St. George's Cathedral, Istanbul

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St. George's Church
St. George's Patriarchal Temple
  • Πατριαρχικός Ναός του Αγίου Γεωργίου (Greek)
  • Aya Yorgi Kilisesi (Turkish)
Church of St. George, Istanbul (August 2010).jpg
St. George's Church is located in Istanbul Fatih
St. George's Church
St. George's Church
Location in Istanbul
41°01′45″N 28°57′07″E / 41.02913°N 28.95187°E / 41.02913; 28.95187Coordinates: 41°01′45″N 28°57′07″E / 41.02913°N 28.95187°E / 41.02913; 28.95187
LocationFener, Istanbul
Country Turkey
DenominationEastern Orthodox Church
TraditionByzantine Rite
DedicationSaint George
Designatedaround 1600
StyleNeoclassical Architecture
ArchbishopBartholomew I of Constantinople
The exterior of the Church of St George. The façade dates from the mid-19th century and shows a neo-Classical influence that makes it quite distinct from Orthodox churches in the Byzantine style.
Inside the Patriarchal Basilica of St George at the Phanar

The Patriarchal Cathedral Church of St. George (Greek: Πατριαρχικός Ναός του Αγίου Γεωργίου; Turkish: Aya Yorgi Kilisesi) is the principal Eastern Orthodox cathedral located in Istanbul, the largest city in Turkey and, as Constantinople, capital of the Byzantine Empire until 1453, and of the Ottoman Empire until 1922. Since about 1600,[1] it has been the seat of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople whose leader is regarded as the primus inter pares (first among equals) in the Eastern Orthodox Church, and as the spiritual leader of 300 million Orthodox Christians worldwide.[a]

The church, dedicated to the Christian martyr Saint George, is the site of numerous important services, and is where the patriarch will consecrate the chrism (myron) on Holy and Great Thursday, when needed. For this reason, the church is also known as the "Patriarchal Church of the Great Myrrh". At one time, the patriarch would consecrate all of the chrism used throughout the entire Orthodox Church.[20] However, now the heads of most of the autocephalous churches sanctify their own myrrh.

The church is located in the Fener (Phanar) district of Istanbul, northwest of the historic centre of old Constantinople. (Its address is Dr Sadık Ahmet Cadesi No 19, Fener 34083, Fatih-Istanbul.) It is a relatively small church, especially so considering its status in world Christianity. This, however, can be explained by the Islamic laws of the Ottoman Empire that governed the rights of dhimmis, which stipulate that all non-Islamic buildings must be smaller and humbler than corresponding Islamic buildings such as mosques: prior to the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople in 1453, the Patriarchal cathedral was Hagia Sophia (also known as the Cathedral of the Holy Wisdom).

The church is open to the public from 8.00 am to 4.30 pm, but strict security screening is in place, as a measure against the possibility of an attack from Islamic extremist groups. 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.


Saint Peter's Gate at the Patriarchate. In 1821, Patriarch Gregory V remained hanged in full robes for three days at its architrave, because he was blamed by Mahmud II for his inability to suppress the Greek War of Independence. The Gate has not been opened since.[citation needed]

Matthew II (1596–1603) moved the Patriarchate to the former convent of St George in the Phanar in 1597. The city had been in the hands of the Ottoman Turks since 1453. The Phanar district became the recognized centre of Greek Christian life in the city.[citation needed]

The church has been reconstructed many times and little remains of its original structure. Patriarch Timothy II (1612–1620) rebuilt and enlarged the church in 1614. It was again reconstructed under Patriarch Patriarch Callinicus II of Constantinople [el] (1694–1702). In the early 18th century (sources vary on the exact date) the church was badly damaged by fire. In 1720 Patriarch Jeremias III (1716–1726, 1732–1733), wrote to Neophytos, Metropolitan of Arta: "By the mercy and will of the All-Good God, the lords, may God grant them long life, were moved and they gave us permission to rebuild from the very foundations the holy church of our Patriarchal and Ecumenical Throne, and so we have started this building with the help of God."[21] The restoration works of Jeremias III were continued by Patriarch Paisius II (Patriarch several times between 1726 and 1752).[citation needed]

There was another great fire in 1738 when the church again suffered severe damage. It was not until 1797 that Patriarch Gregory V was able to begin large-scale restoration work. The current state of the church largely dates from this rebuilding. The church has the plan of a three-aisled basilica with three semicircular apses on the east side and a transverse narthex on the west. The interior is divided into three aisles by colonnades, with the tall pews of ebony wood placed along the line of the columns. This arrangement leaves ample space in the nave for the performance of the liturgy. In the holy bema, behind the altar, the synthrone (cathedra) is arranged in a semicircle along the curved wall of the apse, with seats for the Archpriests and a central higher throne of marble for the Patriarch.[citation needed]

Further changes were made to the church under Patriarch Gregory VI (1835–1840) when the roof was raised to its present height. From this restoration dates the neo-Classical marble doorway with the ornamental door-frames, which makes the front exterior of the church look rather unlike most other Orthodox churches, which are usually designed in the Byzantine style. The last major rebuilding was carried out by the Patriarch Joachim III (1878–1912). The marble pavement of the sanctuary was replaced, the synthrone was renovated, marble caskets were made for the depositing of the relics, the icon-frames were repaired and the ecclesiastical collection was enriched with liturgical vessels and vestments, all donated by Orthodox Christians, mostly from outside the Ottoman Empire.[citation needed]

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

Since the fall of the Ottomans and the rise of modern Turkish nationalism, most of the Greek Orthodox population of Istanbul was deported or forced to emigrate after a series of minor or major violent incidents like the Istanbul pogrom, leaving the Patriarch in the anomalous position of a leader without a flock, at least locally. 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.[citation needed]

On 3 December 1997, a bomb attack seriously injured a deacon and damaged the Patriarchal church.[22] This was one of the many terrorist attacks against the Ecumenical Patriarchate, its churches and cemeteries in Istanbul in recent years. The efforts to bring the terrorists to justice are continuing.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Various dates are given by different sources. The Ecumenical Patriarchate's website gives 1600.
  2. ^ Thomas E. Fitzgerald (1998). The Orthodox Church. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 117. ISBN 978-0-275-96438-2. THE VISIT OF THE ECUMENICAL PATRIARCH Ecumenical Patriarch Dimitrios I of Constantinople, together with a delegation that included five Metropolitans made an unprecedented visit to the United States 2–29 July 1990. Among the delegation was the present Patriarch, Patriarch Bartholomew, who succeeded Patriarch Dimitrios in 1991. Although other Orthodox Patriarchs had visited this country in the past, this was the first visit of the Ecumenical Patriarch. His visit had a special significance because he is viewed as the first bishop of the Orthodox Church. As such, the Ecumenical Patriarch is frequently looked upon as the spiritual leader of the 300 million Orthodox Christians throughout the world.
  3. ^ Andrew P. Holt; James Muldoon (2008). Competing Voices from the Crusades. Greenwood World Pub. p. xiv. ISBN 978-1-84645-011-2. made during a visit to Greece in 2001 for the crusaders' sack of Constantinople in 1204. Three years later, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, the spiritual leader of the world's 300 million Orthodox Christians, finally accepted the Pope's
  4. ^ Eastern Churches Journal: A Journal of Eastern Christendom. Society of Saint John Chrysostom. 2004. p. 181. His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew is the 270th successor to the Apostle Andrew and spiritual leader of 300 million Orthodox Christians worldwide.
  5. ^ Dona J. Stewart (2013). The Middle East Today: Political, Geographical and Cultural Perspectives. Routledge. p. 71. ISBN 978-0-415-78243-2. Bartholomew I, the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, spiritual leader of 300 million Orthodox Christians worldwide.
  6. ^ W. El-Ansary; D. Linnan (26 November 2010). Muslim and Christian Understanding: Theory and Application of "A Common Word". Springer. p. 82. ISBN 978-0-230-11440-1. Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew is the 270th Archbishop to the 2,000-year-old Church of Constantinople (Istanbul), "first among equals" of Orthodox bishops worldwide, and spiritual leader to 300 million faithful.
  7. ^ Jewish Political Studies Review. Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. 2001. p. 8. Bartholomew I, the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, the spiritual leader of an estimated 300 million Orthodox Christians around the ..
  8. ^ Kathleen Dean Moore; Michael P. Nelson (15 April 2011). Moral Ground: Ethical Action for a Planet in Peril. Trinity University Press. p. 133. ISBN 978-1-59534-105-1. Bartholomew I, the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, spiritual leader of 300 million Orthodox Christians worldwide.
  9. ^ The Living Church. The Living Church by Morehouse-Gorham Company. 1997. p. 3. the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I, is now touring 14 cities on his first visit to the United States. The 57-year-old leader of 300 million Orthodox Christians wore a gold and crimson mandya with train and tinkling bells
  10. ^ Katherine Marshall; Lucy Keough (2005). Finding Global Balance: Common Ground Between the Worlds of Development and Faith. World Bank Publications. p. 119. ISBN 978-0-8213-6247-1. Bartholomew I, the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, spiritual leader of 300 million Orthodox Christians worldwide.
  11. ^ Libby Bassett; United Nations Environment Programme (2000). Earth and Faith: A Book of Reflection for Action. UNEP/Earthprint. p. 16. ISBN 978-92-807-1915-4. Bartholomew I, the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, spiritual leader of 300 million Orthodox Christians worldwide.
  12. ^ Fairchild, Mary. "Christianity:Basics:Eastern Orthodox Church Denomination". Retrieved 22 May 2014.
  13. ^ Bron Taylor (10 June 2008). Encyclopedia of Religion and Nature. A&C Black. p. 158. ISBN 978-1-4411-2278-0. The spiritual leader of the over 300 million Orthodox Christians worldwide, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew – who has widely ...
  14. ^ "The Patriarch Bartholomew". 60 Minutes. CBS. 20 December 2009. Retrieved 11 January 2010.
  15. ^ "Quick facts about the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople". Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople. Retrieved 18 June 2011. His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew serves as the spiritual leader and representative worldwide voice of some 300 million Orthodox Christians throughout the world
  16. ^ "Biography – The Ecumenical Patriarchate". Retrieved 2017-02-25.
  17. ^ "Pope Francis Bows, Asks for Blessing from Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew in Extraordinary Display of Christian Unity". Archived from the original on 1 December 2014. Retrieved 17 January 2022.
  18. ^ Finding Global Balance. World Bank Publications. p. 119. Retrieved 2 August 2015. His All Holiness is the spiritual leader of 300 million Orthodox Christians worldwide
  19. ^ "Who is the Ecumenical Patriarch? – Apostolic Pilgrimage of Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to Jerusalem". Retrieved 2017-02-25.
  20. ^ Fortescue, Adrian (1909), "Eastern Churches", The Catholic Encyclopedia, vol. V, New York: Robert Appleton Company, retrieved 2008-03-09
  21. ^ "Ecumenical Patriarchate website". Retrieved 2014-03-01.
  22. ^ "Athens protests latest desecration of Orthodox cemetery in Turkey". Archived from the original on June 27, 2009.

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