensified the patriotic spirit which the museum tries to whip up.
A strange and dynamic tribute to the single most significant day in the history of Turkey, the 1453 Museum is definitely worth a trip out to the land walls.