Ecumenical Patriarchate in Istanbul

Fener Greek Orthodox Patriarchate in Istanbul – St. George’s Cathedral

History of Eastern Orthodoxy in Constantinople

The Apostles of Jesus Christ continued spreading the teachings of Christianity after his death and they aimed to spread it also on the Mediterranean coast that was the center of the world in the Ancient Age.

St. Peter and St. Paul traveled as far as to Rome, which was the most important city in the Ancient Age. Furthermore, Alexandria, Jerusalem, Antioch, Ephesus and Byzantium were also among the important centers of Christianity.

Christians who lived under the Roman Empire were persecuted for 300 years due to their beliefs. Therefore, they built churches and monasteries inside deep valleys or on steep rocks as we see in the examples at Cappadocia and they continued following their religion despite tough measures and pressure from the Roman Empire.

Emperor Constantine the Great

The first Roman emperor who realized the unstoppable rise of Christianity was Constantine. Emperor Constantine wanted to utilize this new and strong belief as a driving force to unite the Roman Empire that was on the course of fall.

First Ecumenical Council of Nicaea

Upon converting to Christianity, the first thing Emperor Constantine did was to create a strong organization. Thus, he gathered First Ecumenical Council of Nicaea. In this council, Rome, Constantinople, Antioch, Jerusalem, and Alexandria were recognized as the five important centers of Christianity.

First Council of Nicea By Emperor Constantine The Great
Eastern Orthodox Patriarchate in Istanbul History
First Ecumenical Council of Nicaea

Rivalry Between Rome & Constantinople – Great Schism 1054

Although Rome was in higher status hierarchically, Constantinople caught up with Rome during Emperor Theodosius’ era, which is around the end of 4th century A.D.

This caused strife between two churches in the long run. The escalating tension reached a climax with the Great Schism in 1054, which resulted in the Patriarch in Constantinople and Pope in Rome excommunicating each other mutually.

The Latin Invasion of Istanbul

The excommunication incident also paved the way for the Sack of Constantinople during the 4th Crusade in 1204. The Latins arrived at the capital of Byzantine Empire pretending to be friends; however, they seized the city knavishly and vandalized it. Istanbul was the most beautiful city of its time and, unfortunately, the invasion of the Latin ruined it turned the city into a wreck.

The Siege of Constantinople during the IV. Crusade in 1204
Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Constantinople Facts
Siege of Constantinople 1204 By Eugène Delacroix – Louvre

The Fall of Byzantine Empire

The city conquered by the Ottoman Empire was a ruin. The palace of the Byzantine Empire at Istanbul Old City was ruined and emperors had to reside at The Palace of Blachernea for 200 years.  It’s rumored that Ottoman Sultan Mehmed was deeply saddened by finding this fairy city in a lot worse condition than he expected.

The Voyage of the Patriarchate after the Conquest

Hagia Sophia was built by the Byzantine emperor Justinian between 532-537. When this majestic structure that both the public and emperors held in high esteem was turned into a mosque, the Patriarchate had no choice but relocate. Firstly, It was moved to the Church of the Holy Apostles. However, the church was demolished shortly and Fatih Mosque was built instead.

The Final Destination: Church of St. George

In the following period, the Patriarchate had to relocate for a couple of times. Before the Patriarchate relocated to the Fener neighborhood where it is currently located, it was at Pammakaristos Church, which is where “Fethiye Mosque” stands today. The Patriarchate changed its address for a few times between 1453 and 1590 and it was moved to the Church of St. George as its final destination and it has served there for over 400 years.

You may see some images from Fener Greek Orthodox Patriarchate in Istanbul.

Fener Greek Orthodox Patriarchate in Istanbul – St. George’s Cathedral
Fener Greek Orthodox Patriarchate in Istanbul Private Tour Guide
The Patriarchal Church of St. George’s Cathedral in Istanbul-Turkey

Fener Greek Orthodox Patriarchate in Istanbul

When you walk into the garden of Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, a small church and wooden buildings encircling it meet you. These walnut colored buildings consist of the guest house and the administrative offices.

St. George’s Cathedral – The Patriarchal Church

The Church of St. George at the center of the Patriarchate is the spiritual center and all religious ceremonies are performed here. The church has a modest style and it is important for the Eastern Orthodox Christians. The same way the St. Peter’s Basilica is important for Catholics, the Church of St. George is equally important for Orthodox Christians. Therefore, Church of St. George is visited by Orthodox Christians from all around the world.

Fener Greek Orthodox Patriarchate in Istanbul

St. George's Cathedral Phanar Istanbul
St. George’s Cathedral – The Patriarchal Church


When you enter the church, you will see a beautiful wall.  The wall is full of icons covered by golden foils and it’s totally breathtaking. This wooden carved wall on which icons are lined next to each other has great importance for Eastern Orthodox Christians. These icons are totally handmade and they totally deserve the praise they receive.

Phanar Greek Orthodox Church – The St. George Cathedral in Istanbul
Where is Greek Orthodox Patriarch in Constantinople-Istanbul
The Iconostasis Wall in Church of St. George in Phanar

The Throne of the Patriarchate

According to the legend, the first person to sit on this throne was John Chrysostom (347-407), one of the most famous Patriarchs of Constantinople.

The Pulpit

In order to spot the pulpit, you will need to look above the columns. The pulpit, made of the walnut tree, sits on a marble column elegantly. Again, according to some legends, it is claimed that John Chrysostom built it; however, there are official records that prove the pulpit was built in 1702.

3 Old Icons

Icons mostly depict Jesus Christ, Virgin Mary, and John the Baptist. Apart from these three important figures, apostles, saints are also depicted in icons. According to Christian faith, anyone who prays before an icon communicates with the one depicted on it. Therefore, icons are holy for Christians.

If you visit the Patriarchate, you can realize that the Orthodox visitors show deep respect to the icons, touch and even kiss them. Therefore, it’s inappropriate to take photos of the icons.

There are three important icons in Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, which are Panagia Pammakaristos (11th century), St. John the Baptist (11th century) and Panagia Faneromeni (14th century). Naturally, the spiritual value of these icons is pretty high. Therefore, the presence of such icons increases the spiritual power of this church in the eyes of the believers.

Icons at the Fener Greek Orthodox Patriarchate

Patriarchal Church of St. George Holy Icons, Relics, Mosaics
Icons & Relics at the Patriarchal Church of St. George

Three Important Patriarchs

The tombs of Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian and John Chrysostom are on the northern wing of the church. The bones of the two of these patriarchs were stolen and taken to Rome during the Latin Invasion that we mentioned formerly.

The bodies, which were preserved at St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican for long years, were returned to Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople as a sign of goodwill by the Pope in 2004, the 800th anniversary of the Latin Invasion.

Gregory the Theologian & John Chrysostom

Three Important Patriarchs Fener Greek Orthodox Patriarchate
Gregory the Theologian & John Chrysostom

Three Remarkable Woman

On the eastern wing of the church, the tombs of St. Euphemia, Empress Theophano, and Mary Salome can be seen. These tombs are placed at the center of the church on specific days of the year and visitors are given the chance to pray to commemorate them.

Fener Greek Orthodox Patriarchate in Istanbul

Female Saints Fener Greek Orthodox Patriarchate
Three Remarkable Woman

Former School of Theology: Phanar Greek Orthodox College

Visiting The Fener Greek Orthodox Patriarchate in Istanbul
Phanar Greek Orthodox College – School of Theology

Fener and Balat Neighborhoods

Fener and Balat are the rising stars of Istanbul. Once Istanbul‘s most colorful and cosmopolite spots during Ottoman era, these neighborhoods are becoming more and more popular among tourists for photo taking sessions and group tours.

In my previous article Fener-Balat, I made a list of the places worth visiting if you visit these neighborhoods. In this article, I’ve told you about Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, the most important attraction to visit at Fener.

I highly recommend you to explore the hidden treasures of these valuable neighborhoods and listen to their interesting stories from a private tour guide in Istanbul. Therefore, you will be able to discover the history of these ancient neighborhoods properly.

Fener-Balat Neighborhoods in Istanbul Old City

Eastern Orthodox Patriarchate in Istanbul Fener-Balat Area
Old Houses of Fener-Balat Neighborhoods 

Written By Serhat Engul

Fener Greek Orthodox Patriarchate in Istanbul

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *