November 23, 2016

Saint Dionysios I the Wise, Patriarch of Constantinople (+ 1492)

St. Dionysios the Wise (Feast Day - November 23)

Dionysios was born in Dimitsana of Peloponnesos before 1410, where he also studied at the School of Philosophou Monastery. He became a monk in the Holy Magganon Monastery in Constantinople, where he progressed in virtue and piety under the supervision of his spiritual father, Saint Mark Eugenikos, Metropolitan of Ephesus, who ordained him into the Deaconate and Priesthood.

After the fall of Constantinople in 1453, he was kept captive by the Turks in Adrianople, but was freed by the noble Kyritzis (probably Demetrios Apokaukos, one of the two Greek secretaries of Sultan Mehmed II), and was ordained Metropolitan of Philippopolis by Ecumenical Patriarch Gennadios Scholarios. In January 1467 he ascended to the Ecumenical Throne of Constantinople at the protection of Madam-Maro, daughter of the Serbian Despot Durad Brankovic and one of the wives of Sultan Murad II, the father of Mehmed II. Although Mara remained a lifelong Christian, she was quite influential with Mehmed. His election took place in the following manner.

At that time the Patriarchal throne was contested by two factions, one led by the lay archons George Galesiotes (the Great Chartophylax) and Manuel Christonymos (the future Patriarch Maximos III), the other composed of the nobles of the former Empire of Trebizond who were forced to move to Constantinople after Trebizond's fall to the Ottomans in 1461. The former supported Mark II as Patriarch, the latter supported Symeon I.

In 1466 Symeon was successful in deposing Mark II and obtaining the throne after presenting the Ottoman government with 2000 pieces of gold. Symeon's first reign lasted only a short time, because his simoniac action outraged Mara Branković, who went to Constantinople to complain to Mehmed. Further to her requests, and to a donation by her of 2000 pieces of gold, the Sultan deposed Symeon and appointed to the Patriarchate the candidate of Mara, i.e. Dionysios. This succession of patriarchs is proposed by scholars such as Kiminas, Runciman, Grumel and Gemanos of Sardeis, while Laurent and Podskalsky suggest that it was Mark and not Symeon who bought the throne the first time, placing the reign of Mark after the one of Symeon. There is however consensus on the fact that Dionysios, who was not involved in any of the two factions, became Patriarch due to the intervention of Mara on his behalf.

The date of appointment of Dionysios as Patriarch is most likely the end of 1466, because on 15 January 1467 he signed an act by which the Holy Synod stripped off any ecclesiastic dignity of George Galesiotes and Manuel Christonymos. However these two lay nobles soon regained their influence and strongly opposed Dionysius, who was opposed also by the supporters of Symeon.

Dionysius reigned with the protection of Mara till the end of 1471, until he was maliciously accused that during his captivity in Adrianople he renounced the Orthodox faith and accepted Islam and circumcision. He proved that the accusation was false in front of a panel of hierarchs and laity "by showing his flesh to all the people," and all saw "his innocence and virginity...." Despite revealing his penis so that all present could verify that he was not circumcised, he was deposed and replaced by Symeon I. Laurent suggests a second short patriarchate of Mark II before Symeon.

He thus departed for the Monastery of Eikosifinissa in Drama. He is considered the second founder of that Monastery. A Synod called by Sultan Bayezid II had chosen him to return as Ecumenical Patriarch in 1488 supported by the Orthodox people, but he abandoned his post in 1490 due to old age and issues with Athonite monks, and returned to his Monastery in Drama, where he reposed in peace in 1492.

The Church acknowledged him as a Saint under Patriarch Joachim I (1498-1502); his memory is kept on November 23rd. His relics were kept in the Monastery of Eikosifinissa, though a portion was given in 1881 to the Skete of Saint Andrew on Mount Athos and another was given in his birthplace of Dimitsana in 1955. A Service and a Canon in his honor have been written by his contemporary, the Great Rhetor of the Great Church, Manuel the Corinthian, and another Canon has been composed by the chancellor Chrysanthos of Xanthi in 1819. The latter was completed by Hilarion the Sinaite by decree of Patriarch Gregory V.

On April 30, 2011 Metropolitan Paul of Drama, by request of Metropolitan Jeremiah of Gortyna, brought the relics of Saint Dionysios back to Dimitsana after over 600 years since his birth. (Photos and video in this post are from this event.)

Rejoice delight of the city of Dimitsana, which receives you as its sacred offspring, you who was elected to the throne of the city of Constantine, the great Hierarch Dionysios.