January 9, 2019

Commemoration of the Great Earthquake That Took Place in the Year 867 A.D.

The Great Earthquake of 867 (Commemorated on January 9th)

On this day, January 9th, we commemorate the great earthquake which occurred in Constantinople in the year 867 during the reign of Emperor Basil, when the great shrine of the Most Holy Theotokos in the Sigma (Portico) and many other churches and private houses collapsed.

In the early tenth century Life of Ignatios, Niketas David Paphlago wrote of this earthquake:

"On the 9th of January, a most powerful earthquake occurred, and many churches, gates and most of the houses collapsed, and there was such a carnage of men and beasts that no words can express it. And the great house of the Wisdom of God was split into several parts and would have been ruined had not certain leading men taken care of it. This was before the October synod."

In the eleventh century Chronicle of Leo the Grammarian, we read:

"And an earthquake happened on the Feast of Saint Polyeuktos [January 9], so that the earth was shaken for 40 days and 40 nights. And the sphere of the zodiac in the Forum fell, as did the Portico of the Most Holy Mother of God, 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."

In his second epistle, addressed to Deacon Gregory the Amasian and Chartularius, Patriarch Photios the Great (877-886) informs him:

"If there is any praise and thanksgiving, I give it to God with my whole heart, that what affected men in these days has not affected me, and that my eyes have not seen this evil, for which there is no consolation. For Constantinople, which was once a city, is now a tomb, and instead of psalmody, lamentation occupies not only private houses but also the churches: some, a pitiful sight, are razed to the ground, they say, and what they describe is beyond belief; others are for the most part ruined, and no tragedy as great as this has ever befallen them. And the earth itself, with insufferable tossing and roaring, was torn into several parts. All the sufferings the city has ever endured are as nothing compared with these evils."

In the tenth century Life of his grandfather Emperor Basil I, during whose reign the earthquake occurred, Emperor Constantine Porphyrogennitos writes of his contribution to the rebuilding program:

"The Christ-loving Emperor Basil, with care and perseverance, bounteous wealth and generosity, raised from dereliction many of the shrines and holy churches which had been shattered by earthquakes, or had completely collapsed, or remained standing, with clear marks of partial destruction where they had been torn apart."