The Great Church in Captivity: A Study of the Patriarchate of Constantinople from the Eve of the Turkish Conquest to the Greek War of Independence Paperback – 9 Mar 2009
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This is Sir Steven Runciman's established and widely admired classic account of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, first published in 1968. The Great Church, as the Greeks called the Orthodox Patriarchate, was the spiritual centre of the Byzantine world. Sir Steven Runciman's history of the Great Church is written with scholarship, sympathy and style.
From the Back Cover
The Great Church, as the Greeks called the Orthodox Patriarchate of Constantinople, was the spiritual centre of the Byzantine world. The Church's survival during the four centuries of Turkish rule which followed the fall of Constantinople bore witness to its strength and to the unquenchable vitality of Hellenism.See all Product Description
Top Customer Reviews
Covering everything from the way the Great Church was structured pre-15th Century, right up to the fall of the Great City and beyond, this book is also a great account of how the Church is still structured and governed to the present day.
Not only is Runciman easy to follow, but also his way of writing is second to none. It is as if he is your mdoern-day tour guide accompanying you on a journey through time - the once village known as Byzantium, the Great City of Constantinople and subsequently Ottoman-occupied Istanbul - have been home to The Patriarchate for a good 17 Centuries.
Runciman also makes clear the distinction between Greek and 'Rüm' (Roman) and gives a historical account as to why these expressions are in use today within the Great Church and the wider community in modern-day Istanbul.
An absolute classic by the most valued historian of that period.
These accounts highlight the injustice of collective punishment as we still see it in the modern world. And the whole book gives tremendously valuable background on the whole cultural life of modern East Europe.
--author of Correcting Jesus: 2000 Years of Changing the Story
Part II is the more interesting, as it deals with the patriarchate's attempts to preserve an Orthodox culture. Even though the Turks were generally tolerant, they were opposed to the expansion of Christianity, so the story is one of slow decline in the face of social and material temptations to convert to Islam. This decline was more rapid following the fight for Greek independence in the early 19th century onwards, when Orthodox Christians were regarded as potential traitors, and particularly after the rise of Turkish nationalism in the early 20th century
Runciman makes little claim to originality, but the value of this work is that it assembles the results of researchers in several languages into a single volume. It is generally well written and readable, although it does cover a rather specialised topic.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Generally, the book was easy to read and very informative. One chapter deals heavily with theology, and finding the subject brain numbing, I must admit, I skipped over most it. No matter, the balance of the book, which deals with Church history, was very enlightening. I do have one issue with Runcimen's account, however. Greek history teaches that during the captivity, Greek children were taught Greek by the clergy, under covert conditions, usually at night in underground caves, so as to not alert the Turks. By doing this, the Greek people were able to maintain their identity through language and religion, and resist turkification. This is a fact of paramount significance to the Greek people, a legend of heroism passed down from generation to generation, yet there is no mention of it by Runciman. Even though this account was omitted, there is so much content in this book, that I highly recommend it to those interested in the history of the Orthodox Church.
To Greeks: A bit of warning to the wide-eyed and uninitiated: You were not taught this history at home or in Sunday school, so you may be shocked by some of this. I was.
We also get a deeper insight on Runciman's own ideas about religion and theology that we only catch a glimpse of, in his most ...ermm, "secular" works.
This book also piqued my interest on a more personal level as well, being (nominally) Orthodox.For anyone who has read his books, it's not a secret where Runciman' s sympathies lay - and he certainly tries to explain and excuse many "unfortunate" acts and decisions on behalf of the Orthodox Church.But be warned - this isn't a rose-tinted hagiography - the story of the "Great Church" in "captivity" becomes literally nauseating at times, and it doesn't lack in cynicism and petty squabling.It certainly didn't make me want to get rid of that pesky "nominally" in front of my religion....