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Saint Sophia Ukrainian Orthodox Theological Seminary
Press Release

Day Four of Prayerful Pilgrimage to Constantinople!

On Friday, April 12, 2013, Vladyka Daniel and seminarians of St. Sophia Ukrainian Orthodox Theological Seminary attended the Liturgy of Presanctified Gifts at St. George patriarchal Cathedral. His All-Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew presided over the service, while Bishop Daniel and the seminarians-clergy of the UOC of the USA received Holy Eucharist at the altar of the cathedral.

Immediately following the liturgical services of the day, the bishop, accompanied by the Church’s seminarians spent about an hour with Patriarch Bartholomew, receiving from His All-Holiness additional gifts – books and speeches written by the Patriarch as well as discussing St. Sophia’s academic program and the blessings and challenges that the Great Church of Christ faces in the modern world.

The second part of morning hours was spent by visiting the Church of the Savior in Chora, learning about the history of the ancient temple and the beauty of the surviving frescos and mosaics. Namely this sacred temple is considered to be one of the most beautiful surviving examples of a Byzantine church. The church is situated in Istanbul, in the Edirnekapı neighborhood, which lies in the western part of the municipality of Fatih. In the 16th century, during the Ottoman era, the church was converted into a mosque and, finally, it became a museum in 1948. The interior of the building is covered with fine mosaics and frescoes.

The Chora Church was originally built as part of a monastery complex outside the walls of Constantinople, to the south of the Golden Horn. Literally translated, the church's full name was the Church of the Holy Savior in the Country: although "The Church of the Holy Redeemer in the Fields" would be a more natural rendering of the name in English. The last part of that name, Chora, referring to its location originally outside of the walls, became the shortened name of the church. The original church on this site was built in the early 5th century, and stood outside of the 4th century walls of Constantine the Great. However, when Theodosius II built his formidable land walls in 413–414, the church became incorporated within the city's defenses, but retained the name Chora. The name must have carried symbolic meaning, as the mosaics in the narthex describe Christ as the Land of the Living and Mary, the Mother of Jesus, as the Container of the Uncontainable.

The majority of the fabric of the current building dates from 1077–1081, when Maria Dukaina, the mother-in-law of Alexius I Comnenus, rebuilt the Chora Church as an inscribed cross or quincunx: a popular architectural style of the time. Early in the 12th century, the church suffered a partial collapse, perhaps due to an earthquake. The church was rebuilt by Isaac Comnenus, Alexius's third son. However, it was only after the third phase of building, two centuries after, that the church as it stands today was completed. The powerful Byzantine statesman Theodore Metochites endowed the church with much of its fine mosaics and frescos. Theodore's impressive decoration of the interior was carried out between 1315 and 1321. The mosaic-work is the finest example of the Palaeologian Renaissance. The artists remain unknown. In 1328, Theodore was sent into exile by the usurper Andronicus III Palaeologus. However, he was allowed to return to the city two years later, and lived out the last two years of his life as a monk in his Chora Church.

During the last siege of Constantinople in 1453, the Icon of the Theotokos Hodegetria, considered the protector of the City, was brought to Chora in order to assist the defenders against the assault of the Ottomans.

Around fifty years after the fall of the city to the Ottomans, Atık Ali Paşa, the Grand Vizier of Sultan Bayezid II, ordered the Chora Church to be converted into a mosque - Kariye Camii. Due to the prohibition against iconic images in Islam, the mosaics and frescoes were covered behind a layer of plaster. This and frequent earthquakes in the region have taken their toll on the artwork.

In 1948, Thomas Whittemore and Paul A. Underwood, from the Byzantine Institute of America and the Dumbarton Oaks Center for Byzantine Studies, sponsored a programme of restoration. From that time on, the building ceased to be a functioning mosque. In 1958, it was opened to the public as a museum.

Following the visit to the Chora Church, the delegation of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA was once again received by His All-Holiness and treated to a luncheon at the Patriarchal offices.

During the second part of the day, His Grace Bishop Daniel and Fr. Victor Wronsky, Fr. Vasyl Pasakas, Fr. Andriy Matlak, Fr. Vasyl Dovgan, Deacon Philip Harendza and Pani-matka Ivanna Wronsky accompanied Patriarch Bartholomew on a visit to the Dormition of the Birth-Giver of God Church in Yenikoy, Istanbul for a chanting of the 4th Part of the Salutations to the Theotokos (Akathist), at which His All-Holiness presided and the seminarians of St. Sophia Ukrainian Orthodox Seminary chanted along with the chanters of the parish a short hymn to the Birth-Giver of God in Ukrainian language. At the conclusion of the service Patriarch Bartholomew welcomed Bishop Daniel and the students of the UOC of the USA to the local parish community and shared with about 250 people in attendance the rich history of a long-lasting relationship between the Church of Constantinople and the Church of Kyiv Rus – Ukraine, as well as the relationship with the UOC of the USA, mentioning His historic visit to Ukraine for the celebration of 1020 Anniversary of Baptism of Ukraine and this year’s observance of 1025 anniversary of Baptism of Kyiv Rus-Ukraine.

As the evening hours settled in the city of Constantinople, the Patriarch departed the parish inviting Bishop Daniel and seminarians to join him on a trip to the Halki Theological Seminary during the weekend of April 13-14, 2013. His Grace Bishop Daniel and the clergy of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA received Patriarchal blessing to serve Divine Liturgy of St. Basil the Great at the Holy Trinity church of Halki Monastery and Seminary on Sunday, April 14, 2013.

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