July 11, 2017

A 6th cent. Description of the Church of Saint Euphemia in Chalcedon

The icon depicts the Fathers of the Fourth Ecumenical Synod gathered in the
 Church of Saint Euphemia before the relics of Saint Euphemia.

The Church of Saint Euphemia in Chalcedon was the place of meeting for the Holy Fathers of the Fourth Ecumenical Synod in 451 AD. Below is a description of this church from the sixth century in the context of Evagrius speaking of the history of the Fourth Ecumenical Synod at Chalcedon. This church, which stood opposite the city of Constantinople, also contained the sacred relics of Saint Euphemia, which played a major role at the Synod after a miracle took place affirming the Orthodox faith, that is celebrated in the Orthodox Church on July 11th. The account below does not neglect to speak of her miracles, visions and relics, which apparently at one time produced "blood" or possibly myrrh that emitted a beautiful fragrance.

By Evagrius Scholasticus

(Ecclesiastical History, Bk. 2, Ch. 3)

The place of meeting was the sacred precinct of Euphemia, the martyr, situated in the district of Chalcedon in Bithynia, and distant not more than two stadia from the Bosporus. The site is a beautiful spot, of so gentle an ascent, that those who are on their way to the temple, are not aware of their immediate approach, but suddenly find themselves within the sanctuary on elevated ground; so that, extending their gaze from a commanding position, they can survey the level surface of the plain spread out beneath them, green with herbage, waving with corn, and beautified with every kind of tree; at the same time including within their range woody mountains, towering gracefully or boldly swelling, as well as parts of the sea under various aspects: here, where the winds do not reach them, the still waters, with their dark blue tint, sweetly playing with gentle ripple on the beach; there wildly surging, and sweeping back the sea-weeds and the lighter shell-fish with the recoil of its waves. Directly opposite is Constantinople: and thus the beauty of the site is enhanced by the view of so vast a city.

The holy place consists of three immense buildings. One is open to the sky, including a court of great extent, and embellished on all sides with columns; and next to it another, nearly resembling it in its length, breadth, and columns, and differing from it only in being roofed. On the north side of this, facing the East, is a round building, skillfully terminated in a dome, and surrounded in the interior with columns of uniform materials and size. These support a gallery under the same roof, so contrived, that those who are disposed, may thence both supplicate the martyr and be present at the mysteries. Within the domed building, towards the Eastern part, is a splendid enclosure, where are preserved the sacred remains of the martyr in a long coffin (it is distinguished by some persons by the term "long") of silver, skillfully worked.

The wonders which have at certain times been wrought by the holy martyr, are manifest to all Christians. For frequently she has appeared in a dream to the bishops of the city from time to time, and even to certain persons whose lives have been otherwise distinguished, and has bid them visit her and gather a vintage at her sanctuary. When such an occurrence has been ascertained by the sovereigns, the patriarch, and the city, they visit the temple, both those who sway the scepter, and those who are invested with sacred and civil offices, as well as the whole multitude, desirous to partake in the mysteries. Accordingly, the president of the Church of Constantinople, with his attendant priests, enters, in sight of the public, the sanctuary where the already-mentioned sacred body is deposited. There is an aperture in the left side of the coffin, secured with small doors, through which they introduce a sponge attached to an iron rod, so as to reach the sacred relics, and after turning it round, they draw it out, covered with stains and clots of blood. On witnessing this, all the people bend in veneration, giving glory to God. So great has been the quantity of blood thus extracted, that both the pious sovereigns and the assembled priests, as well as the congregated people, all share in a liberal distribution, and portions are sent to those of the faithful who desire them, in every place under the sun. The clots also are permanent, neither does the appearance of the sacred blood undergo any change. These divine manifestations occur not at the recurrence of any definite period, but according as the life of the prelate or gravity of manners calls for them. Accordingly it is said, that when the governor of the church is a person reverend and remarkable for virtues, the marvel occurs with peculiar frequency; but when such is not his character, such divine operations are rarely displayed.

I will, however, mention a circumstance which suffers no interruption depending on lapse of time or seasonable occasion, nor yet is vouchsafed with a distinction between the faithful and infidels, but to all indiscriminately. Whenever any person approaches the spot where is deposited the precious coffin in which are the holy relics, he is filled with an fragrance surpassing in sweetness every perfume with which mankind are acquainted, for it resembles neither the mingled fragrance of the meadows, nor that which is exhaled from the sweetest substances, nor is it such as any perfumer could prepare, but it is of a peculiar and surpassing kind, of itself sufficiently indicating the virtue of its source.

This was, then, the place of meeting of the before-mentioned synod; at which the bishops Paschasinus and Lucentius, and the presbyter Boniface, were the representatives of Leo, archpriest of the elder Rome; there being present Anatolius president of Constantinople, Dioscorus, bishop of Alexandria, Maximus of Antioch, and Juvenalis of Jerusalem: on whom attended both their associate priests, and those who held the places of highest rank in the most excellent senate.