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Pope Benedict of Rome will shortly visit Istanbul and Patriarch Bartholomew, the spiritual leader of some one million Greek Orthodox. It seems therefore right to recall something of the spiritual history of the Orthodox Patriarchs of Constantinople, just as elsewhere on this site we have recalled the spiritual history of the Orthodox Popes of Rome (See The Holy Orthodox Popes of Rome from The Lighted Way).

In the early fourth century the old port and trading station of Byzantium became New Rome and was very soon renamed Constantinople after its refounder, the Emperor Constantine. Even before this development, it already claimed apostolic origins through the Apostle Andrew and the Apostle of the Seventy, Stachus. It also came to boast of several early holy bishops and many martyrs, male and especially female, particularly those of the persecution of 303. In later persecutions, such as those under the iconoclasts or later still under the Turkish Yoke, there came many more new martyrs also. However, there were also many holy Patriarchs, Emperors and Empresses, as well as monastic saints and holy confessors, among its host of saints.

In recent centuries the name of the Patriarchate of Constantinople has become linked for many with the betrayal of Orthodoxy, simony, decadence and compromise. As in ancient times, some of its Patriarchs have been political appointees, lacking spiritual depth. But the true glory of New Rome, like that of Old Rome, is not in spiritual betrayal and worldly compromise, but in its saints. Its real spiritual history is one of glory and there is no reason why Constantinople could not produce saints again. Below we list and give brief details of some of the glory that was and is New Rome, with a list of fifty sainted Archbishops of Constantinople (after the mid-fifth century called Patriarchs), beginning in the early fourth century.

Metrophanes (c.306-314 and 316-326, first Archbishop of Constantinople. Feast: 4 June.

Alexander (314-337) + 340, second Archbishop. He took part in the First Universal Council at Nicea in 325. Feast 30 August.

Paul I, the Confessor (337-339, 341-342 and 346-350). From Salonica, he suffered much for Orthodoxy from the Emperor and was martyred. Feast: 6 November.

Nectarius (381-397). Feast: 11 October.

John I, Chrysostom (398-404) + 407. Feast: 13 November. A Syrian from near Antioch, born in 347, he became the most famous and beloved hierarch in all Constantinople’s history and was also the compiler of the most commonly used eucharistic liturgy of the Orthodox Church. Having received a brilliant education, he was baptized at the age of 23 and lived as a monastic for five years after that. His early works defending monasticism and on the priesthood are particularly well-known. The ascetic John, defender of the poor, was persecuted by the Empress Eudoxia, as he denounced the futile riches and luxury of the Imperial Capital. He reposed in exile in Comana in Armenia in 407, with the words ‘Glory to God for all things’ on his lips. Some 10,000 pages of his commentaries, sermons and theological works remain with us to this day. The feast of the translation of his relics is on 27 January and he is also commemorated as one of the Three Great Hierarchs on 30 January.

Arsacius (404-405). Feast: 11 October.

Atticus (406-425). Feast: 8 January and 11 October.

Sisinius I (426-427). Feast: 11 October.

Proclus (434-446). A disciple of St John Chrysostom, he had his relics translated in 439. He denounced Nestorius and stood up for Orthodoxy in all ways. Feast: 20 November.

Flavian (446-449). Persecuted by heretics, it is said that Flavian was so badly beaten by the heretic Dioscorus that he died three days later. He is therefore considered to be a martyr. Feast: 18 February.

Anatolius (449-458). He chaired the all-important Council of Chalcedon, crowned the Emperor Leo and also composed some hymns. Feast: 3 July.

Gennadius I (458-471). An eloquent and highly educated man, he vigorously defended Orthodoxy. Feast: 31 August.

Acacius (472-489). He was a great defender of Orthodoxy against the heretics of the time. Feast: 26 November.

Macedonius II (496-511) + 516. He suffered much from the Emperor on account of his stand against the Monophysites and suffered exile. Feast: 25 April.

Epiphanius (520-535). Feast: 25 April.

Menas (536-552). Feast: 25 August.

Eutychius (552-565 and 577-582). He chaired the Fifth Universal Council in 553, but later suffered a period of exile for his faithfulness to Orthodoxy. Feast: 6 April.

John IV, the Faster, (582-595). A great ascetic and also compassionate pastor, he was forced to become Patriarch. He was very tolerant towards heretics and defended them from political persecution. He dressed in rags, giving away everything to the poor. Feast: 30 August.

Cyriacus (595-606). Feast: 27 October.

Thomas I (607-610). Feast: 21 March.

Thomas II, the New (667-669). Feast: 15 November.
John V (669-674). Feast: 18 April.

Constantine I (675-677). He was a staunch defender of Orthodoxy against the Monothelites. Feast 29 July.

George I (679-686). Feast: 18 April.

Theodore I (677-679 and 686-687). Feast:27 December.

Callinicus I (694-706). He was blinded by the cruel and murderous Emperor Justinian II and exiled to Rome. Feast: 23 August.

Germanus I (715-730). A defender of the veneration of icons against the iconoclasts, he was glorified as a saint at the Seventh Universal Council in 788. He also wrote a commentary on the liturgy and left us letters, sermons and hymns. Feast 12 May.

Paul IV (780-784). He suffered much from the iconoclasts. Feast: 30 August.

Tarasius (784-806). A diplomat but also a great defender of the holy icons, it was he who organized the Seventh Universal Council in 787. Feast: 25 February.

Nicephorus (806-815) + 828. He wrote much against the iconoclasts, successfully defending the Faith. Feast: 13 March and 2 June.

Methodius I (843-847). By birth a Sicilian, he was imprisoned by the Emperor Michael. Made Patriarch by the Empress Theodora, it was he who called the Council of Constantinople at which the veneration of icons was finally restored. Feast: 14 June.

Ignatius (847-858 and 867-877). Son of the Emperor Michael I, he had lived as a monk for thirty years before becoming Patriarch. His displacement by St Photius was the result of the political intrigues of others. The Church recognizes both Patriarchs as saints, for they complement one another. Feast: 23 October.

Photius (858-867 and 877-886 (+ 891). St Photius’ father was a relative of St Tarasius. St Photius was the greatest cultural figure in ninth century Constantinople. With his brilliant education, he easily opposed the new heresy of the filioque, which was then being promoted in Rome by the Franks. Among some he is known as ‘the Great’. Feast: 6 February.

Stephen I (886-893). He was the son of the Emperor Basil the Macedonian and brother of the Emperor Leo the Philosopher. Feast: 17 May.

Antony II (893-901). Feast: 12 February.

Nicholas I, Mysticus, the Counsellor or Private Secretary, (901-907 and 912-925). He wrote commentaries on the Scriptures, wrote against simony and also denounced the fourth marriage of the Emperor Leo VI the Wise, for which he was unjustly deposed, but later restored. Feast: 16 May.

Euthymius II (907-912) + 917. Feast: 5 April.

Stephen II (925-927). Feast: 18 July.

Tryphon (927-931) + 933. Feast: 19 April.

Polyeuctus (956-970). His name in the world was Epiphanius and he was the disciple of St Andrew the Fool for Christ. For his eloquence he was called the second Chrysostom. It was he who baptized St Olga of Russia in 957. Feast: 5 February.

Sergius II (1001-1019). Feast: 12 April.

Eustathius (1019-1025). Feast: 31 March.

Arsenius (1255-1259 and 1261-1265) + 1267. This was the Patriarch who excommunicated the Emperor Michael VIII Palaeologos for blinding the eleven year-old son of his predecessor, for which Patriarch Arsenius suffered exile. Feast: All Saints Sunday.

Joseph (1267-1282). Opposed to the Unia of Lyons, which he refused to recognize, he stood up for Orthodoxy. Feast: 30 October.

Athanasius I (1289-1293, 1303-1309) + 1311. Feast: 28 October.

Kallistos I (1350-1353 and 1355-1363). A disciple of the hesychast St Gregory of Sinai, he was called from Mt Athos to be Patriarch and defend St Gregory Palamas against the humanistic heresy of Barlaam, Acindynus and their followers. He called the Councils of 1351 and 1352, at which St Gregory’s teaching was defended and recognized as being fully in accord with the teachings of the earlier Fathers. Barlaam and Acindynus were anathematised. He also wrote much, including the Life of St Gregory of Sinai. Feast: 20 June.

Kallistos II (1397). Feast: 22 November.

Niphon II (1486-1488, 1497-1498 and 1502) + 1508. Feast: 11 August.

Parthenius III (1656- 1657). The Patriarch was denounced and slandered, but the Turks promised to spare his life if he would become a Muslim. He refused, was tortured and hanged, and so is honoured as a martyr. Feast: 24 March.

Gregory V (1821). Patriarch on three occasions, because of persecution, he did much to improve the education of the clergy. He refused to flee Constantinople and declared his readiness to die for the salvation of his people. On the first day of Easter 1821, he was attacked by a Turkish mob in Istanbul, beaten and in full vestments hanged from the gates of the Patriarchate. His body was thrown into the sea, but taken out by Russian sailors. They took the relics to Odessa, where it remained until 1871, when they were translated to Athens. Feast: 10 April.

Glory to Thee, O God, Glory to Thee!

Priest Andrew Phillips

13/26 November 2006
St John Chrysostom


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