Vlahs never called themselves Vlahs. They called themselves Romans as did citizens of the Roman Empire and of Byzantium. The Roman Empire called itself Romania as well as Byzantium which was The Roman Empire of the East. The City of Byzantium was called New Rome-Roma Nova.
|Bishops of Byzantium|
|St. Andrew the Apostle|
|325 Council I, Nicaea I,|
|Meletian Schism, 361-401|
|Patriarchs of Constantinople|
|381 Council II, Constantinople I,|
Arianism condemned; regarded as
Roman Catholic orthodoxy;
Patriarch of Constantinople
Second in Precedence after Rome
|St. John I|
|431 Council III, Ephesus,|
|449 "Robber" Council,|
Ephesus II, Monophysitism
affirmed, still recognized
by Monophysite Churches;
451 Council IV, Chalcedon,
Monophysitism condemned; fatal
disaffection of Syria & Egypt
|553 Council V, Constantinople II,|
Monophysitism condemned again
|680-681 Council VI,|
Pope Honorius I & Patriarch
Sergius I condemned as heretics
|787 Council VII,|
Nicaea II, Iconoclasm condemned
under guidance of Empress Irene
|Iconoclasm finally repudiated|
under guidance of
Empress Theodora, 843
|869-870 Council VIII,|
Constantinople IV, "Anti-Photian
Council," patched up
filioque and other differences,
later repudiated by East, last
Oecumenical Council recognized
by West which included the
|significant scholar; sends|
Cyril & Methodius on mission
to Moravia; Photian Schism,
861-867; deposed, 867,
by Emperor Basil I;
New Council, Constantinope V,
879-880, repudiated Council VIII
Latin Church, 1054
|John XI Beccus||1275-1282|
|Ottoman Conquest, 1453;|
Church of the Holy
Convent of St. Mary
|Symeon I of|
|Palace of the Wallachians,|
Vlach Saray, 1587-1597
|Matthew II||1596, 1603|
|St. Demetrius Monastery|
at Xyloporta, 1597-1599;
Church of St. George,
Phanar Quarter, 1600
|Cyril I Lucaris||1612,|
|Cyril II Kontares||1633,|
Constantinople now fades from memory. It's name resonates like something from legend or mythology, and many who hear the name may not quite know what it was or where to place it in their conceptual or historical universe. Indeed, it belongs to something that most would think of as oxymoronic or impossible: the Mediaeval Roman Empire. As Schopenhauer says of what is excellent, Constantinople is "like a meteorite, sprung from an order of things different from that which prevails here" [The World as Will and Representation, Volume I, §59, Dover Publications, 1966, E.F.J. Payne translation, p.324]. To someone who hears only the drumbeat that Rome "Fell" in 476, this introduces a sort of cognitive dissonance. Something isn't quite right there. Something doesn't compute. Something must be rethought. Indeed, Constantinople requires much rethinking. It was the last capital of the Rome Empire, Roma Nova, "New Rome," or Constantinou Polis, the "City of Constantine," for many centuries the largest and richest city in Europe and Christendom, the repository of much of Greek and Roman Classical learning. When it Fell to the Turks in 1453, it became much the same thing again, the largest and richest city, in Islâm (outside, perhaps, India), a repository of its own wealth, learning, and romance, still echoing in the Maltese Falcon . Now, as Istanbul, the City is simply a large modern city, the largest in Turkey, but no longer a capital, a fortress, a redoubt, or a beacon of culture or religion. Nevertheless, among the ruins, like those of the great Land Walls, there is one fragile institution that survives from the earliest days of the City: the Office of Christian Patriarch of Constantinople.
The Cathedral Church of Constantinople was the Church of "Holy Wisdom," Hagia Sophia in Greek, Sancta Sophia in Latin, and Ayasofya as rendered into Turkish (based on the Mediaeval and Modern Greek pronunciation). This was built in its present form by the Emperor Justinian, although subsequently damaged by earthquakes and then restored. At the Fall of Constantiople to the Turks in 1453, the Church was converted into a mosque, with minarets added. Fortunately, the many mosaics of the Church were painted over rather than destroyed. With the secularization of the Turkish state by Atatürk, the building became a museum, and the mosaics were uncovered. However, even while a small chapel has been added for Islamic worship, Christian worship is still prohibited in the building. While in its day Hagia Sophia was architecturally unique, and remained so for centuries -- also as the largest Church in Christendom -- the Ottomans began to build great mosques in the same style, culminating in the Sultan Ahmad (I), or Blue, Mosque nearby, built adjacent to, and using many of the stones from, the classical Hippodrome. The style of the Church has thus entered the canons of Islamic architecure, even while the form of churches developed separately.
While the early Church Councils conceded to the Papacy the position of primus inter pares, "first among equals," this did not give to the Popes any special authority. Second place in precedence was acknowledged for the Patriarch of Constantinople by the Ecumenical Council II of 381, though this was somewhat resented by the older Patriarchates at Alexandria and Antioch. The elevated status for Constantinople was because, of course, this had become the seat of the Emperor, beginning with Constantine, and the principal capital of the Roman Empire. Even when there was a Western Emperor, his seat was no longer at Rome, but in Milan and Ravenna. Indeed, more of the Ecumenical Councils were held in Constantinople (II, V, VI, VIII) than elsewhere -- and Council IV was held just across the Bosporus in Chalcedon.
In Constantinople it was unmistakable that the Emperor imposed a unity on the Church that it would not otherwise have, and that would not otherwise be claimed until the Papacy began arrogating powers to itself that otherwise had belonged only to the Emperor or to Church Councils. I have discussed above how the term "Caesaro-Papism," often used for the role of the Emperor in Constantinople, is applied more appropriately to the Popes themselves, whose claims and accumulation of power were an innovation, while the role of the Emperor had precedents all the way back to Constantine (and earlier, when a Roman Emperor was the Pontifex Maximus). What ends up being distinctive about the Orthodox Churches in communion with Constantinople is that, although Constantinople was responsible for the establishment of several such Churches, e.g. Bulgaria and Russia, the new ones ended up with independent authority, i.e. they were autocephalous, and were in no way subordinate to Constantinople the way the Popes expected national churches to be obedient to them. The principle is still that Orthodox Churches base their doctrine on the Ecumenical Councils. Orthodox Churches not in communion with the Patriarch of Constantinople today reject one of the seven Councils noted in the list of Patriarchs. Thus, the Church of the East rejects Council III and the Monophysite Churches of Egypt and Syria reject Council IV. As shown in the diagram, the Churches loyal to Constantinople in the traditional Patriarchates, generally called "Melkite" ("Royal" or, really, "Imperial"), are the Antiochian Church of Antioch, the Greek Orthodox Church of Jerusalem, and the Melkite Church of Alexandria. Otherwise, we see national Churches of Greece, Bulgaria, Russia, etc., that are in agreement with Constantinople without being governed by it. Since the Patriarch of Constantinople, living in Turkey, no longer is responsible for the national Church of a traditionally Christian nation, he has come to be simple the "Ecumenical" Patriarch.
A curious institution that is governed by the Patriarch of Constantinople, or at least operates under his direct authority, is the "Holy Mountain," Hágion Óros, Mt. Áthôs. This is the most north-eastern of three peninsulas that extend out into the Aegean Sea from the larger peninsula of the Chalcidice. There are still 20 active monasteries on the Mountain, with a number of smaller settlements and institutions. The road from the mainland ends at Uranopolis (or Ouranoupoli, one now usually sees spellings that reflect modern Greek pronunciation -- I have Latinized many of the names, but the spelling of the monasteries especially reflects this trend). From there one (men only) must take a boat down to Daphne. From Daphne a road, recently built, goes up to Caryes (Karyes, Karyai), the town that is the administrative center of the Mountain, on the land of the Koutloumousiou Monastery. Although most Greek churches operate under the authority of the autocephalous Greek Orthodox Church, Mt. Áthôs is still under the direct jurisdiction of the Patriarch of Constantinople. Over the years, monasteries were founded, not just by Greeks, but by Georgians, Serbs, Bulgarians, Russians, and even Italians. The Italians are now gone (there being the Schism and all), but there are also (modern) Romanians present, though they do not have their own monastery. Mt. Áthôs thus unites all the Orthodox Churches who share the theology of Constantinople. The mysticism of the theology of Mt. Áthôs contrasts with the humanism of Mistra -- this is discussed elsewhere in relation to the Renaissance. The Great Laura Monastery, the first of many in this most sacred place, the Mt. Hiei, , of Orthodox Christianity, was built (961-963) by St. Athanasius during the Macedonian Dynasty. Tradition holds with some earlier foundations, and several small hermitages, as well as individual hermits in caves and elsewhere, certainly had been there for some time; but the Great Laura is the first for which there is contemporary historical documentation.
There are many more Patriarchs of Constantinople than there are Popes. Since the Emperor was present in the City, and religious issues were political issues that concerned the Emperor and the populace, many Patriarchs were deposed in doctrinal, jurisdictional, and purely political disputes, sometimes even to be reinstated. This problem continued under the Ottomans, when the Sult.ân deposed Patriarchs 105 times, and 6 were even killed. Also, the Sult.ân once (1587) confiscated the Patriarchal seat, at the monastery of St. Mary Pammakaristos. The traditional Cathedral of Constantinople, of course, was the great Church of Santa (Sancta/Hagia) Sophia. With the Ottoman Conquest, this was immediately taken over as a mosque. The Patriarchate briefly was based at the second church of the City, the Church of the Holy Apostles, which may already have been in disrepair. Afterwards, it was demolished by the Ottomans for the Mosque of the Sult.ân Meh.med II (Fâtih. Jâmi-i). When the Patriarchate settled in the Phanar Quarter, it was forbidden to build a new church, and forbidden to have any church with a dome. The church of St. George has been rebuilt more than once, and is still the seat of the Patriarch.
As in the Francis Ford Coppola quote discussed above, I begin to see popular comparisons of the Othrodox Church with Catholicism and Protestantism. Much Orthodox antipathy seems to be directed at St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430), even though Augustine lived long before the Schism between the Churches and so does properly count as a Saint in the Orthodox as well as in the Catholic tradition. Nevertheless, the Orthodox view seems to be that things in the West really began to go wrong starting with him. Augustine is unfavorably compared with his contemporary, St. John I Chrysostom ("Golden Mouth," c.347-407), Patriarch of Constantinople, 398-404. One issue that definitely engages moderns is their attitude towards sex. Augustine sees Original Sin embodied in sex, and the involuntary sexual response itself represents the rebellion of Adam and Eve against God. Before the Fall, arousal was under voluntary control. This now seems rather bizarre, as it already did to Chrysostom. The Greek Church did not make the strong connection between sex and sin that the Catholic Church did. One consequence of this may have been the allowance for clerical marriage under Constantinople but the eventual requirement of clerical celibacy under Rome. To be sure, Christianity is conflicted. St. Paul does say "It is better to marry than to burn" [I Corinthians 7:9], where we are given to understand that fornication is punishable by damnation. At the same time, orthodox Christianity did not go as far as Neoplatonism, Manicheanism, or Gnosticism, where matter and the body can be construed as intrinsically evil, requiring celibacy for all those, lay or clerical, seeking Salvation. For a world-denying religion, Christianity represented a kind of Middle Way between ascetic mortification and hedonistic excess. Just where it comes down in the Middle is the question. It is clear from Genesis that the Fall has something to do with sex, since Adam and Eve become ashamed of their bodies. Whether this is a matter of privacy or of evil is open to interpretation. After the Essenes, Judaism found nothing wrong about suitably private sexual activity. The Orthodox Church seems more in this vein. Having rebelled, not against God but against Catholicism, Protestantism has gone in many directions, though nearly all Protestant Churches have become accustomed to divorce, despite clear statements by Jesus against it except for adultery [Matthew 5:32]. The Catholic Church had drifted into forbidding divorce for any reason -- but now increasingly provides annulments as the equivalent. Orthodox divorce is easier than in Catholicism, though not as easy as in Protestantism. Orthodox priests can marry, but then they cannot rise further in the hierarchy. Thus, the Church tends to get governed by priests who have taken monastic vows on top of the priesthood, and remain celibate. This is definitely more in the Christian tradition, where Protestants completely ignore the saying of Jesus: "And there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it" [Matthew 19:12]. Catholics forgot the "he that is able" part, while Protestants forget the whole thing.
Although the list of Bishops of Byzantium is given from the early days of the Church, this was not a particularly important city at the time, and one wonders about its historicity even more than with the early Bishops given for Rome. Much the same might be said about the early Armenian Church. The establishment of Christianity in Armenia (301) and by Constantine (312) for Rome, and then the founding of Constantinople (324-330), all bring the lists fully into history -- whence to continue until the present day.
A benchmark on the survival of Classical and later Greek literature can be found in the Bibiotheca of the Patriarch Photius the Great (858-867, 877-886), which contains 280 reviews. This is not a catalogue of existing literature, or of a particular library, not even that of Photius. It is a treatment of works familiar to Photius, apart from the mainstream of general education, that Photius is recommending to his brother Tarasius. Thus, popular authors like Homer, Plato, Aristotle, or the Greek playwrights are missing from the list. Photius' treatment ranges from brief descriptions and evaluations to long summaries and discussions. Of the 386 works mentioned by Photius, 239 are theological. Nevertheless, only 43% of the text actually focuses on them. The majority of the text (in a book whose modern edition in Greek is 1600 pages long) is thus secular. For example, in addressing A History of Events After Alexander (in ten books) by the Roman historian Arrian of Nicomedia (an early member of the Second Sophistic), we get a long summary of those very events, which are often obscure enough that every description helps. Although much of Arrian survives, and his Anabasis Alexandri is the best account of the campaigns of Alexander, all we have of A History of Events After Alexander is Photius' summary. Our benchmark is that about half of the works mentioned by Photius, like the Events, are now lost. It is distressing to think of what survived, despite the Dark Ages, and then what later disasters, like the Fourth Crusade, may have cost us. It is hard to imagine an undisturbed Constantinople being subsequently so careless with its literary heritage. At no other Court of the age could visitors have found the nobility quoting Homer. [cf. Photius, The Bibiotheca, A selection translated with notes by N.G. Wilson, Duckworth, London, 1994.] Photius, whose Bibliotheca was only part of his literary output, was a major political figure and himself was responsible for the mission of Cyril and Methodius to convert the Slavs.
When the Crusaders took Constantinople in 1204, a Latin Patriarch was installed. This event, of course, is still remembered with bitterness in Greece and all the Orthodox Churches, since it fatally weakened in the Orthodox world in the face of the threat of the Turks. Even when the City was retaken by the Palaeologi in 1261, the Latin Patriarch fled, and the line continued with a titular Patriarch living in Rome until falling vacant in 1948. The position was than formally abolished, with some other Latin Patriarchates, in 1965, certainly as part of the ecumenical reconciliation of Pope Paul VI with the Patriarch Athenagoras. This confusion of multiple Patriarchs, however, is typical for the other classical Patriarchal Sees. No less than four prelates, for instance, claim the title of Patriarch of Alexandria and of Jerusalem. There are also at least six Patriarchs of Antioch. Late in Ottoman history, we get Armenian Patriarchs of Constantinople, as in the list that follows.
While most Americans would think of the Patriarch of Constantinople as the head of the Greek Orthodox Church, this is not necessarily the case and gives rise to some confusion. The problem began when Greece revolted against the Turks in 1821. The unfortunate Patriarch Gregory V (1797-1798, 1806-1808, & 1818-1821) was actually hanged because of suspected sympathy for the revolt, or perhaps just to discourage and terrorize local Greeks. Greek independence was recognized in 1830, and a Greek national Church then broke away from the Patriarchate in 1833. The Patriarch recognized the Greek Church as autocephalous in 1850. At that point, the "Greek Orthodox Church" can simply mean the Greek national Church, not the Church of the Patriarch. Further tension between Greece and the Turks occurred in the Balkan Wars and World War I, when Greece was fighting with the Allies. After the War, Greece then tried to seize Smyrna (Izmir). Soundly defeating the Greeks, the Turks directed considerable displeasure at the unfortunate Patriarch and then expelled nearly all ethnic Greeks remaining in Turkey -- as part of an "exchange" with Greece, so that Christians left Turkey and Muslims left Greece -- although many of the former were actually Turkish speaking and the latter Greek speaking. This means that the Patriarch is just about all that is left of the ancient Greek community in Istanbul.
Over the years, the question must have come up many times whether the Patriarch should simply quit what now is so unfriendly a City. Fortunately, he has not, and so a single institution continues in Istanbul that has survived right from the days of Constantine. Now, since confusion would arise by calling the Patriarch's Church "Greek Orthodox," it has become customary to identify him as the "Ecumenical" Patriarch. Before 1833, however, worries about the Church of Constantinople not being the "Greek Orthodox Church" would be anachronistic. Since the language and liturgy of the Church of Constantinople has always been Greek, "Greek Orthodox" in historic terms is always going to mean the Church that used the Greek language. "Greek Orthodox" is still used for other Churches, as of Jerusalem, that have nothing to do with the Greek national Church but that are in doctrinal communion with the Patriarch of Constantinople.
The Walls of Constantinople, initially completed in 413, despite their preservation, are rarely noted or acknowledged as one of the architectural wonders of the Ancient World. This is probably because of the ideological blind spot that afflicts historians who dislike the world of Late Antiquity. There came to be strong religious associations with them. The Virgin of Blachernae -- the Blacherniotissa -- was an Icon that for centuries was though to protect the City. On the eve of the Turkish conquest, the legend is that the Icon was taken up to Heaven, a sure sign that the City would fall. Similarly, the last Emperor, Constantine XI, whose body is supposed to have disappeared during the sack of the City, was believed by many to subsequently be asleep under the Golden Gate, though which he would rise and reënter the City. This may be one reason why the Golden Gate has been kept closed up since the Conquest.