Thursday, November 7, 2019

Why Hasn't the Tomb of Mehmed the Conqueror Been Opened?

By Nikos Heiladakis

While the cinematic success of Fatih 1453 has broken all records for movie ticket sales in Turkey, which has been blamed even by Turkish historians for major historical inaccuracies, once again the issue of Mehmed the Conqueror's tomb and all the possible mysteries hidden there have entered into public debate, which for many is a big taboo for Turkey's very existence.

In an important interview with the Turkish daily Hurriyet on April 15, 2012, Turkish writer Ahmet Ümit presented his new book, To Kill the Sultan, a historical novel about the life of Mehmed the Conqueror. He states that there is a need to finally open his grave in order to investigate exactly what happened at his death. According to the author of the work, To Kill the Sultan, Mehmed the Conqueror probably did not die naturally but was poisoned. This fact is of great importance to Ahmet Ümit because if it proves to be the case, then, as the Turkish author argued, a major taboo will collapse Turkey's very existence. Indeed, Ahmet Ümit called Fatih's poisoning a "historical stain" and did not hesitate to even request a histological examination to determine the true cause of his death.

It should be noted that the tomb of Mehmed the Conqueror is kept hermetically sealed, as there were rumors in the past that if opened it would reveal that Fatih, at least at the end of his life, had embraced Orthodox Christianity and perhaps for this reason was poisoned. The first to openly talk about this issue was a great Turkish politician and poet, Yahya Kemal Beyatli, and this is mentioned by Turkish writer Resat Erem Kotsu in his book, Ottoman Leaders. This forbidden testimony is highly revealing of the true religious identity of the great Fatih of the Ottomans, Mehmed the Conqueror. He writes in the book: "At the time of Abdul Hamid II, in the early part of the twentieth century, a large water pipe had been broken in the quarter of the great mosque of the Conqueror, Fatih. Fatih was built between the years 1463 and 1470, on the ruins of the demolished Church of the Holy Apostles, beneath which many Byzantine kings are buried. In this church Gennadios had established the Patriarchate with the permission of Mehmed after the fall. In 1454 the Patriarch voluntarily abandoned the church because it contained the corpse of a Turk and feared that the Greeks would be charged with the crime. The construction of the mosque was undertaken by the Greek architect Christodoulos, who took care to preserve the foundations of the demolished church. However, during the repair of the damaged pipeline, Abdul Hamid ordered the tomb of Mehmed next to the mosque to be opened, in order to identify any damage and repair it. The tomb was then opened and at a depth of three meters an iron hatch was found from where a stone staircase led to the underground hall of the Byzantine church. It was there that the marble tomb was found with the embalmed body of Mehmed, and a portrait painted by the Italian painter Bellini five months before the Conqueror's death. For many, this fact is the greatest proof that Mehmed wanted to be buried as a Christian and Byzantine king in the midst of the other Byzantine emperors."

The Sultan Abdul Hamid, who for political reasons at that time had abandoned Bektashism (that is, a heretical form of Islam), and followed and embraced Sunnism (that is, an Orthodox form of Islam), was overwhelmed by panic and ordered the tomb of Mehmed to be sealed. The above happened before 1908 and since then the tomb of Mehmed has not been reopened. That is why it is impossible today to prove this Beyatli testimony. However, it is a testimony of a prominent Turk, who does not serve any purpose and had no reason to present Mehmed as a Christian. Today that place is forbidden and no one, neither archaeologist nor religious leader, is allowed to approach it, thereby intensifying the mystery of the Byzantine royal tombs and the tombs of the sultans of the Ottoman Empire.

It is a fact that similar testimonies have been circulating in Turkey at times, but for obvious reasons it has not been widely circulated. It is noteworthy, however, that on December 19, 1996, the weekly Turkish-language weekly magazine Aktuel, of the well-known newspaper Sabah, had the following impressive headline: "Was the Conqueror Christian?" And below it had the caption: "Historians have so far been unable to solve this mystery, 540 years since his death."

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.