Many times, during the years of slavery, the Greeks celebrated Pascha with bitterness, pain and tears, with oppression, threats, persecutions, sufferings and torments. There were periods, however, due to religious privileges conceded by the occupier, that the celebration of Pascha in Constantinople was unhindered, and even Turks participated in some way in the celebration.
One of the privileges of the slaves of the City was the three-day celebration of the great feast of Pascha, which stated:
"The feast of Pascha is to be celebrated in freedom, and for three nights the door to the Phanar is to remain open for Christians, for those in the suburbs who want to attend church at the Patriarchate."
This privilege, along with others, was granted by Sultan Selim in 1519, as Athanasios Ypsilantis writes in his work After the Fall.
In this way, therefore, for a long period of time, every Pascha, the doors of the Phanar in Constantinople remained open for three nights at Pascha. For this purpose, in fact, there was issued the relevant decree for the opening of the gate.
The aforementioned religious privilege for the slaves was also written about in the travel diary of the German Gerlach.1 He notes that the Turkish night guards left the door to the wall open, and through there Christians came freely, coming from the countryside at night with their lanterns. In those days no one dared harm the women or children of Christians, because it brought a very harsh punishment if something like that was done. Gerlach also refers to the fact that he was in awe of the freedom received by the Greek Christians during their religious feasts.
1. Stephan Gerlach resided in Istanbul in 1573-1588 as Lutheran chaplain of the Imperial embassy.
To be continued...
Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos