Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

Greece will be treated in this article under the following heads: I. The Land and the People; II. The Church in Greece before the Schism ; III. The Orthodox Church in Greece; IV. Constitution of the Church of Greece; V. The Catholic Church in Greece; VI. Protestants and Other Sects ; VII. The Church in Enslaved Greece.


The Greeks are a people who appear first in history as separated in various small States, but bound together by a common language, religion and civilization, in the south of the Balkan Peninsula, the islands around, and the coast of Asia Minor opposite. For about three centuries these States attained a perfection in every form of civilization that gives them the first place in the history of Europe. Then the Greek ideal--Hellenism--spread over Asia, Egypt, and westward to Italy. The original race gradually sinks in importance; the States have disappeared. But the power of the Greek language, Greek learning, Greek art is never exhausted; the magic of the old memories still works in every age; while political changes cause the rise and fall of other governments, Hellenism never ceases from its conquests. The great Roman Empire, having become too unwieldy, is divided, and Greece gradually swallows up the eastern half. For nearly ten centuries again Greece reigns from Constantinople. The flood of Islam sweeps over the lands she had moulded; instead of destroying her, this brings her to fresh conquests across the distant West. Last of all, chiefly because of the magic of her name, the land where Hellenism was born has succeeded in shaking off the tyrant and we have again a free Greece. But Hellas means more than this small country. It is that mighty force, undying from Homer to the present Phanar at Constantinople, that, through all changes of government, has been expressed in the same language, has evolved its own ideals, and, unbroken in its continuity for nearly thirty centuries, has moulded to its own likeness nearly every race it met. The barbarous tribes of Asia Minor --Macedonians, Christian Arabs, Egyptians and Slavs, Phoenicians and Italians, Wallachians and even some branches of the great Turkish race--met this ideal in turn, learned to talk Greek and to call themselves Hellenes. And at the knees of this mother all Europe has stood.

It is not the object of this article to tell again the long story of Greece. One or two salient points only will clear the ground for an account of Christianity among this people.

First of all, what is Greece?--The question may easily be answered now. The Conference of London, in 1831, and the Treaty of 1897 have arranged the frontier of the modern kingdom. In the past it is less easy to answer. Greece was not united as one State even in classical times; Alexander's empire included all manner of nations; under Rome the scattered Greeks gradually learned to call themselves Romans. The only answer that can be given for any period is that Greece is the land where Greeks live; any country, any city where the people in the great majority spoke Greek, were conscious of being Greeks, was at that time at any rate a part of Hellas: Syracuse and Halicarnassus as much as Athens and Corinth. This only removes the question one step, since one now asks: What is a Greek? To demand evidence of pure descent from one of the original Dorian, Ionian, or Aeolian tribes would be hopeless. It has been the special mission of Hellas to impose her language and ideals, even the consciousness of being a Greek, on other races. Of the enormous number of people since Alexander who spoke Greek and called themselves Greeks the great majority were children of Hellenized barbarians. Moreover districts were inhabited by mixed populations. The great towns--Antioch and Alexandria, for instance--were more or less completely Hellenized, while the peasants around kept their original languages.

One must use the names Greek and Greece as comparative ones. Where a certain degree of Greek consciousness (shown most obviously in the use of the language) prevails, there we may call the people Greeks, more or less so according to the measure of their absorption by Hellas. The old Greek States covered about the territory included in the modern kingdom and the islands, with colonies around the coast of Asia Minor , Sicily, Southern Italy, Northern Egypt, even Southern Gaul. Alexander (336-23 B.C.) upset these limits altogether. Himself a Hellenized Macedonian, descended from people whom the old Greeks certainly considered barbarians (though Macedonians seem to have been akin to the Aeolians), his empire spread the Greek ideal and language throughout Asia and Egypt. When Rome conquered Greece (146 B.C.) there was no longer any question of a Greek political nation. But the race goes on, and the language never dies. Constantine (A.D. 324-37) meant his new city to be Roman. But here, too, Hellas gradually absorbed her conquerors. At least from the time of Justinian I (527-65) the Eastern Empire, in spite of its Roman name, must be counted a Greek State. The Byzantine period (roughly from 527 to 1453) is the direct continuation of the older Greek civilization. It is true that Byzantine civilization was influenced from other sides (from Rome and Asia Minor , for instance); but this would apply to the old Greek ideals too, on which Egypt, Persia, and Asia had their influence; it is the normal process of the development of any civilization to absorb foreign influences gradually, without breaking its own continuity. Only, in this period the centre of gravity has moved from Athens to Constantinople. It was a special characteristic of the Turkish conquest that it neither destroyed nor absorbed the races subject to the sultan. The difference of religion, involving in this case an entirely different kind of life and different ideals in everything, prevented absorption; and the subject Christians were too valuable an asset as taxpayers to be wiped out by the Arabs. So, after 1453, except for the loss of independence and the persecution in a more or less acute form that they suffered, the older European races in the Balkans went on as before. No doubt numbers of Greeks did apostatize, learn to speak Turkish and help to build up that artificial confusion of races which we call the Turks. But the enormous majority kept their faith in spite of grievous disabilities. They kept their language, too, and their consciousness of being Greeks. They never called themselves Turks (a word that in the Balkans is still commonly used for Moslem ), nor thought of themselves as part of the Turkish State. They were Greeks (which is what their name Hromaioi really meant), their land was Greece still, though unhappily held by a foreign tyrant, for whose removal they never ceased to pray.

The real danger to the ideal of Greater Greece covering all the Balkans was not, is not now, the Turk, who remains always only an unpleasant incident in the history of these lands; it is the presence of other Christian races, Slavs, who dispute the Greek ideal with their languages and national feeling. Were it not for these Slavs we could count Greece as having absorbed Macedonia and Thrace by the time of Alexander, and as covering nearly all the Balkans to the Danube ever since. But the Bulgar, the Serb, the Wallachian--and Albanian too--are there with their languages and nations to oppose the "Great Idea " of which every Greek dreams. So, we must still count Greece as a scattered and relative element among others. Under the Turk Constantinople was still the centre of this element. The oecumenical patriarch took the place of the emperor; his court, the Phanar, was the heart of Hellenism, where the purest Greek was spoken, the memory of the old Greek States most alive.

In the beginning of the nineteenth century the wave of enthusiasm for liberty started by the French Revolution reached the Rayahs, as the Christian subjects of the sultan were called by the Turks. The Rayahs had never ceased to hope for the day when "this so glorious and noble race should no longer have to submit to a godless turban" (Ph. Skuphos in his Deesis pros ton Christon ); the Klephts and Armatoles had kept up a ceaseless, if hopeless, rebellion against the pashas and kaimakams. In 1814 the "Hetairia Philike" was founded at Odessa, to work for the freedom of Greece. In the revolution that followed, from 1821 to 1833, Greeks joined equally all over the Turkish Empire, in the islands and coast towns of Asia Minor, in Constantinople and Salonica as much as in Attica and the Peloponnesus. The treaty that finally gave freedom only to the lower part of the peninsula was a bitter disappointment to thousands of Greeks still subject to the Turk. No doubt a more generous concession was impossible; but one must remember that the modern Kingdom of Greece is only a fraction of what has an equal right to the name of Hellas. The merchants of Smyrna and Salonica, the Phanariots of Constantinople, the peasants of Crete, and even of distant Cyprus, hang out the blue and white flag on feast days, talk Greek to their wives, and are just as much conscious of being Greeks as the citizens of Athens. Outside of "free Greece" ( he eleuthera Hellas ), "captive Greece" ( he aichmalote Hellas ) waits and hopes. Of this scattered fatherland, considered as one country, whether now free or still captive, the real centre is still the Phanar at Constantinople. It is here, even more than at Athens, that the "Great Idea " of a Greece that shall cover the Balkans is cherished; it is hither, to the Phanar and the patriarch, that the eyes of all Greeks are turned. King George, with his Danish family, takes his stipend and enjoys such slight authority as his turbulent Parliament allows to him, but the head of the nation, as a Greek told Dr. Gelzer in 1898, is not the king at Athens, but the oecumenical patriarch at Constantinople. (Gelzer, "Geistliches und Weltliches aus dem turk.-griech. Orient", Leipzig, 1900. See Fortescue, "The Orthodox Eastern Church ", 240-244, 273-283.)

Something must be said about the name. The land and the people that we call Greece and Greeks are in their own language Hellas and Hellenes. Greek is a form of the Latin Graecus , which in various modifications ( grieche, grec, greco , etc.) is used in all Western languages. Graecus is Graikos , an older name for the people. Graikos was a mythical son of Thessalos. Or, since this should rather be understood as derived inversely (the person as an eponymous myth from the race), various other derivations have been proposed. Graikos (a form Hraikos also exists) is said to have meant originally "shaggy-haired", or "freeman", or "dweller in a valley" (W. Pape, "Worterbuch der griechischen Eigennamen", 3rd ed., Brunswick, 1870, s.v. Graikoi ). The first people so called were the people of Dodona in Epirus, then the Greeks in general. After the common use of the other name, Hellene, this one still survived. It occurs occasionally in classical writers; after Alexander it became common, especially among Greeks abroad (in Alexandria, etc.). From them it was adopted into Latin. But in Greek, too, it lasts through the Middle Ages as an alternative name for the Hellenes of classical times (Stephen of Byzantium, about A.D. 400: Graikos, ho Hellen quoted by Sophocles in "Greek Lexicon of the Roman and Byzantine Periods", New York, 1893, s.v. Graikos ). Latins and other foreigners, as well as Greeks writing to such people, use it not seldom for any Greek, as "Graecus" in Latin.

The other names: Hellas and Hellene are the classical ones. Hellas was a city of Phthiotis in Thessaly. From there the name Hellene spread throughout Thessaly. Herodotus distinguishes in Thessaly "two chief people: the older Pelasgic, the other the Hellenic race", and tells how the Hellenes invaded that land under Dorus, son of Hellen--another eponymous mythical hero (I, lvi, cf. lviii). The elder Pliny applies the name further: "From the neck of the Isthmus [going north] Hellas begins, which is called by our people Graecia" ("Ab Isthmi angustiis Hellas incipit, nostris Graecia appellata. In ea prima Attice, antiquitus Acte vocata"--Nat. Hist., IV, vii). Long before the New Testament the names were used by every one in our sense of Greece and Greek. So in I Mach., viii, 9 and 18. Hellas occurs once ( Acts 20:2 ), Hellen many times (e.g., Romans 10:12 ), in the New Testament. In the partitions of the Roman Empire neither Graecia nor Hellas appears. The Peloponnesus and the land up to Thessaly formed the Province of Achaia, then came Thessalia and Epirus, then Macedonia and Thracia. But popular use kept the older name (e.g., Pausanias, VII, xvi); a Greek still called himself Hellen . As Christianity spread Hellene began to suggest pagan --a worshipper of the Hellenic gods. Eventually this evil flavour absorbed the word altogether. In the Greek Fathers it always means simply "a heathen ". St. Athanasius wrote a treatise against the heathen and called it: Logos kath Hellenon , so all the others. Julian, in his hopeless attempt to revive the old gods, always uses it in this sense and makes the most of its honourable sound. But Christianity was stronger than the memory of Hellas, so from this time the name falls into discredit till quite modern times.

All through the Middle Ages Greeks called themselves Hromaioi , meaning citizens of the Roman Empire brought by Constantine to his new capital. This strange adaptation of their conquerors' name lasted till the nineteenth century. Even now peasants call themselves Hromaioi , and (except in towns and among schoolmasters) the Greek for "Do you speak Greek?" is: Homilete Hromaika ; It was during the great revival of political national feeling at the beginning of the nineteenth century that the classical name began to be used again, almost as a war-cry, by the people whose imagination was full of Pericles and Socrates. When the Morea, the islands, and part of the mainland succeeded in throwing off the Turk, the first provisional independent government naturally called its territory neither after the Turkish vilayets nor Roman province, but went back to the glorious name Hellas. And when things were settled by the London Conference, in 1832, the new kingdom was the Basileia tes Hellados , and Otto of Bavaria became (title unknown to history) ho Basileus ton Hellenon


Greece possesses by the most undisputed right an Apostolic Church. St. Paul, in his second missionary journey (52-53, with Silas and Timothy), while he was at Troas in Mysia, saw the vision ("Pass over into Macedonia, and help us", Acts 16:9 ) that brought him for the first time to Europe. At Philippi in Macedonia he founded the first Christian Church on European soil (ibid., 12 sq.). Thence he came to Thessalonica (xvii, 1), Berea (xvii, 10), and, travelling southwards, to Athens (xvii, 15). Here he preached about "the unknown God " on the Areopagus (xvii, 22-31), and went on to Corinth (xviii, 1). At Corinth he was brought before Gallio, "proconsul of Achaia " (xviii, 12); from Cenchrae, the port of Corinth, he sailed back to Ephesus with Priscilla and Aquila (xviii, 18). In the third journey (54-58) he came again to Macedonia (about the year 57 -- Acts 20:1 ), thence "to Greece" ( eis ten Hellada , xx, 2), and stayed three months at Corinth (xx, 3), then back to Asia Minor (Troas) by Macedonia (xx, 4, 5). In all these places St. Paul preached, according to his custom, first to the colonies of Jews and then to Gentiles too; in all he left Christian communities from which others in the neighbourhood were formed by his disciples : "I have planted, Apollo watered, but God gave the increase" ( 1 Corinthians 3:6 ). So that he could say: "From Jerusalem round about as far as unto Illyricum, I have replenished the gospel of Christ" ( Romans 15:19 ). Among the Pauline Churches of Greece two stand out as the most important--those of Athens and Corinth. This is what one would expect from the Apostle's general practice of bringing his message first and most completely to the great cities. From these it would spread more easily to the country round. Athens, in St. Paul's time no longer of first importance politically or economically, still held a great place through her immortal memories. A number of Romans had settled there, such as T. Pomponius Atticus, Cicero's friend. These are apparently the "foreign dwellers" ( oi epidemountes xenoi ) of Acts 17:21 . There was also a colony of Jews, to whom St. Paul preached first. "He disputed, therefore, in the synagogue with the Jews, and with them that served God [ tois sebomenois ], and in the market-place, every day with them that were there" (the heathen -- Acts 17:17 ). Of far greater practical importance was Corinth, then one of the chief commercial centres of the empire, the residence of Gallio, Proconsul of Achaia ( Acts 18:12 ). Corinth became the centre of the Apostle's work, the chief centre of Christianity in Greece. It is supposed that he wrote here his Epistle to the Romans (J. Belser, "Einleitung in das Neue Testament", Freiburg im Br., 1901, p. 507), both those to the Thessalonians (ibid., 461 and 468), perhaps that to the Galatians (so Zahn). His care for the Church of Corinth is shown in his two Epistles to the Corinthians . For an account of this, the most typical of the Pauline Churches, see Belser, op. cit., V, xl (pp. 476-489).

The alleged mission of other Apostles to Greece rests on a less firm footing. St. Andrew is said to have preached in Scythia, Thrace, Epirus, Macedonia, and Achaia, and to have been crucified (on a cross of the shape to which he has given his name) at Patras, by order of the Proconsul Aegeas. The story of his mission and martyrdom is as old as the second century. It formed part of a work on the Apostles written then by a heretic, Leucius Charinus (Leukios Chareinos.--cf. Epiphanius, "adv. Haer.", lxi, 1; lxiii, 2). There is an alleged contemporary encyclical letter of the priests and deacons of Achaia which tells the story, including speeches made by the saint in verse:--

O bona crux diu desiderata,
Iam concupiscenti animo praeparata,
Securus et gaudens venio ad te,
Et tu exsultans suscipias me,
Discipulum eius qui pependit in te.

The whole text is published by Tischendorf, "Acta Apostolorum apocrypha" (Leipzig, 1851, pp. 105-131), and Lipsius, "Die apokryph. Apostelgeschichten" (1883, I, 543 sq.), where the question of its origin is discussed. The lessons, antiphons, and responses for St. Andrew's day (30 Nov.) in the Roman Breviary are taken from this document. On account of the tradition that St. Andrew preached in Thrace, the Patriarchs of Constantinople claim him as their first predecessor; the Russians have enlarged his mission in Scythia into the conversion of their country (he came and preached as far as Kiev). St. Thomas and St. Matthew are also said to have visited Greece on missionary journeys.

The Church spread rapidly in Greece. We hear of bishops in various cities during the persecution. Under the Emperor Hadrian (117-38), Publius, Bishop of Athens, was martyred ( Eusebius, H. E., IV, xxiii). A certain Philip was Bishop of Gortyna (ibid.). Eusebius writes of Dionysius of Corinth and his works (ibid.). Publius at Athens was succeeded by Quadratus the apologist (Bardenhewer, "Altkirchl. Literaturgeschichte, I). Aristidesk of Athens was also a famous apologist (ibid.).

In this first period in Greece, as everywhere, the bishops of the chief towns have a certain precedence, even jurisdiction, over their fellow-bishops ("Orth. Eastern Church ," pp. 7-8). Heraclea was the ecclesiastical metropolis of Thrace, Thessalonica of Macedonia, Corinth of Achaia. Domitius of Heraclea, under Antoninus Pius (138-61), witnessed the martyrdom of St. Glycera; his successor, Philip, was burnt to death at Adrianople under Diocletian (284-305). Pinytus, Bishop of Crete, corresponded with Dionysius of Corinth ( Eusebius, H. E., IV, xxiii). After Constantine (324-37) the local Churches were organized more systematically, according to Diocletian's division of the empire (Orth. Eastern Church, pp. 21-23). Greece became part of the Prefecture of Illyricum, Thrace belonged to the "East" (Praefectura Orientis). The Prefectures of Gaul, Italy, and Illyricum made up the Roman Patriarchate (ibid., p. 21), so that, legally, Greece became part of that patriarchate. Normally it should have used the Roman Rite and belonged to Western Christendom. But Illyricum was an endless source of dispute between East and West, till the Great Schism (ibid., pp. 44-45, Duchesne, "L'Illyricum ecclesiastique", in "Eglises separees" (Paris, 2nd ed., 1905, pp. 229-79). In Thrace, Constantinople succeeded in displacing the old metropolis, Heraclea, and then in becoming a patriarchate, eventually claiming even the second place after Rome, at the Second and Fourth General Councils (Orth. Eastern Church, pp. 28-47). Since the Council of Ephesus (431) Cyprus has been an autocephalous Church (ibid., 47-50); Crete was part of Illyricum and shared in the disputes about it. In 379, under Gratian and Theodosius, Illyricum was divided politically into Eastern and Western Illyricum. The Western half (Pannonia Prima and Secunda, Pannonia Ripariensis, Dalmatia and Noricum Primum and Secundum) remained joined to the Italian prefecture; the eastern part (Macedonia, Thessalia, old Epirus, Achaia, New Epirus, Crete, Praevalitana--which is now Albania --Dacia Mediterranea, and Dardania--i.e. our Servia ) became part of the eastern half of the empire, then of the Eastern Empire. The Patriarchs of Constantinople claimed this Eastern Illyricum as part of their patriarchate, and eventually, in spite of the popes' protests, succeeded in asserting their jurisdiction over it. Eastern Illyricum then included part of what we call Greece, the rest was occupied by the (civil) diocese of Thrace and Cyprus.

Lequien, in his "Oriens Christianus", I and II (Paris, 1740), gives lists of the Churches of these lands with their arrangement in provinces and the names of all their bishops, as far as they were known in his time. The Byzantine Patriarchate consisted of the (civil) dioceses of Pontus (I, 351-662), Asia (I, 663-1090), Thrace (I, 1091-1246), Eastern Illyricum (II, 1-26). Of these the diocese of Thrace, to some extent, and the diocese of Eastern Illyricum entirely, cover our Greece.

The diocese of Thrace had seven ecclesiastical provinces : (1) Europe, with Heraclea as metropolis (I, 1101-1154). This province once had twenty, in Lequien's time only five, sees, Rhedaestus, Parium, Metra-and-Athyra, Tzurloes and Myriophyta. (2) Thrace (as distinct from the diocese ) with Philippopolis as metropolis (I, 1155-1170). (3) Haemimontum, metropolis Adrianople (I, 1171-1192). (4) Rhodopes, metropolis Trajanople (I, 1193-1210). (5) Scythia, metropolis Tomi ( Tomes or Tomis , now extinct, I, 1211-1216). (6) Moesia (or Mysia) Inferior, Metropolis Marcianople (Preslav Preslaba ), I, 1247-1251). (7) Walachia, metropolis Tergovite, is no longer in any sense Greek. Compare with this list the metropolitan sees (74) of the patriarchate, arranged in three classes, according to their place in the synod, in Silbernagl, "Verfassung u. gegenwartiger Bestand samtlicher Kirchen des Orients", Regensburg, 2nd ed., 1904, pp. 33-35). The title metropolitan is now given to almost every bishop.

In Lequien's list the second great diocese, Eastern Illyricum, whose capital was Thessalonica (vol. II, 1-318), covers practically all Greece. Before the division of Illyricum its capital was Sirmium. We have seen that Western Illyricum remained part of the Roman patriarchate and was in no sense Greece. The eastern diocese had nine provinces (see above); of these only the first seven can be called Greek, and in many of them the Slav element was very powerful. The Slav invasions of the empire began under Anastasius I (491-518) in 493; various Slav tribes and the non-Aryan Bulgars (who soon adopted a Slav language and became practically Slavs too) pressed southward into Thrace, Macedonia, Thessaly, even Achaia, in increasing numbers, throughout the whole period of the empire at Constantinople; so that always, and still in our own time, they form a rival influence to the Greeks throughout these lands. The old sees of these seven more or less Greek provinces are, according to Lequien : (1) Province of Macedonia (II, 27-102), metropolis Thessalonica, with suffragan sees of Philippi, Berrhoea, Dium ( Dion ), Stobi ( Stoboi ), Parthicopolis, Doberus, Cassandria, Edessa, Pydna or Citrum, Heraclea Sintica, Amphipolis, Lemnos (the island), Thassus, Serra, Bargala, Theorium, Campania or Castrium, Poliana, Pogoiana, Zichnae, Drygobitzia, Melanias, Drama, Ardamerium, Rhendina, Deabolis, Hierissus, Lycostomium and Servia. (2) The Province of Thessaly (II, 102-132) had as metropolis, Larissa, as suffragan sees, Demetrias, Zetunium ( Zetounion or Zetonion ), Caesarea in Thessaly, Gomphi ( Gomphoi ), Echinus, Pharsalus Lamia, Scopelus, Tricca ( Trikke , now Trikala), Hypata (neut. plur.), metropolis, Thebes of Phthiotis, Sciathus, New Patras, Ezerus, Demonicum-and-Elasso, Stagae, Thaumacus, Litza-and-Agraphorum, Pherae, Loedoricium, Marmaritzium, Bezena, Peparethi. (3) Old Epirus (II, 133-154) had for its metropolis Nicopolis, and for suffragan sees, Anchiasmum (or Onchisimus), Phoenices, Dodona, Buthrotus, Adrianople (in Epirus), Photica, Euroea ( Euroia ), Corcyra (the island, Corfu ), Aetus, Ioannina (now Janina), Leucas, Achelous. (4) Hellas (II, 155-239) had as metropolis, Corinth, and for suffragan sees, Cenchreae ( Vulgate Cenchrae, Kenchreai , the port of Corinth ), Old Patras, Argos, Nauplia, Megalopolis in Arcadia, Lacedaemon, Coronea ( Koroneia in Boeotia), Elis, or Elea, in Achaia, Tegea in Arcadia, Messene in the Peloponnesus, Carystus in Euboea, Naupactus, Arta (now Larta, formerly Ambracia), Oreus ( Oreos ), Porthmus, Marathon, Elatea, Megara (neut. plur.), Opus ( Opous ), Plataea, Thebes in Boeotia, Thespiae, Tanagra (both fem. sing. and neut. plur.), Scarphia, Chalcis, Monembasia (fem. sing.), Strategis, Pyrgus (or Pyrgium), Troezen, Elis in the Peloponnesus, Aegina (the island), Aulon, or Solon (the old Delphi), Amyclae, Olena, Methone, Scyrus ( Skyros , the island), Zacynthus (Zante) , Cephalenia, Diaulia, Pylus, Brestene, Andrusa, Mendinitza, Tzernitza, Ceos (the island). (5) New Epirus (II, 240-255) had for metropolis, Dyrrhacium ( Dyrrachion ), and for suffragan sees, Scampe, Apollonia-and-Bullidis, Amantia, Decatera (neut. plur., in Dalmatia ), Aulon ( Aulon ), Listra (neut. plur.), Dribastus, Stephaniacum. (6) Crete (II, 256-274) had for metropolis Gortyna (of which St. Titus was first bishop ), Gnossus, Arcadia, Hiera Petra, Lappa, Phoenix, Hieracleopolis, Subrita, Apollonia, Eleutherae, Chersonesus, Cydonia, Cissamus, Cantani.--The other provinces (Praevalitana, Dacia Mediterranea, and Dardania) do not concern Greece.

The remnants of these sees left to the oecumenical patriarch, after Turkish spoliation and the independence of the modern Greek Church, will be seen in Silbernagl's list.


The Patriarchs of Constantinople had succeeded in asserting jurisdiction over all this vast territory, as well as over Asia Minor and the purely Slav lands to the North. After the schism of Caerularius (1054) these metropolitans and bishops followed their patriarch by striking the pope's name from their diptychs. They, too, like their chief, learned to abhor Latin customs, to look on the Latin Church under the pope as a fallen branch and a synagogue of Satan. There is no trace of independent action in any of these local Greek Churches. They all used the Byzantine Rite and followed the Byzantine Patriarch faithfully. During the short-lived unions of Lyons (1274) and Ferrara-Florence (1439) they became Uniats too. They cared for the union as little as did their leaders at Constantinople and fell away again as easily as they had joined. The Latin conquest of their lands (after the Fourth Crusade, in 1204) brought about a rival Latin hierarchy and something very like persecution for the Greeks. Naturally, they hated and scorned the Latin bishops and groaned under the disabilities they suffered from the Frankish princes and from Venice. The Slavs invaded their lands, destroyed many of their cities, so that Greek dioceses disappear because there are no more Greeks left in great tracts of what they still affect to call Greece; but the remnants that maintain themselves still look to Constantinople for orders and still keep the Byzantine Rite in Greek. The Turkish conquest brought about still greater hardships. Invited in the first instance as allies by the fatal policy of the Emperor John VI (Cantacuzene, 1341-55), the Turks first took hold of European soil by seizing Kallipolis (in the Thracian Cheronese) in 1356. From this time they steadily advanced, taking city after city, ravaging and plundering what they could not keep. In 1361 they took Adrianople and made it their capital in Europe till the fall of Constantinople. Then, moving north, they conquered the remnants of Stephen Dushan's great Servian Empire (Battle of Kossova, 1389). Lastly, nearly a century after they had first landed in Europe, they finished their work by taking Constantinople (29 May, 1453). From this time till the nineteenth century the Greeks and the Orthodox Church in Greece were subject to a Moslem government. The Sultans applied the usual terms of Moslem law regarding non-Moslem Theists to the Christian population of their empire (Orth. Eastern Church , 233-244). There was to be no active persecution. Christians suffer certain disabilities. They may not serve in the army, and they have to pay a poll-tax; they must dress differently from their masters, may not have as high houses, may put no sign of their faith (crosses) outside their churches, nor ring church bells, nor bear arms, nor ride on horses. Their evidence may not be accepted in a court of law against a Moslem. To convert a Moslem to their faith, seduce a Moslem woman, speak openly against Islam, make any treaty or alliance with people outside the Moslem empire is punished with death. As long as they keep these laws they are not to be molested further, and they are quite free with regard to their religion. Of course any Christian may turn Moslem at any time ; if he does so it is death to go back. (During the last century the European Powers have forced the Porte to modify most of these laws.) The Orthodox were organized into a subject community under the name of Roman Nation ( rum millet , a strange survival of the name of the old Roman Empire which the Turks had destroyed). Their civil head was the oecumenical patriarch. During the century after the Turkish conquest this patriarch reached the height of his power; then, in 1591, Russia became an independent Church --an example followed later by one branch of the patriarchate after another, till he is now the merest shadow of what his predecessors were. During the centuries between the fall of Constantinople and the beginning of Greek independence the Greek Church (although it was certainly not happy ) has no history, unless one counts as such the affairs of the Patriarchate (Cyril Lucaris and the Synod of Jerusalem in 1672, for instance, op. cit., 264-268). The other Greek bishops paid their heavy fees to the patriarch and the government; the parish priests paid their heavy fees to the bishops. The hideous oppression of the Turk overshadowed all their lives. For the Turk has never kept his own fairly tolerant law. The tribute of children for the Janissary guard was levied till 1638. The Christians were always in a state of simmering rebellion and the Turks were always punishing their attempts by wholesale massacre. In Crete 50,000 Christian children, in the year 1670, were torn from their parents, circumcized, and brought up as Moslems ; in Asia Minor thousands of Greeks had their tongues torn out for not talking Turkish (op. cit., 237-238). Meanwhile the clergy celebrated the Holy Liturgy on Sundays, worked in the fields, and kept wine-shops on week-days. But for the kamelaukion (or kalemaukion --the tall hat without a brim) there was little to distinguish them from other peasants. But they kept alive faith in Christ and Hellas, prayed for better days, were generally at the bottom of each attempt at resisting the pasha's abominations, and bore silent but heroic witness for Christ during those dark centuries. And who can reproach them for being poor and ignorant ? The schism (not the fault of these poor Papades at any rate) had cut them off from the West. Europe had forgotten them. They had everything in the world to gain by turning Turk; and yet they kept the Christian faith alive among their people, in spite of pashas, and soldiers, and massacres. Their little dark, dirty churches were the centres not only of Christianity but of Hellenism too. And while their wives poured out the strong resinous wine for whispering conspirators, their sons were out on the hills, klephts and armatoloi keeping up the hopeless war for Greece.

The Greek War of Independence brought a great change to the Church of the free kingdom. The clergy had taken a leading part in the revolution. In 1821, at the beginning of the movement, when Alexander Hypsilanti was making his absurd attempt to rouse the Vlachs, Gregory V of Constantinople, forced by the Turkish government, denounced the "Hetairia Philike" and excommunicated the rebels. But the Metropolitan of Patras, Germanos, the Archimandrite Dikaios (Pappa Phlesas), and other leading ecclesiastical persons openly took the side of the Greeks, helped them with their counsels, and in many cases even joined in the fighting. Dikaios made a heroic stand with 3000 men against Ibrahim Pasha's Egyptians at Maniaki on Mount Malia. In 1822 the Turks began their series of reprisals by barbarously murdering the Patriarch Gregory V in his vestments, after the Liturgy of Easter Day (22 April), although he, so far from being responsible, had obeyed them by excommunicating his fellow-countrymen. Throughout the war the Greek Church showed that the cause of her children was her cause too. But, in spite of Greek enthusiasm for Gregory V (his relics were buried with great honour at Athens in 1871), the court of the patriarch (the Phanar) was too much under the power of the sultan for the free Greeks to submit to its jurisdiction. The example of Russia showed that a national Church could remain Orthodox and keep the communion of the patriarch while being itself independent of his authority. As soon as the affairs of free Greece began to be settled, one of the first acts of the national party was to throw off the jurisdiction of the Phanar. Alexander Koraes wrote at the time : "The clergy of that part of Hellas that is now free cannot submit to the authority of the Patriarch of Constantinople, who is under the power of the Turk; it must rule itself by a Synod of freely elected prelates " ( Politikai Paraineseis , quoted by Kyriakos, Ekkl. Historia , Athens, 1898, III, para. 42, p. 154). The first National Assemblies (at Epidaurus and Troezen) in 1822 and 1827, while declaring that the Orthodox faith is the religion of Greece, had pointedly said nothing about the oecumenical patriarch. In July, 1833, the Greek Parliament at Nauplion drew up a constitution for the national Church. Imitating Russia, they declared their Church autocephalous--independent of any foreign authority--and proceeded to set up a "Holy Directing Synod " to govern it. They also suppressed, of the great number of almost deserted monasteries in Greece, all that had less than six monks as inmates. In 1844 the same thing was repeated, and copies of the law were sent to Constantinople and to the other Orthodox Churches. The patriarch was exceedingly indignant at what he, not unnaturally, described as an act of schism. The Greek Government had put off the evil moment of announcing to him its new arrangement as long as it dared. Between 1822 and 1844 the Greek Church considered itself autocephalous, managing its own affairs by its synod, but had sent no notice of the change to the Phanar. So the patriarch affected to ignore the change. But he showed his anger plainly enough in 1841, when he received notice from the Greek Church that she had excommunicated for heresy Theophilos Kaires, the founder of the "Theosebismos" sect, an imitation of French Deism. The patriarch (Anthimos IV) refused to accept, or even to answer, this letter. So also did his successor, Germanos IV, refuse to notice the declaration of their independence that he received from his former subjects in 1844. In 1849 the Greek Synod made another attempt. James Rizos, the Greek minister at Constantinople, had just died and the patriarch buried him with great honour. The Greek Government sent the Archimandrite Misael, then president of the synod, to Constantinople with the new Order of the Holy Saviour and a message of thanks to the patriarch (Anthimos IV restored) from the autocephalous Church of Greece. Anthimos took the order and then said that he knew nothing of an autocephalous Greek Church. The Greek Synod sent another circular to him and to all the other Orthodox Churches, explaining what had been done and proclaiming their independence. At last, in 1850, Anthimos IV summoned his synod to consider the matter. The result of its consultation was the famous Tomos. The Tomos at least acknowledged a certain limited independence of the Greek Holy Synod, but proceeded to lay down a number of rules for its guidance. Any sort of interference of the State is absolutely forbidden, there is to be no royal commissioner in the synod, the patriarch is to be named, as before, in the Holy Liturgy, the chrism is to be procured from him, and all important matters must still be referred to his judgment. The tone of the Tomos is still that of absolute authority; each clause begins with the words: "We command that . . . "

The document produced an uproar in Greece. Afraid of a formal schism, the Synod was at first disposed to accept it. There was also a conservative party led by Oikonomos (d. 1857), who were opposed to any change and inclined to submit to the patriarch in everything. But the feeling of the majority was strongly against any sort of submission. The free Greeks had determined to have nothing more to do with the Phanar at all. Pharmakides (d. 1860), the leader of the Liberal party (with a distinct Protestantizing tendency), answered the Tomos by an indignant protest: "The [patriarchal] Synodical Tomos, or concerning Truth" ( ho Synodikos Tomos he peri aletheias , Athens, 1852). And the Parliament (always the last court of appeal for these independent Orthodox Churches) rejected every kind of interference on the part of the patriarch. Eventually the Greek Church admitted two points from the Tomos: that the Metropolitan of Athens should be ex officio President of the Synod ; and that the holy chrism should be sent from Constantinople. The first of these points has become a fixed rule; the second obtains so far, but there is in Greece a strong movement in favour of consecrating the chrism at Athens. For the rest the patriarch's rules were rejected. The royal commissioner sits in the Holy Synod, and the Greek Church is as Erastian as that of Russia. The Holy Synod is named in the Liturgy instead of the patriarch. Forced by Russia, the Phanar had to give in and to acknowledge yet another loss to its patriarchate and another "Sister in Christ", the "Holy Directing Synod " of the autocephalous Church of Hellas. Since then there has been no more question about this point; the common cause of all Greeks against Slavs in the Balkans has restored very friendly feeling between the free Greeks and their Phanariot brothers. Two political changes further diminished the jurisdiction of the patriarch and enlarged that of the Greek Synod. In 1866 England ceded the Ionian Isles to Greece. True to the now acknowledged principle that the Church must reflect the political situation, the Greek Government at once separated the dioceses of these islands from the patriarchate and joined them to the Church of Greece. The Phanar made an ineffectual protest, and for a short time there was an angry correspondence between Athens and Constantinople. But once more the patriarch had to give in and s

More Encyclopedia

The Catholic Encyclopedia is the most comprehensive resource on Catholic teaching, history, and information ever gathered in all of human history. This easy-to-search online version was originally printed between 1907 and 1912 in fifteen hard copy volumes.

Catholic Encyclopedia

Designed to present its readers with the full body of Catholic teaching, the Encyclopedia contains not only precise statements of what the Church has defined, but also an impartial record of different views of acknowledged authority on all disputed questions, national, political or factional. In the determination of the truth the most recent and acknowledged scientific methods are employed, and the results of the latest research in theology, philosophy, history, apologetics, archaeology, and other sciences are given careful consideration.

No one who is interested in human history, past and present, can ignore the Catholic Church, either as an institution which has been the central figure in the civilized world for nearly two thousand years, decisively affecting its destinies, religious, literary, scientific, social and political, or as an existing power whose influence and activity extend to every part of the globe. In the past century the Church has grown both extensively and intensively among English-speaking peoples. Their living interests demand that they should have the means of informing themselves about this vast institution, which, whether they are Catholics or not, affects their fortunes and their destiny.

Copyright © Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company New York, NY. Volume 1: 1907; Volume 2: 1907; Volume 3: 1908; Volume 4: 1908; Volume 5: 1909; Volume 6: 1909; Volume 7: 1910; Volume 8: 1910; Volume 9: 1910; Volume 10: 1911; Volume 11: - 1911; Volume 12: - 1911; Volume 13: - 1912; Volume 14: 1912; Volume 15: 1912

Catholic Online Catholic Encyclopedia Digital version Compiled and Copyright © Catholic Online


Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Subscribe to Catholic OnlineYouTube Channel

the FEED
by Catholic Online

  • 5 tips for Catholics to stay positive
  • St. Catherine of Siena: Saint of the Day for Friday, April 29, 2016
  • Daily Reading for Sunday, May 1st, 2016 HD Video
  • Why are these transparent wires being put up in cities around the world?
  • Daily Readings for Friday, April 29, 2016
  • LISTEN NOW: Benedictine nuns release new album
  • A Marriage Blessing Prayer HD Video

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Acts 15:7-21
7 and after a long discussion, Peter stood up and addressed them. 'My ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 96:1-2, 2-3, 10
1 Sing a new song to Yahweh! Sing to Yahweh, all the earth!2 ... Read More

Gospel, John 15:9-11
9 I have loved you just as the Father has loved me. Remain in my ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for April 28th, 2016 Image

St. Peter Chanel
April 28: In St. Peter Chanel, Priest and Martyr (Feast day ... Read More