Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Saint Nicholas the New Martyr from the Parish of the Exi Marmara (+ 1732)

St. Nicholas the New Martyr from the Parish of the Exi Marmara (Feast Day - November 12)

You were victorious over the enemy by your contests blessed one,
And you received prizes O Nicholas.

We do not have the details of his life, but this glorious New Martyr of the Christian faith was martyred in Constantinople for his piety in the year 1732 (others say 1742).

About Exi Marmara (Altimermer)

1. Location – Name – Population

The Exi Marmara district (Altimermer in Turkish) is located in the city area within the Theodosian walls, on the way leading from the Davut paşa mosque to the Gate of Selymbria,1 close to the area where the St Mokios open cistern used to lay, later transformed into a vegetable garden.2 Initially and before the extension works on the walls were completed by Emperor Theodosius, the area was extra muros,3 hence the original name “Exo Kionion” (External Column). According to Skarlatos Vyzantios the name was due either to the fact that “Constantine the Great erected his statue there upon a column” or by a statue of the Emperor Constantine VI, son of Leo IV and Irine.4 As time went by and before the Fall of Constantinople, the name’s pronunciation was corrupted; consequently, “exo” (outside) became “ex” and then “exi” (six), while "kionion" (column) became “kionia” (columns) and then “marmara” (marbles). From the Greek altered pronunciation “Exi Marmara” (Six Marbles), the Turkish name Altımermer came about as a direct translation.5

The area was populated as early as the Byzantine period. Skarlatos Vyzantios mentions that it was the place where the Arianists had been exiled by Theodosius the Great along with their Patriarch Demophilus, which is why they were called “Exokionians”. Vyzantios mentions also that in the area there were many Armenians, while the Armenian Patriarchate was also located there.6

People continued to inhabit the district long after the Fall of Constantinople, rendering it one of the most populated intra muros Christian districts until the 19th century. According to the kadi of Constantinople (Istanbul), in 1478 there were 3,151 Greek families living on the Istanbul peninsula.7 By the next century the number of both Muslim and non-Muslim population increased.8 Concerning Christian residents, according to records kept by the wakf of Mehmed II in 1540 and 1544 in regard to its revenue, 1,547 Greeks appear to live within the city walls.9 According to these registers, there are 32 families living in Exi Marmara in 1540 and 43 in 1544. More specifically, an Exi Marmara community is recorded under the jurisdiction of the Kadirga port numbering 10 houses in 1540 and 13 in 1544, as well as a “Mahalle-i Alti Mermer ve Semendirek ve Gulaman-i Hamza Beg” with 32 families in 1540 and 43 in 1544.10 In the context of the forced migration in the area by Muslims and non-Muslims from newly conquered areas, the Exi Marmara district was inhabited by settlers from the island of Samothrace.11

2. The Greek Orthodox community of Exi Marmara from the 16th to the 20th century

The Exi Marmara district with its parish church of Virgin Mary Gorgoepikoos, as we will see, had quite a significant population as early as the mid-17th century.12 After 1740 a slight reduction is recorded, probably due to some fire, but from 1770 onwards the number of residents rises again as indicated by the fees (embatoikion) accounted to the Patriarchate by the parish.13

The area was heavily populated by Karamanlı (Turkish-speaking Anatolian Greek-Orthodox), who “until the end of the 18th century spoke Turkish”, as verified by the fact that a patriarchal sigillion of 1763 was written in Karamanlı (Turkish written with Greek characters), as well as by the information provided from Manouil Gedeon that sermons in the area were delivered in Turkish.14 Several fees paid by the parish, such as the 500 kuruş contributed in 1804 for the construction of a church in Pera dedicated to the Presentation of the Virgin Mary, attest to a significant and potent community.15

By the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century, Stephanos Papadopoulos refers to the area as fully Greek (ellinikotati), probably commenting on the fact that Exi Marmara, as well as the neighboring districts were mostly, if not exclusively, inhabited by Greek-Orthodox residents.16

2.1. Church

The parish church in the Exi Marmara district is dedicated to the Virgin Mary Gorgoepikoos, located between the mosques of Davut paşa and Hekimoğlu Ali paşa .17 With regard to its exact location, it either coincides with a Byzantine church dedicated to the Virgin Mary of Cyrus or an old monastery, one of the many in the area, built there in the 14th century and dedicated to the Virgin Mary Gorgoepikoos.18 According to Manouil Gedeon, the church used to be called differently earlier but “an old icon of the Virgin Mary with the inscription Gorgoepikoos was found in a neighboring mosque, which was handed to the parishioners of the Exi Marmara church by their Muslim neighbors; thenceforth the church was re-named and called Gorgoepikoos up to this day”.19 In the journal kept by the Ecumenical Patriarchate, however, the church is registered as dedicated to the Dormition of the Virgin Mary.20

Even though the exact year the church was constructed in unknown, it was possibly built before the Fall of Constantinople; Gedeon puts it around 1449, judging by an inscription found in the church yard.21 It is included in the Korobeinikov list in 1538 as “Virgin Mary Gorgoepikoos at Exi Marmara” and was known as Gorgoepikoos already in the mid-17th century.22

The French traveler Lechevalier, who visited the city in the end of the 18th century, records that at the time a chapel dedicated to Michael the Archangel also existed; the same piece of information is also provided by Skarlatos Vyzantios, who adds data on a holy water fountain (agiasma) dedicated to Virgin Mary the Savior.23 Another holy water fountain was found in the narthex of the church.24

The Exi Marmara, as well as other districts of Istanbul, often suffered from fires that spread easily to the mostly wooden houses. In the great fire of 1660, both the district and the church were probably destroyed. The church was rebuilt in 1691, but burned down again in 1782 and was totally destroyed in 1821.25 In the beginning of the 19th century the priests’ cells were constructed, while the whole building was re-constructed between 1833 and 1835.

Reşad Ekrem Koçu refers to two more great fires that inflicted the area in 1898 and 1899, none of which affected the Christian district though.26 Towards the end of World War I, another fire destroyed the Exi Marmara district.27 The whole ecclesiastical complex was set afire during the Istanbul Riots (September 1955), when the Palaiologian double-faced icon of the Virgin Mary Gorgoepikoos, which was considered miraculous, was burned.28 The church was renovated in 1965.

The reputation earned by the church was mainly attributed to this miraculous icon. However, the church itself became a significant pilgrimage that during the 19th century “attracted not only hundreds of pilgrims per month, but thousands”29 as recorded by Gedeon in his manuscript.

That tradition remained active until the beginning of the early 20th century. Indicative is the narrative contributed by the Constantinopolitan journalist Stephanos Papadopoulos who had visited the place twice with “a rented horse”, since there was no other means of transportation to reach the area. He remembers: “For many years it was said that miracles were happening in that church. This kind of news was diffused within the Greek population all over Constantinople, the neighboring villages inhabited by Greeks and in Thrace. The Virgin Mary Gorgoepikoos icon was miraculous […] Scores of people were visiting the Exi Marmara area […] It was widely discussed that two or three times the icon despite having been placed in the church, was found the next morning firmly tied, so as not to fall, around a branch of a tree in the churchyard. In the meantime, the priest of the church was earning a lot of money”.30

This specific pilgrimage bore significant profit to the church, which at the beginning of the 20th century owned 22 landed properties,31 while Exi Marmara ranked in the second class of parishes, according to the division by “Taxiarches”, the association of Constantinopolitan sextons.32

2.2. Education – Associations

As early as September 1763 a Greek school operated in the area. There, besides the teacher, an educator worked between 1800 and 1806.33 In 1841 the school building was completely reconstructed. In 1845 Manouil Gedeon remarks that the community ran a monitorial school (the older, more advanced students taught the younger ones), where his relative Athanasios Panagiotou taught.34 In the beginning of the 20th century, in 1906, there were two schools operating in the Exi Marmara community, a six-class school of primary education and an all-girls nursery school. The first one closed down in the 1950s.35

In the context of the formation of numerous associations (syllogoi) in the 19th century among the Greek-Orthodox, the Greek community ran societies and associations, as did all the communities in town. In 1878 the “Annunciation Religious Confraternity” was established, while as early as 1872 the Educational Association “
Helikon” was founded and in 1896 the musical society “Terpsichore”.36 Along with the Virgin Mary Gorgoepikoos church and its associations, the Exi Marmara community was also reputed for its embroideresses.37

2.3. Decline of the community

With the constitutional change and the foundation of the Turkish Republic both the community and the area started to decline. The district with the celebrated meyhane (taverns) at the second half of the 19th century is a forgotten area a century later.38 The Greek Orthodox community followed the same degressive course. Even though in 1949 the Exi Marmara Philanthropical Association was re-established,39 sheer numbers attest to the decline. According to the 1949 patriarchal census, there were 37 families residing in the area, some of which were accommodated by the soup-kitchens of the St Constantine church of Samatya.40 A few years later, as indicated by data from Christophoros Christidis’ personal archive since 1955, the community was in tatters numbering only 17 families and running a charitable confraternity.41 Nowadays no Christians inhabit the area.

Notes:

1. Βυζάντιος, Σ., Η Κωνσταντινούπολις. Ή Περιγραφή Τοπογραφική, Αρχαιολογική και Ιστορική Α (Αθήνα 1851), p. 299.

2. Μήλλας, Α., Σφραγίδες Κωνσταντινουπόλεως (Αθήνα 1996), p. 262. Murat Belge explains how the cistern became obsolete at the time of the Ottoman Empire and was used a vegetable garden until the 1980s, while nowadays it has turned into a free space for athletic and cultural activities. Belge, Μ., İstanbul Gezi Rehberi (İstanbul 2007), p. 157.

3. Βυζάντιος, Σ., Η Κωνσταντινούπολις. Ή Περιγραφή Τοπογραφική, Αρχαιολογική και Ιστορική Α (Αθήνα 1851), p. 299.

4. Βυζάντιος, Σ., Η Κωνσταντινούπολις. Ή Περιγραφή Τοπογραφική, Αρχαιολογική και Ιστορική Α (Αθήνα 1851), p. 299.

5. Κωνσταντινίας Παλαιά τε και Νεώτερα ήτοι Περιγραφή Κωνσταντινουπόλεως (Βενετία 1824, επανεκτ. Θεσσαλονίκη 1979), p. 38.

6. Βυζάντιος, Σ., Η Κωνσταντινούπολις. Ή Περιγραφή Τοπογραφική, Αρχαιολογική και Ιστορική Α (Αθήνα 1851), p. 299.

7. Γεράσιμος, Σ., «Έλληνες της Κωνσταντινούπολης στα μέσα του ΙΣΤ' αιώνα», Η Καθ' ημάς Ανατολή Β (Αθήνα 1994), p. 118.

8. According to some Turkish sources, Christian population in town numbered 25,252 inhabitants from the period 1520-1535. Mantran, R., H Καθημερινή Ζωή στην Κωνσταντινούπολη τον αιώνα του Σουλεϊμάν του Μεγαλοπρεπούς (Αθήνα 1999), p. 79.

9. These numbers, however, most probably refer to those who paid harac (capital tax) to the wakf in question. Γεράσιμος, Σ., «Έλληνες της Κωνσταντινούπολης στα μέσα του ΙΣΤ' αιώνα», Η Καθ' ημάς Ανατολή Β (Αθήνα 1994), pp. 118-119.

10. Γεράσιμος, Σ., «Έλληνες της Κωνσταντινούπολης στα μέσα του ΙΣΤ' αιώνα», Η Καθ' ημάς Ανατολή Β (Αθήνα 1994), p. 128.

11. Γεράσιμος, Σ.,«Έλληνες της Κωνσταντινούπολης στα μέσα του ΙΣΤ' αιώνα», Η Καθ' ημάς Ανατολή Β (Αθήνα 1994), p. 122.

12. Μήλλας, Α., Σφραγίδες Κωνσταντινουπόλεως (Αθήνα 1996), p. 266.

13. Μήλλας, Α., Σφραγίδες Κωνσταντινουπόλεως (Αθήνα 1996), p. 266.

14. Μήλλας, Α., Σφραγίδες Κωνσταντινουπόλεως (Αθήνα 1996), p. 268; Γεδεών, Μ., Ιστορία των του Χριστού πενήτων (Αθήνα 1939), pp. 45-47.

15. Μήλλας, Α., Σφραγίδες Κωνσταντινουπόλεως (Αθήνα 1996), p. 263.

16. Παπαδόπουλος, Σ., Αναμνήσεις από την Πόλη (Αθήνα 1978), p. 21.

17. Βυζάντιος, Σ., Η Κωνσταντινούπολις. Ή Περιγραφή Τοπογραφική, Αρχαιολογική και Ιστορική Α (Αθήνα 1851), p. 300.

18. Ημερολόγιον 2008 Οικουμενικού Πατριαρχείου (Αθήνα 2008), p. 191.

19. Μήλλας, Α., Σφραγίδες Κωνσταντινουπόλεως (Αθήνα 1996), p. 266.

20. Ημερολόγιον 2008 Οικουμενικού Πατριαρχείου (Αθήνα 2008), p. 191.

21. Μήλλας, Α., Σφραγίδες Κωνσταντινουπόλεως (Αθήνα 1996), p. 266.

22. Μήλλας, Α., Σφραγίδες Κωνσταντινουπόλεως (Αθήνα 1996), pp. 262-263.

23. Lechevalier, Voyage de la Propontide et du Pont Euxin (Paris 1800), p. 263, as cited in Μήλλας, Α., Σφραγίδες Κωνσταντινουπόλεως (Αθήνα 1996), p. 262; Βυζάντιος, Σ., Η Κωνσταντινούπολις. Ή Περιγραφή Τοπογραφική, Αρχαιολογική και Ιστορική Α (Αθήνα 1851), p. 300.

24. Μήλλας, Α., Σφραγίδες Κωνσταντινουπόλεως (Αθήνα 1996), p. 264.

25. Μήλλας, Α., Σφραγίδες Κωνσταντινουπόλεως (Αθήνα 1996), p. 267; Ημερολόγιον 2008 Οικουμενικού Πατριαρχείου (Αθήνα 2008), p. 191.

26. Koçu, R.E., İstanbul Ansiklopedisi Β (İstanbul 1959), pp. 731-2.

27. Χρηστίδης, Χ., Τα Σεπτεμβριανά (Αθήνα 2000), p. 70.

28. Μήλλας, Α., Σφραγίδες Κωνσταντινουπόλεως (Αθήνα 1996), p. 264.

29. Μήλλας, Α., Σφραγίδες Κωνσταντινουπόλεως (Αθήνα 1996), p. 263.

30. Παπαδόπουλος, Σ., Αναμνήσεις από την Πόλη (Αθήνα 1978), p. 22.

31. Μήλλας, Α., Σφραγίδες Κωνσταντινουπόλεως (Αθήνα 1996), p. 267.

32. Μήλλας, Α., Σφραγίδες Κωνσταντινουπόλεως (Αθήνα 1996), p. 95.

33. Μήλλας, Α., Σφραγίδες Κωνσταντινουπόλεως (Αθήνα 1996), p. 268.

34. Γεδεών, Μ., Σημειώματα Χρονογράφου 1800-1913 (Αθήνα 1932), p. 126.

35. Μήλλας, Α., Σφραγίδες Κωνσταντινουπόλεως (Αθήνα 1996), p. 264.

36. Μήλλας, Α., Σφραγίδες Κωνσταντινουπόλεως (Αθήνα 1996), p. 264.

37. Παπαδόπουλος, Σ., Αναμνήσεις από την Πόλη (Αθήνα 1978), p. 65.

38. Koçu, R.E., İstanbul Ansiklopedisi Β (İstanbul 1959), pp. 731-2.

39. Σταματόπουλος, Κ., Η Τελευταία Αναλαμπή (Αθήνα 1996), p. 168.

40. Σταματόπουλος, Κ., Η Τελευταία Αναλαμπή (Αθήνα 1996), pp. 171, 290.

41. Χρηστίδης, Χ., Τα Σεπτεμβριανά (Αθήνα 2000), p. 296.


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