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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

4.5 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 468 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; Revised ed. edition (9 Mar. 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521313104
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521313100
  • Product Dimensions: 13.8 x 2.6 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 172,917 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product Description

Book Description

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.

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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
One of the must-reads for any Byzantine History enthusiast, Runciman really outdoes himself in this book. After seeing Runciman's film 'Bridge to the East', this book was a natural purchase and one that I haven't regretted.

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.
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Format: Paperback
Runciman is probably the ranking master of Eastern Orthodox history, and his insights shed light on all religious traditions of the world. As the Eastern churches passed under many political masters, Runciman traces how they adjusted and survived. Often they were treated as subject communities, under threat of collective punishments for any disobedience from groups or individuals in their midst. For example, under Ottoman rule Greek Orthodox Patriarch Gregory V felt constrained, both by his Turkish rulers and his own religious tradition, to condemn the rising movement for Greek national freedom. In his "Paternal Exhortation" of 1790, Gregory called Greek Christians to remember that God had placed them under the Ottoman Sultan. Therefore their cry for political freedom was "an enticement of the Devil and a murderous poison destined to push the people into disorder and destruction". Later, Patriarch Gregory threatened to excommunicate any local priests who aided or sheltered Greek freedom-fighters. No doubt the patriarch knew his own life depended on giving such orders, and on his church obeying them. The Ottoman rulers had already killed, enslaved, or exiled seven Orthodox patriarchs for failing to control their subordinates. And when Gregory failed to halt the movement for Greek independence, the Ottomans killed him too.

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
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Format: Paperback
This book is less a comprehensive history of patriarchate of Constantinople under Ottoman rule than a series of studies on aspects of the relationship between the Orthodox patriarchate and its Ottoman rulers. Part I is a survey of the Eastern Orthodox church in general before the Ottoman conquest, including themes such as the monasteries, mysticism and the churches relations with philosophers and with the Western church. Part II has three main themes: how the patriarchate and its Greek followers adapted to an Ottoman sultan replacing a Christian emperor; how it related to other churches, including the Russian Orthodox Church, the Papacy and Protestant denominations, and how it developed its doctrine. The emphasis on relations with Protestant churches in the 16th and 17th centuries arises from Runciman's contributions to a conference on this subject.

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.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A present for my father in law, which was well received, and he is enjoying reading it
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0x98449048) out of 5 stars 16 reviews
45 of 47 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9851b7bc) out of 5 stars "We knew not whether we were on earth or in heaven..." 3 April 2000
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Paperback
I'll say right off what my quibble with this well-written study is: it would rate 5+ stars if it were illustrated. It is really too bad the publishers didn't bother to put in a few portraits of various Patriarchs of Constantinople, several representative Icons, a map of the city showing the Phanar, and some photos of the remaining churches and chapels. We have plenty of this sort of thing in books on western Christianity; why not in a book about eastern Orthodoxy? That said, it is an excellent read. It took me awhile to pick it up, perhaps out of fear of it being too "scholarly". Once underway, I was very much engaged by it, and it filled in a significant gap in my knowledge of the eastern churches. I'm grateful to Runciman for having given me a learning experience, which I wish I could say about many other authors, but can't. This is strongly recommended for students of Christian and near- and middle-eastern history, Orthodox believers who want to know more about their faith, and readers who like to explore what happens when cultures collide. I enjoyed reading this while curled up in a big comfy chair with a pot of tea. A nicely written study of a neglected part of human history!
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x99e51e40) out of 5 stars Amazing! 15 Jan. 1999
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Paperback
The book discusses in detail the many adventures that the Orthodox Church has been through during its long reign. Very few historians have covered the Great Church in such a detailed fashioned. Runciman is a very good historian and it's a shame that some of his other books are out-of-print.
16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9b63b384) out of 5 stars Enlightening 7 April 2004
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Paperback
The dilemma facing English speakers of Greek decent is that there are so few books written in English on Greek medieval history, and I can think of none written specifically on the Orthodox Church during the turkocratia, except of course Runciman's "The Great Church in Captivity". At first, I was skeptical. After all, Runciman is an Englishman and I was leery about potential ignorance or bias which could seep its way into his book. No need to be concerned. Runcimen's book is a well researched and a thorough history on the subject. I could hardly put it down.
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.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x99e51384) out of 5 stars Another great book by Steven Runciman 3 Nov. 2006
By Paris Demetriou - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I'll be honest with you.The only reason I bought this book, was because I'd already read all of Runciman's "real" history books and just wanted to complete my collection.Church history and theology aren't exactly my cup of tea.So, I thought I'd open it, start reading and fall asleep after page....ix.But I was wrong of course.I underestimated Runciman's ability to make even a debate about the role of Epiklesis in Transubstantiation appear interesting.No,really,I'm being serious.This is a well-written and interesting book that provides an answer, from a unique perspective, to the question everyone has after reading the "Fall of Constantinople": "Well,what happened next?"

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....
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9effb024) out of 5 stars A good starting place. 25 July 1999
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Paperback
Sadly, this is the only book on the topic in English. Runciman's treatment of theological disputes the Orthodox subjects of the Turks knew to be of prime importance is often dismissive, and one can wonder about the historical judgement that led him to devote so much space to the Constantinopolitan Patriarchate's response to feelers from various religious rebels (i.e., Protestants) from the Latin west; there never was much chance either that the Protestants would surrender to Tradition or that the Mother Church would allow them to be deluded into thinking themselves Orthodox. Still, this is a good book, full of information readers who don't know, e.g., French and modern Greek won't find elsewhere.
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