Historic Archive of the Holy Synod of the Church of Greece
Archmandrite Agathangelos Charamantides
Since the beginning of the 19th century, a pronounced
trend has been observed for historical research, large-scale
compositional works, as well as archive exploration. The Greeks´
historical activity is especially noteworthy; Andreas Moustoxides,
Constantin Sathas, Spyridon Lambros, V. Mystakides, Petros Papageorgiou,
Nicholas Veis, Ioannis Filemon, Andreas Mamoukas and so many others, all
study archive material; they publish scientific-historical projects,
having sensed that the need to preserve the nation´s spiritual
heritage is imperative. "During the centuries of slavery, the
defacing and pillaging of History´s monuments in Greece became
During the Turkish occupation, ecclesiastic archive material did not
remain intact; it suffered natural deterioration and its consequences.
Especially significant losses of archive material occurred from the
beginning of the Revolution of 1821, through to the end of the war. A
characteristic example is the Philosophos Monastery, where the paper
from the archives and the Library were used as raw material for the
manufacturing of ammunition. However, one should not overlook the
damages or the misplacing of documents caused by the indifference of the
responsible authorities, even in times of peace. Monastic relics, real
estate deeds, miscellaneous documents, upon dismantling of monasteries
by the Protestant Viceregency, were either lost or purloined. In 1851,
A. Mezieres visits the library of the Stomios Monastery and confesses : " I had to be satisfied with a heap of old papers… they cost me a
total of 80 francs ".
In 1859, Russian Archmandrite Porphyrios Ouspenski traverses Greece,
removing valuable manuscripts from the Sacred Monastery of Olympiotissa
and collecting archive material which, after his death in 1883, found
its way to the Imperial Library of St.Petersburg, with entry number
The State´s concern for the preservation of ecclesiastic
archives and sacred relics.
The Church had organized Archives at Metropolitan, Parish and
Monastic levels, which, as proved by relative reports, were accessible
to all researchers. Only, it appears that - more often than not - the
Church was unable to safeguard its archive material and relics.
On November 24th of 1829,Andreas Moustoxides submits a
document "pertaining to the collection of old manuscript copies and
scrolls from monasteries" to the Secretariat of Ecclesiastic
Matters. Governor Ioannis Kapodistrias publishes circular 247/2.12.1829,
which authorizes the search for and collection of manuscripts and old
books from Monasteries and Temples, to be tendered to Provincial
Overseers, Governors and Police, and finally delivered to the
Government. On the 10/22 May 1833, a law is passed, regarding
"scientific and technological collections", whose article 3
specifies that "all valuable manuscripts and books found in a
Monastery or a Church, must be submitted to the Public Central Library
In year 1834, Circular No.599 is issued by the Holy Synod of the
Church of Greece, which outlines the organization of Archives in Parish
In 1837, the Archaeological Society of Greece is founded, for the
timely intervention in preserving ancient monuments from further
By Royal Decree, on the 5th of June 1867, a 5-member
Committee is convened at the Ministry of Ecclesiastic Affairs and Public
Education "for the discovery and collection of unpublished
manuscripts pertaining to the History of the Hellenic Race during the
mid and latter century."
From 1874, special provisions are made for the preservation of
manuscripts guarded within the freed Hellenic Provinces. Monasteries are
stripped, not only of archive material, but also of their relics.
Valuable treasures are transferred to Athens, under the pretence of
safeguarding. This labour continues in 1881. The State sends former
Metropolitan of Patrae, Nikiforos (Kalogeras) and S. Fintiklis of the
University to assess the condition of the libraries and archives of the
Meteora and other monasteries of Thessaly, and also to rescue
manuscripts, by sending the most valuable and oldest ones to the
In 1883, documents of the Holy Archdiocese of Athens of the 18th and
19th century are discovered by chance, in a cabinet of the
Ministry of Ecclesiastic Affairs and Public Education, and are submitted
to the Archives of the Historic and Ethnological Society of Greece.
These documents include 163 letters to the Protobresbyter of Athens,
Bartholomew, pertaining to ecclesiastic and community issues of the city
of Athens as well as other communities; 338 personal letters, powers of
attorney, confessions, notes of debts and sales, agreements, dowry
agreements and wills, letters and circulars written by high priests.
In 1885, the Holy Synod is notified of the founding of the Christian
and Archaeological Society, whose purpose was "the collection and
safeguarding of once neglected and scattered relics of Christian art,
and their preservation within a Museum".
The Holy Synod did not initially make any move, in the belief that
the newly-founded Christian Archaeological Society is a private concern.
However, in 1890, "acting conscienciously out of duty and its deep
concern for the rescue of the Church´s most sacred relics, the
Synod paternally prompts and commands that….. all sacred vessels and
vestments no longer used in holy sacraments, such as various sized Holy
Crucifixes, Holy Chalices,….baptismal, myrrh vessels,… icons,
diptychs, …are to be respectfully handled, and sent to the Directorate
of the Christian Museum in Athens….." (we shall not preoccupy
ouselves in this article with the assessment of ecclesiastic art outside
the realm of Church worship).
We are informed by the Historical Archive of the Holy Synod that in
the year 1908 the following items were surrendered to the Christian
Archaeological Society :
a. from the Varnakovas Monastery of the Holy Metropolis of Fokis, a
large crucifix of exceptionally fine woodcarving art, a Holy chalice….
dating back to 1708, as well as various other woodcarvings and
b. from the Dousikos Monastery of Megalon Pylon of the Holy
Metropolis of Trikkis and Stagon, an old apron which was used as a cover
for the Holy Altar (Epitaphios). This apron was made from a portion of
the inner vestment of the Metropolitan Neophytos of Larisa, nephew of
Saint Byssarion, and it is from the inscription theron, that we learn
that this vestment was awarded to the Metropolitan of Larisa, by the
Ecumenical Patriarch Joasaph in 1558.
c. from the Evangelistria Monastery of Skiathos of the Holy
Metropolis of Halkis, old documents, one Holy chalice, a New Testament
published in 1538, a bell, two lances, an asterisk and a seal, several
vestments, a book with the title "Constitution of Theological
Education" published in 1795.
Another related event is the surrender of relics which belonged to
the Holy Metropolis of Nicomedea of Asia Minor by the Hellenic Church,
which were subsequently transferred to Athens around 1922. These sacred
items, with the exception of holy remains (which continued to be guarded
by the Holy Synod on account of their sanctity), were eventually
surrendered by the Archmandrite Germanus Rubanis, 1st
Secretary of the Holy Synod, upon the instructions of the Archaeological
Division of the Ministry of Ecclesiastic Affairs, to Themistocles
Volides, Director of the Manuscripts division of the National Library,
to be later transferred to the Byzantine Museum.
Around 1914, the Ministry of Education instructed Them.Volides to
trace and examine the archives of Macedonia. In that same year,
Them.Volides submitted a report, which was accompanied by a detailed
catalogue of books and manuscripts belonging to approximately 30
libraries; this catalogue referred to 15.000 volumes of printed books
and 1.000 manuscripts and other historic documents.
Under Law 380/1914, the State General Archives are founded;
furthermore, the same law foresees the establishment of permanent, local
The Historical Archive of the Holy Synod
The contents of the Historical Archive of the Holy Synod of the Greek
Church are incessantly being updated από
το μέσον και τρέχον αρχείο, since the beginning of
the 19th century, and it includes Patriarchic Volumes,
Patriarchic and Synodic Letters, Minutes of the Perpetual Holy Synod of
the Church of Greece (from the year 1833), Minutes of the Hierarchy of
the Church of Greece (from the year 1920).
Documents pertaining to the formation of the Holy Synod and the
declaration of the Autocephalous of the Church of Greece, Protocols, Μοναχολόγια,
Parishional Charts, valuable documents of the Holy Synod, of other
Orthodox Churches, of the State and other authorities on various issues,
documents, books, periodicals, photographs, plans referring to the
history and the activities of the Holy Archdiocese of Athens and the
holy Metropoli of the church of Greece.
This Archive, unknown to most researchers, constitutes an invaluable
source of ecclesiastic history of the Neo-Hellenic State, with a broad
coverage and of a special importance, as regards the witnessing - and
quite often the restitution - of the facts surrounding the Church΄s
activities, with information which is both unique and impossible to find
in other archives which may have been lost or destroyed. As a
characteristic example - and not the only one – we could mention the
case of the Archive of the Holy Metropolitan of Aetolia and Akarnania.
Researchers mention that this Archive contained revealing evidence about
the Revolution against Otto in Aetolo-akarnania in 1836, as well as the
stance taken by the Metropolitan Porphyrios and the Holy Synod, together
with other evidence which was sent at the time to the Holy Synod
informatively. Unfortunately, this Archive – like many other
Ecclesiastic Archives – was destroyed during Nazi occupation of
Greece. However, what did escape, was the archive material which was
guarded within the Holy Synod.
The organization and operation of the Bureau of Historical Archives
essentially began in 1995. When commencing our attempts at
classification, we encountered an immense volume of archive material,
most of which had never been documented, and therefore no-one was fully
aware of the treasure that was hidden therein. For this reason, our
target became the proper sorting, the maintenance, the safeguarding, the
classification and the creation of an accurate inventory of all existing
archive material, whose utilization and presentation for research
purposes constitutes a very important element.
The index of archive material, along with its thematic and
chronological classification, as well as the Archive΄s catalogues, are
a monumental, scientific subject of great importance. It is an
index-catalogue of the exact contents of the archive΄s material, which
capably presents a comprehensive picture of the wealth found in our
historical heritage, and it also facilitates researchers of this field.
The sub-topics contained in the archive material of the Holy
Archdiocese and of the Holy Metropoli are basically the
Licences – demise of clergy members and monks
Weddings – Reconciliation attempts – Divorces
Inauguration of Temples
Episcopal matters (Metropolitan, Episcopal
Committees, Foundations, Other)
Ordinations, Allocations, Transfers.Deaths of clergy
General Monasterial issues
Employee issues and other subject.