January 9, 2018

Commemoration of the Great Earthquake at Constantinople on January 9, 869

On this day an earthquake caused some damage in the region of Constantinople, killing a number of people. The shock caused repairable damage to the west part of the dome of the Church of Hagia Sophia, and the Church of the Holy Apostles, which had been affected by the earthquake of 861, was once again damaged. The Church of the Archangel Michael and the Church of the Theotokos at the Sigma collapsed during the Divine Liturgy, killing all within, with the exception of a few people. The globes of the zodiac near the Forum fell and parts of the walls near the palace were damaged.

A long series of aftershocks, some of them strong enough to cause additional damage in the city, continued for forty days. It is not known whether the earthquake caused damage elsewhere or how far away it was felt.

The earthquake happened on Sunday, 9 January 869, on the Festival of Saint Polyeuktos, in the third year of Emperor Basil I the Macedonian (867-886), before the Synod of Constantinople convened on 5 October 869, that condemned Patriarch Photios and deposed him as patriarch on 23 November 869 and reinstated his predecessor Ignatios. Photios himself mentions the earthquake in a letter, where he says, "Constantinople, which was once a city, is now a tomb, and instead of psalmody, lamentation occupies not only private houses but also the churches." The event was annually commemorated by the Church.

Leo the Grammarian says that the Church of the Theotokos at the Sigma collapsed, "so that all who were singing psalms there died. Leo the Philosopher happened to tell the singers to leave the church: those who were not persuaded died there. The philosopher himself was saved with two others since he was standing by a column under a structure, and five others who were sitting under the ambo."

Emperor Basil I restored the churches upon which damages occurred.