Greek: Konstantmou, of Constantine; polis, city

Former capital of the Ottoman Empire, situated in European Turkey, on the Strait of Bosporus, between the Sea of Marmora and the Golden Horn, an inlet to the north. Comprising Stamboul, the city proper, and the important suburbs of Galata and Pera, it includes also Scutari, across the strait. It was founded as Byzantium in 657 BC by Greeks from Megara, led by Byzas. Chosen by Constantine as the capital of his empire in 330 AD, it was renamed in his honor. As the residence of the rulers of the Byzantine Empire it was the center of the civilized world for nearly eight centuries. Numerous Church councils were held there. Saint John Chrysostom and Saint Gregory of Nazianzus were among its bishops.

In 451 the patriarchate was established. Unfortunately, frequent inroads of heresy, Arianism, Nestorianism, and Iconoclasm finally culminated in the schism of the 9th century, under Photius, and the setting up in 1054 of the Orthodox Greek Church.

The Latin Empire, established in 1204, after the conquest of the city by the Crusaders, lasted only until 1261. In 1453 the city fell into the hands of the Turks. The last attempt to dislodge them was the disastrous effort of the Allies in 1915, by way of Gallipoli.

The importance of Constantinople has been lessened by the selection of Angora as the new capital of Turkey, in 1923; the expulsion of the caliph, spiritual head of the Moslems, in 1924; and that of the Greek patriarch in 1925. After the fall of Constantinople, 1453, the churches were converted into mosques. The most famous was the church of Saint Sophia (Holy Wisdom), the masterpiece of Byzantine architecture. The church of Saint Irene (Holy Peace) is now an armory. On the site of the ancient church of the Holy Apostles now stands the mosque of Mohammed II. The church of the Holy Virgin, in the Greek quarter of Phanar, is one of the city’s rare examples of early Byzantine. The modern pro-cathedral is in the Pancaldi quarter.

Catholics of the Latin Rite number about 45,000 and are under a vicar Apostolic, who resides in Pancaldi, and acts also as delegate Apostolic for the Uniats of the city. These include about 5,000 Armenians, with a patriarch living in Pera; 1,500 Greek Catholics, under a bishop residing in Constantinople and Athens; and a small group of Bulgarians, under an archbishop in Galata. Religious orders include Franciscans, Dominicans, Jesuits, Capuchins, Assumptionists, and Sisters of Charity. They conduct schools, colleges, orphan asylums, and hospitals. Schismatic Christians formerly included about 200,000 Greeks; their number has been lessened through exchange of nationalities since the war, and their patriarch now lives in Saloniki. There are also about 100,000 Armenians, or so-called Gregorians, under a patriarch; 15,000 Bulgarians, claiming membership in the Orthodox body but repudiated by them; and a small number of Orthodox Russians. (Note – these numbers are from the mid-1920’s.)

See also