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Church of St. George

The Church of St. George, home to the Greek Patriarchate ( Fener Rum Patrikanesi in Turkish), sits inside of the remains of the old sea wall, and is still revered as the mother-church by members of the Greek Orthodox parishioners worldwide.  The Patriarchate began its life in Hagia Eirene and Hagia Sophia , rotated around other city churches and then moved to here in 1602.  Unfortunately a huge fire destroyed the original basilica and the building you see today dates back only to 1720 and it forms the centrepiece of a complex built around a central courtyard that you enter through a tripartite gate.  

The Orta Kapı (Middle Gate) in the central section is permanently closed and was painted black in memory of Patriarch Gregory V; he was hanged in front of the gate in 1821 when Greece went to war against the Ottoman’s to free them from their control.  In 1941 there was a second fire that destroyed many of the outer buildings with the old library the only survivor and this attractive building can be found behind the church at the end of the garden.  

The church underwent full restoration works in the 1990s and visitors are rewarded with what a Byzantine church would have looked like in its prime.  The iconostasis  glimmer with gold and stand out even in the dim light and the most important panel, on the far right hand side, is the rare 12th century mosaic icon of St. John the Baptist.  Close to it on a separate altar is another mosaic icon of the Panagia Pammakaristos (the Most Happy Mother of God) and set in the wall between these treasures is a part of a stone pillar that Jesus is believed to have been flogged against.  

Nearby are caskets containing the bodies of saints Omonia, Theophano and Euphemia and on their fronts have identifying icons.  The patriarch’s throne is believed to date from the early 5th century and was possibly made for St. John Chrysostom who was the patriarch at that time and the tall pulpit and two octagonal tables are inlaid with mother-of-pearl.  

Christmas and Easter at St George Church

At special festival times such as Christmas and Easter the church becomes packed with visitors, many from Greece, and it might be worth bearing in mind Greek Orthodox holidays come one week after the Protestant and Catholic versions.

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