Timeline of Orthodoxy in Greece (1204–1453)

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This is a timeline of the presence of Orthodoxy in Greece. The history of Greece traditionally encompasses the study of the Greek people, the areas they ruled historically, as well as the territory now composing the modern state of Greece.

Christianity was first brought to the geographical area corresponding to modern Greece by the Apostle Paul, although the church's apostolicity also rests upon St. Andrew who preached the gospel in Greece and suffered martyrdom in Patras, Titus, Paul's companion who preached the gospel in Crete where he became bishop, Philip who, according to the tradition, visited and preached in Athens, Luke the Evangelist who was martyred in Thebes, Lazarus of Bethany, Bishop of Kition in Cyprus, and John the Theologian who was exiled on the island of Patmos where he received the Revelation recorded in the last book of the New Testament. In addition, the Theotokos is regarded as having visited the Holy Mountain in 49 AD according to tradition.[note 1] Thus Greece became the first European area to accept the gospel of Christ. Towards the end of the 2nd century the early apostolic bishoprics had developed into metropolitan sees in the most important cities. Such were the sees of Thessaloniki, Corinth, Nicopolis, Philippi and Athens.[1]

By the 4th and 5th century almost the entire Balkan peninsula constituted the Exarchate of Illyricum which was under the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Rome. Illyricum was assigned to the jurisdiction of the Patriarch of Constantinople by the emperor in 732. From then on the Church in Greece remained under Constantinople till the fall of the Byzantine empire to the Ottoman Empire in 1453. As an integral part of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the church remained under its jurisdiction until Greek independence.[1] Under Ottoman rule, up to "6,000 Greek clergymen, ca. 100 Bishops, and 11 Patriarchs knew the Ottoman sword".[2][3][note 2]

The Greek War of Independence of 1821–28 created an independent southern Greece, but created anomalies in ecclesiastical relations since the Ecumenical Patriarch remained under Ottoman tutelage, and in 1850 the Endemousa Synod in Constantinople declared the Church of Greece autocephalous.

The cultural roots of both Byzantine and modern Greece cannot be separated from Orthodoxy. Therefore, it was natural that in all Greek Constitutions the Orthodox Church was accorded the status of the prevailing religion.[9][note 3]

In the 20th century, during much of the period of communism, the Church of Greece saw itself as a guardian of Orthodoxy. It cherishes its place as the cradle of the primitive church and the Greek clergy are still present in the historic places of Istanbul and Jerusalem, and Cyprus.[10] The autocephalous Church of Greece is organised into 81 dioceses, however 35 of these – known as the Metropolises of the New Lands – are nominally under the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople but are administered as part of the Church of Greece; although the dioceses of Crete, the Dodecanese, and Mount Athos are under the direct jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Constantinople.[11][note 4]

The Archbishop of Athens and All Greece presides over both a standing synod of twelve metropolitans (six from the new territories and six from southern Greece), who participate in the synod in rotation and on an annual basis, and a synod of the hierarchy (in which all ruling metropolitans participate), which meets once a year.[1]

The government observes several religious holidays as national holidays including Epiphany, Clean Monday (the start of Great Lent), Good Friday, Easter Sunday, Easter Monday, Holy Spirit Day, the Dormition of the Theotokos and Christmas.[12]

Among the current concerns of the Church of Greece are the Christian response to globalization, to interreligious dialogue, and a common Christian voice within the framework of the European Union.[1]

The population of Greece is 11.4 million (2011),[13][note 5] of which 95%[16][17][note 6] to 98%[18] are Greek Orthodox.

Latin occupation and end of Byzantium (1204–1453)[edit]

The beginning of Frangokratia: the division of the Byzantine Empire after the Fourth Crusade, 1204 AD.
Eastern Mediterranean c. 1230 AD.
Saint John Vatatzes the Merciful King,[25] Emperor of Nicaea (1221–1254), and "the Father of the Greeks."[26]
The Deësis mosaic with Christ as ruler, probably commissioned from 1261 to mark the end of 57 years of Roman Catholic use and the return to the Orthodox faith.
A Frankish tower, dating to either the Burgundian or Catalan period, stood on the Acropolis of Athens among the ruins of the Parthenon, then a church dedicated to Saint Mary, until it was dismantled in 1874.
Saint Gregory Palamas, Abp. of Thessaloniki (1347–1359) and "Pillar of Orthodoxy".[note 18]
Saint Mark of Ephesus, "Pillar of Orthodoxy".[note 18]
The right-believing Emperor Constantine XI Palaiologos the Ethnomartyr (1449–1453).

See also[edit]


Church Fathers


  1. ^ The Theotokos is the Patron of Mount Athos, which is known as: The Garden of the Mother of God, and The Holy Mountain of Our Lady. The arrival of the Theotokos at the Mountain is mentioned by codices L' 66 and I' 31 of the Library of Great Lavra Monastery.
  2. ^ "According to several accounts, from the Conquest of Constantinople to the last phase of the Greek War of Independence, the Ottoman Turks condemned to death 11 Ecumenical Patriarchs of Constantinople, nearly 100 bishops, and several thousands of priests, deacons and monks (Bompolines, 1952;[4] Paparounis, no date;[5] Perantones, 1972;[6] Pouqueville, 1824;[7] Vaporis, 2000.[8])."[3]
  3. ^ The provisions of the 1844 Constitution, where the Bavarian regency bequeathed the Hellenic State with a kind of caesaropapism, were repeated in articles 1 and 2 of the 1864 Constitution; article 1 and 2 of the 1911 Constitution; article 1 of the 1927 Constitution; articles 1 and 2 of the 1952 Constitution; article 1 of the 1968 constitutional text of the military dictatorship; and article 3 of the 1975 Constitution; (as well as article 9 of the 1925 and 1926 Constitutions, which were never enforced). [9]
  4. ^ "Codified in the 1928 Patriarchal and Synodical Act, the "New Lands" were entrusted to the temporary stewardship of the Church of Greece, provided that the Church respected the terms of the Act. The Act subsequently has been incorporated into several pieces of Greek legislation (Laws 3615/1928, 5438/1932, 599/1977, and Article 3, paragraph 1 of the current Greek Constitution), thereby recognizing the ecclesiastical agreement between the two sides."
  5. ^ The World Bank gives a figure of 11.30 million (2011),[14] while according to the 2011 Greek Census, the total enumerated population was 10,787,690.[15]
  6. ^ According to a December 2011 nationwide survey conducted by Metron Analysis (one of the biggest independent market research and public opinion survey companies in Greece), 95% of those polled reported that they were Orthodox Christians, while 1.5% said that they belong to some other religion, and 2.8% of the population said that they were irreligious or atheist, which is among the lowest figures in Europe.[16]
  7. ^ "The Franks – occupying what now is France, Belgium and much of Central Europe – arrived in southern Greece early in the 13th century on the Fourth Crusade. The legions were diverted by their powerful Venetian financial backers to sack the Byzantine capital, Constantinople, the centre of Christian Orthodoxy."[19]
  8. ^ "The Latin soldiery subjected the greatest city in Europe to an indescribable sack. For three days they murdered, raped, looted and destroyed on a scale which even the ancient Vandals and Goths would have found unbelievable. Constantinople had become a veritable museum of ancient and Byzantine art, an emporium of such incredible wealth that the Latins were astounded at the riches they found. Though the Venetians had an appreciation for the art which they discovered (they were themselves semi-Byzantines) and saved much of it, the French and others destroyed indiscriminately, halting to refresh themselves with wine, violation of nuns, and murder of Orthodox clerics. The Crusaders vented their hatred for the Greeks most spectacularly in the desecration of the greatest Church in Christendom. They smashed the silver iconostasis, the icons and the holy books of Hagia Sophia, and seated upon the patriarchal throne a whore who sang coarse songs as they drank wine from the Church's holy vessels. The estrangement of East and West, which had proceeded over the centuries, culminated in the horrible massacre that accompanied the conquest of Constantinople. The Greeks were convinced that even the Turks, had they taken the city, would not have been as cruel as the Latin Christians. The defeat of Byzantium, already in a state of decline, accelerated political degeneration so that the Byzantines eventually became an easy prey to the Turks. The Crusading movement thus resulted, ultimately, in the victory of Islam, a result which was of course the exact opposite of its original intention."[21]
  9. ^ The "conquest by the western Franks of the Fourth Crusade is often seen as the beginning of the end, and its impact on the state of mind of the subjects of the empire was immense. For the next 200 years – and beyond – various parts of what had historically been the Byzantine empire were to be ruled, for varying lengths of time, by these crusaders and their descendants. For centuries, the emperors of Constantinople had held these territories, but now, remarkable quickly, they changed hands and the peasants and local lords of the conquered areas had to become accustomed to new masters who, at least at the beginning, spoke little or no Greek, had some startlingly different ways of arranging society and everyday life and, not least, had a church and religion which was Christian but very different from the ‘Orthodox’ Christianity of the empire."[23]
  10. ^ "From 1205 to 1456, Athens was ruled by Burgundians, Catalans, Florentines, and, briefly, Venetians. The Parthenon was accorded great honor by them too. In the late thirteenth century, pope Nicolaus IV granted an indulgence for those who went on pilgrimage to it."[24]
  11. ^ "In consequence of a communication which he received from Vatatzes through the Patriarch Germanus, the Pope sent to Nice, A.D. 1233, two Dominican and two Franciscan friars to discuss points of agreement. The envoys were received with great honour, and the Emperor assembled a Council at Nymphaeum. No sooner had they got to work, than both Greeks and Latins brought forward mutual accusations and invectives. The Latins complained of the Greeks condemning the Latin Azyms; of their purifying their Altars after Latin Celebrations; rebaptizing Latins; and of their erasure of the Pope's name from the Diptychs. The Patriarch met the charges with a counter accusation, viz., the desecration by the Latins of Greek Churches and Altars and vessels after the conquest of Constantinople...But the two chief points of discussion were the Azyms and the double Procession."[31]
  12. ^ The defeat resulted in a period of turmoil in Anatolia and led directly to the decline and disintegration of the Seljuk state. The Empire of Trebizond became a vassal state of the Mongol empire. Furthermore the Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia became a vassal state of the Mongols.[37] Real power over Anatolia was exercised by the Mongols.[38] After a long period of fragmentation, Anatolia was unified by the Ottoman dynasty.
  13. ^ Emperor Michael VIII forced the Orthodox delegation to give in to the papal claims and filioque clause in order to form a swift union enabling the unified Christian world to defeat the Muslim threat.
  14. ^ Ieronymos Agathangelos flourished in 1279 AD. He was a priest-monk and confessor, born in Rhodes. He lived in a cenobitic monastery for 51 years. In his 79th year of age he was, as he says, at Messina of Sicily, and at dawn on the Sunday of Orthodoxy he experienced a majestic vision by which several prophecies were foretold him. These were copied by an Italian monk in Messina in 1555, then translated into Latin by Theoklitos Polyidis, who distributed them around northern Europe, and then translated into Modern Greek in 1751 and printed in various editions in Venice.
  15. ^ "A new patriarch, Gregory II from Cyprus (c.1241-1290), was installed, and one of his first acts was to depose all bishops who had supported the forced union of the churches and suspend all clerics ordained by the former patriarch (John Beccus). The unionists were still strong enough to call for a full airing of their case. Gregory agreed, and a council was convened in 1285 in the imperial palace of Blachernae,...the majority of those participating in the Council of Blachernae sided with Gregory against the unionists. Their position was published in the final statement of the Council, the Tomus, which was penned by Gregory.[45]
  16. ^ A remarkable fresco shows the wise men of antiquity – Plato, Apollonius, Solon, Aristotle, Plutarch, Thucydides – "bearing witness, in a house in Athens, to the Divine resurrection and Presence of Christ."[47]
  17. ^ "In connection with the Council of Vienne (1311–1312) the papal vice-chancellor, Cardinal Arnold Novelli, urged that the powerful and strategically placed Company be made the spearhead for a great crusade against Byzantine and Turk."[55]
  18. ^ a b Saints Photius the Great, Mark of Ephesus, and Gregory Palamas, have been called the Three Pillars of Orthodoxy.
  19. ^ The Janissaries were supposedly founded in 1326 when new recruits were set apart by Haci Bektas.[63] Bektashism spread from Anatolia through the Ottomans primarily into the Balkans, where its leaders (known as dedes or babas) helped convert many to Islam. The Bektashi Sufi order became the official order of the elite Janissary corps after their establishment.
  20. ^ "What, more than anything, contributed to the spread of the Ottoman power, was the fiendish institution by Orkhan of the tribute of Christian children. Thus was formed the famous corps of Janissaries, or new soldiers. The strongest and most promising boys were, at ages between six and nine years, torn away from their families, cut off from every Christian tie, and educated so as to know no other than the Mahometan faith, to abjure which, afterwards, subjected them to the punishment of renegades, certain death. They were trained in the profession of arms to fight against enemies of the same Christian birth as themselves, and grew up to be the best soldiers in the Turkish armies, from whom their Generals and Governors were selected. So that the conquest of Eastern Christendom was really effected through soldiers born of Christian parents."[64]
  21. ^ Conflicting church traditions place him possibly as early as the 10th century (c. 992), or as late as the 14th. His feast day is celebrated on 28 June.[65][66]
  22. ^ "Gregory Palamas's doctrine of the Divine Energies not only provided the dogmatic basis to the Greek view of mysticism. It was also a restatement of the traditional interpretation of the Greek Fathers' theory of God's relation to man. It came to be accepted by a series of fourteenth-century Councils as the official doctrine of the Greek Church. To Western theologians it seemed to be clear heresy. It could not be reconciled with Thomism, which many Greeks were beginning to regard with sympathy."[71]
  23. ^ The six sessions were held in Constantinople on:
    • 10 June 1341;
    • August 1341;
    • 4 November 1344;
    • 1 February 1347;
    • 8 February 1347;
    • 28 May 1351.[73]
  24. ^ "Hesychast spirituality is still practiced by Eastern Christians and is widely popular in Russia through the publication of a collection of Hesychast writings, known as the Philokalia, in Greek in 1783 at Venice and in Slavonic in 1793 at St. Petersburg."[75]
  25. ^ First printed 1540 in Paris, the Hexabiblos was widely adopted in the Balkans under the Ottoman Empire. In 1828, it was also adopted as the interim civil code in the newly independent Greek State.
  26. ^ Gregory Akindynos had taken the opposite extreme to Barlaam of Calabria, believing that the Light of Mt. Tabor is the divine essence itself, rather than God's uncreated grace and energy, distinct from His divine essence. He was condemned at the second session, in August 1341. In the sixth and final session of the Council on 28 May 1351, the Anti-Palamites were condemned and the Akindynite heresy was brought to an end.[74]
  27. ^ "Kydones' translations of Aquinas' works tried to assert their philosophical and theological superiority while a strong Greek philosophical tradition was still capable of refuting his rationalism...The first Thomists, or Latinizers, could not appreciate the blossoming of Greek thought and art in the fourteenth century, which synthesized ten centuries of tradition. They were contemporaries of Gregory Palamas yet preferred Thomas Aquinas, even though philosophy, painting, architecture, political and social institutions, and popular culture were all of the highest standard in the East."[79]
  28. ^ "The first Janissaries were prisoners of war and slaves. After the 1380s, their ranks were filled under the devshirme system. The recruits were mostly Christian boys preferably 14 to 18 years old; however, boys ranging from 8 to 20 years old could be taken. Initially, the recruiters favored Greeks and Albanians, but, as the Ottoman Empire expanded into southeastern Europe and north, the devshirme came to include Albanians, Bulgarians, Georgians, Armenians, Croats, Bosnians, and Serbs and later Romanians, Poles, Ukrainians, and southern Russians."[84]
  29. ^ Emperor Manuel II Paleologus stated: "Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached." The passage originally appeared in the Dialogue Held with a Certain Persian, the Worthy Mouterizes, in Anakara of Galatia. "When Manuel II composed the Dialogue (which Pope Benedict XVI excerpted on 12 September 2006), the Byzantine ruler was little more than a glorified dhimmi vassal of the Ottoman Sultan Bayezid, forced to accompany the latter on a campaign through Anatolia...During the campaign he was conscripted to join, Manuel II witnessed with understandable melancholy the great metamorphosis–ethnic and toponymic–of formerly Byzantine Asia Minor. The devastation, and depopulation of these once flourishing regions was so extensive that often, Manuel could no longer tell where he was. The still recognizable Greek cities whose very names had been changed into something foreign became a source of particular grief. It was during this unhappy sojourn that Manuel II's putative encounter with a Muslim theologian occurred, ostensibly in Ankara. Manuel II's Dialogue was one of the later outpourings of a vigorous Muslim–Christian polemic regarding Islam's success, at (especially Byzantine) Christianity's expense, which persisted during the 11th through 15th centuries, and even beyond. The Muslim advocates' (particularly the Turks) most prominent argument was the indisputable evidence of Islam's military triumphs over the Christians of Asia Minor (especially Anatolia, in modern Turkey). These jihad conquests were repeatedly advanced in the polemics of the Turks. The Christian rebuttal, in contrast, hinged upon the ethical precepts of Muhammad and the Koran. Christian interlocutors charged the Muslims with abiding a religion which both condoned the life of a 'lascivious murderer', and claimed to give such a life divine sanction. Manuel, and generations of Christian interlocutors, argued that the 'Christ–hating' barbarians could never overcome the 'fortress of belief,' despite seizing lands and cities, extorting tribute and even conscripting rulers to perform humiliating services. Manuel II's discussions with his Muslim counterpart simply conformed to this pattern of polemical exchanges, repeated often, over at least four centuries."[91]
  30. ^ Bayezid I was defeated and taken prisoner by Timur (Tamerlane) at the Battle of Ankara (1402). As a result of the Ottoman defeat the Anatolian Turkish emirates regained independence and the Byzantine Empire ceased being tributary and recovered substantial territory.[67]
  31. ^ Beginning on 29 March 1430, the Ottoman sultan Murad II began a three-day siege of Thessalonica, resulting in the conquest of the city by the Ottoman army, and the taking of 7,000 inhabitants as slaves. The Venetians agreed to a peace treaty and withdrew from the region in 1432, leaving the Ottoman's with permanent dominion over the region.
  32. ^ "From 1204 through 1430, the monks of Mount Athos struggled relentlessly against all ecumenism with the Catholics, which at that time was called "the union of the Churches." They were finally saved from Papal designs by the Ottoman Murat II, who, in occupying Thessaloniki in 1430, received at the same time the support of Mount Athos and who, in exchange, renewed the privileges confirmed later by the Fatih (Mehmet the Conqueror). The decrees of the Sultans called Mount Athos "the country where, night and day, the Name of God is blessed and which is the refuge of the poor and strangers.""[102]
  33. ^ "The devshirme – in practice if not in theory – also involved virtually enforced conversion to Islam, which was certainly contrary to Islamic law. This devshirme system probably began in the 1380s, though the word itself did not appear in written records until 1438, around the time infantry and cavalry recruited in this way became military elite...In its fully developed form this devshirme system enlisted between 1,000 and 3,000 youths per year."[103]
  34. ^ "It is the "child levy" (Devşirme) that most fully demonstrates the situation of the Christians as (the) object of long-term Islamisation intentions, carried out under compulsion."[104]
  35. ^ The autocephaly of the Russian Orthodox Church, declared in 1448, was formally recognized by the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople only in 1589. After the beginning of the autocephaly of the Eastern Russian dioceses which were part of the Grand Duchy of Moscow, from 1461 the metropolitans who held the chair in Moscow began to be called Metropolitans of Moscow and all Russia (1461-1589). On the other hand the metropolitans west of there, who had residences in Navahrudak, Kiev and Vilnius, began to be called Metropolitans of Kiev, Galicia and All Ruthenia, remaining under the Ecumenical Patriarchate from 1458-1596 and again from 1620-1675.
  36. ^ Although some of the Greek party, especially Bessarion, Metropolitan of Nicaea, and Isidore, former Metropolitan of Kiev and all Rus', showed real concern for unity, they could not rally support for it in the East. The Patriarchates of Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem and the churches of Russia, Romania, and Serbia all rejected it immediately. In Byzantium only a small minority accepted it. Emperors John VIII and Constantine IX (1448–1453) proved unable to force their will on the Church. Most Byzantines felt betrayed.[114]
  37. ^ Nearly all of his writing is marked by passionate devotion to Greece and a desire to restore its ancient glory.[117]
  38. ^ "The refrain 'Better the turban of the Turk than the tiara of the Pope' was used by peasants in the Balkans who, for so long, had been exploited by the Roman Catholic nobles."[120]
  39. ^ One of the Ulama climbed the pulpit and recited the Shahada. "About forty other Churches were in like manner converted into Mosques, Mahomet allowing the Greek Church to celebrate its rites in the remainder."[123]
  40. ^ After the fall of Constantinople, Hagia Sophia ceased to be the most important church for the Russians as it was replaced by the Church of the Resurrection (Church of the Holy Sepulchre) of Jerusalem.[124]
  41. ^ "Any reassessment of the role of the émigré Byzantine scholars in the development of Italian Renaissance thought and learning must recognize that at the time of the development of the Italian Renaissance there was also a parallel 'Renaissance' taking place in the Byzantine East. The latter, more accurately termed the Palaeologan 'revival of thinking', had begun earlier, in the thirteenth century. This revival of culture under the Palaeologan dynasty was expressed in the emergence of certain 'realistic' qualities in painting, a further development in mystical beliefs, and...a greater intensification than ever before of the study of Ancient Greek literature, philosophy, and science."[127]
  42. ^ The Byzantine historian Doukas, imitating the "lamentation" of Nicetas Acominatus after the Sack of Constantinople by the Latins in 1204, bewailed the event of 1453. He began his lamentation:
    "O, city, city, head of all cities! O, city, city, center of the four quarters of the world!
    O, city, city, pride of the Christians and ruin of the barbarians! O, city, city, second
    paradise planted in the West, including all sorts of plants bending under the burden of
    spiritual fruits! Where is thy beauty, O, paradise? Where is the blessed strength of spirit
    and body of thy spiritual Graces? Where are the bodies of the Apostles of my Lord?
    Where are the relics of the saints, where are the relics of the martyrs? Where is the
    corpse of the great Constantine and other Emperors..."[129]


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Published works[edit]