Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Greek Patriarchate Church of St George

Tucked up inside the remains of the old sea walls is the Church of St George which is home of the Greek Patriarchate, still revered as the mother-church by members of the Greek Orthodox congregation worldwide. 

Interior of St. George Cathedral.

The church is located in the Fener district of Istanbul (more traditionally Phanar ) means Lighthouse in Turkish but possibly name comes from fear-meaning Greek in ancient Ottoman language.   

 The patriarchate moved to this site in 1602, after starting life in Hagia Eirene and Hagia Sophia, then rotation around assorted other city churches. 

Facade of the Cathedral of St. George after restoration.

A huge fire wrote off the original basilica on the site and what you see nou is an undistinguished building dating back only 1720.  It forms the centerpiece of a complex arranges around a central courtyard which is entered via tripartite gate. 

St George at the main entrance door.

Central gate inside the building. 

Its central section, the Orta Kapi (Middle Gate( is permanently closed and painted black in memory of Patriarch Gregory V who was hanged in front of it in 1821 when Greece started a war to free itself from Ottoman control.   A second fire in 1941 destroyed many of the older out buildings, leaving behind only the attractive old library, hidden away at the end of the garden behind the church.  In 1990s it was restored to its former glory.

Inside the Patriarchal Basilica of St George at the Phanar.

If there is anywhere in Istanbul where it's still possible to get a feel for what Bysantine churches might have looked like in the heyday, it's the Patriarchate where the soaring iconostasis glitters which gold in the otherwise dimly-lit interior.

Interior of the Cathedral.

Its most important panel can be found on the far right hand side where there is a rare 12th century mosaic of St John the Baptist.  

Retable of the Cathedral.  Glass protected paintings.

Nearby, overlooking a separate altar is a second mosaic icon, this time depicting the Panagia Pammakaristos (the Most Happy Mother of God).  Set into the wall between these two treasures is a section of what is supposed to be the stone pillar against which Jesus was flogged.

Nearby the bodies of Waints Imonia, Theophano and Euphemia lie in caskets with identifying icons in front of them.

The church damaged by a fire in 1941, was not fully restored for political reasons until 1991. Its most precious objects, saved from each successive fire are:   the patriarchal throne, which is believed to date from the 5th century, some rare mosaic icons and relics of Saints Gregory the Theologian and John Chrysostom.

Patriarchs's throne.

The patriarchs's throne is thought to date back to the early fifth century and may have been made of St Johns Chrysostom, the then patriarch.  The lofty pulpit and two small octagonal tables are inlaid with mother of pearl.

Some of the bones of these two saints, which were looted from Constantinople by the Fourth Crusade in 1204, were returned to the Church of St George by Pope John Paul II in 2004.

Arches and columns interior.

During Orthodox holidays sush as Christmas and Easter the church heaves with visitors, many of whom como all the way from Greece especially for the occasion.  Don't forget that the Greek Orthodox holidays fall one week later than the Protestant/Chatolic versions.

Daily visitors come and leave their preyers and candles at the entrance of the building.

The church is open to the public from 8.30am to 4pm, but strict security screening is in place. It is visited by a stream of pilgrims from Greece and other Orthodox countries. Behind the church are the offices of the Patriarchate and the Patriarchate Library. The Church, which was part of a convent or monastery before becoming the seat of the Patriarch, is outwardly unimpressive, but its interior is lavishly decorated in the style much loved by Orthodox Christians.

Virgin Mary with the child painting at the entrance door.

Since the fall of the Ottomans and the rise of modern Turkish nationalism most of the Greek Orthodox population of Istanbul has emigrated, leaving the Patriarch in the anomalous position of a leader without a flock, at least locally. 

Mosaics at the back of the main entrance door.

Today the Church of St George serves mainly as the symbolic centre of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, and as a centre of pilgrimage for Orthodox Christians. The church is financially supported by donations from Orthodox communities in other countries.

As of now I hope you enjoy the views!

Soreya Reyes

Twitter:  @street_photos_
Instagram:  street.photos.soreyar

No comments:

Post a Comment