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The Historic Archive of the Holy Synod of the Church of Greece


The Reciprocal Relation between Doctrinal and Historical factors in the Separation of the Oriental Churches from the ancient Catholic Church

Byzantium and Charles the Great

Greece in the World War II

The First Icons of Christ and the Virgin

Church, Schools and Science during the Turkish occupation

The Hesychasm in the Occident during the 14th Century

"Unity", "Division", "Reunion" in the light of Orthodox Ecclesiology

Nationalism in the Orthodox Church


The 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 practice"

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 216-395. 

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 Churches.

In 1837, the Archaeological Society of Greece is founded, for the timely intervention in preserving ancient monuments from further deterioration.

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 National Library.

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 silver-embossed objects.

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 archives.

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 following :

Licences – demise of clergy members and monks


Weddings – Reconciliation attempts – Divorces


Inauguration of Temples

Parish matters

Episcopal matters (Metropolitan, Episcopal Committees, Foundations, Other)

Ordinations, Allocations, Transfers.Deaths of clergy members



Liturgical Issues

General Monasterial issues

Employee issues and other subject.

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