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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 importance of the Church as an agent of Education and its contribution to the development of Natural Sciences

The period of the Turkish occupation is a source of live examples of ethos and excellence for the Greek Nation. Despite the known national disasters, the psychic pain and humiliations, it was the incubation starting point for a new model of social, moral and intellectual life. Our Nation owes much to Education during the Turkish occupation. It is commonly accepted today that Education during those dark times contributed to the preservation of our national traditions and ideals, the strengthening of religious faith and the consolidation of National consciousness. There is no doubt that it was the weapon with which the "unfortunate nation" of the Greeks –as Matheos Kamariotis, the first teacher, head master of the Great School of the Nation (Megali tou Genous Scholi) somewhere says- remained on its feet.

Education strengthened the ethos of the fighting Greek people. Having Faith and Homeland as its main ideological axes – let us remember the highly spirited vision: "all together for the holy faith of Christ and the freedom of our country"- not only it gave wings to the fight for National restoration and freedom, but also offered everything possible in order to secure the terms of progress and prosperity.

We should never forget that the foundations for the effective preparation of the Nation in the fight for independence were laid by the inspired teachers of the Nation who founded the schools for the enslaved Hellenism under the enlightened supervision of the Ethnarch Church –the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Therefore, it is imperative to become acquainted with all the aspects of the work of those schools during the Ottoman rule.

When "everything was feeling the terror" of the darkness of the Ottoman Tyranny, faith performed miracles; and Education heated by Faith, of course. Education and the Church were the twin weapons that armed the pale hand of the slaves who sought to inflict a strike against an entire empire. This was the force which burgeoned and inflicted the liberating strike after undergoing a secret process (carried out by the Church) called Education.

Greek liberty, prior to being implemented, passed through the schools which were incubated within the pains of slavery. The schools of the Turkish occupation, organized by the Church and inspired by Faith and the desire of National restoration, are a reality. Very few during the first two centuries after the fall of Constantinople , some more later on, they became the beacons for the uprising of the Nation and the realization of National desires during the 17 th and 18 th centuries.

Neither Martin Crusius is right, as Steven Ransiman very well points out, nor P. Kipper who supported the idea that Education during the Turkish occupation ceased to exist in Greece . They claimed, unjustifiably, that the Greek people did not make any important development, as the other Balkan peoples, such as the Serbs and the Bulgarians, "due to their own fault".

Since the middle of the 16 th century, the intellectual structure of the enslaved nation had its first awakening under the supervision of the Church. Many schools called common (scholae triviales), Museums, Academies, Greek-Museums (Ellinomouseia) were set up at a progressive pace and the seed for national self-consciousness flourished.

After the fall, of course, darkness prevailed but the cultural movement did not cease completely. Even during the 15 th century as well as the 16 th and the 17 th centuries we can see many attempts supervised by the Church which actively participated so that the spiritual light did not completely die out.

With the passage of time, the effort for the spread of Education was strengthened; at the beginning of the 18 th century, we notice the development not only of Theology and Literature but also of Sciences, slowly at first and faster later on. It is the first streak of dawn, as the great Historian of the Church, Emmanuel Gedeon says, of the intellectual movement with an important boost of Sciences; a boost implemented by intellectuals characterized by great solidarity (a big percentage of them were distinguished Clergymen), tradesmen and Phanariots of substantial income. At the beginning of the 17 th century, there was a boom of the scientific spirit and philosophical thinking in Europe . Natural Sciences were developed, mainly Medicine, Chemistry, Physics, as well as Law Studies, Classical Education, Archaeology and Literature.

The flourishing of new ideas and the progress, generally, of sciences as well as the ideas of the French Enlightenment were introduced in Greece at the beginning of the 18 th century since many Greek students, amongst whom many clergymen, expanded the scope of their intellectual horizons in the Universities of Venice, Padua , Vienna etc.

This gradual renaissance of Greek Education, which led to the enlightenment of the 18 th century, continued until the first decades of the 19 th century. During that period, one can see that in the newly established schools, apart from the improvement of grammar studies, the students were introduced to the spirit of Natural Sciences. The newly founded Greek newspapers, such as "Logios Hermes" (Hermes the Scholar) published original scientific treatises, while a great number of European scientific studies were translated.

The pioneer of this flourishing of Natural Sciences, as well as an introducer of Enlightenment, was Evgenios Voulgaris (1716-1806), the distinguished clergyman and scholar, who published his work on Logic (Logic is concluded from old and new things) in 1776 in Leipzig. Some of the most important representatives of this period of the Modern Hellenic Enlightenment of the 18 th century were Nikiforos Theotokis (1736-1804), Benjamin of Lesvos (1762-1824), Dorotheos Proios, Ignatios of Ungro-Vlachia etc. These were clergymen proven to be true university people who vitally and significantly contributed to the flourishing of Natural Sciences. It is characteristic that Evgenios Voulgaris, imitating Plato, put the following inscription on the Athos School where he taught: "The one that knows Geometry can enter and I will not hinder; the one that does not want I will close the doors."

Indicative of the fermentation and processes in the field of Physical Sciences is the so-called Geometrical dispute, which was developed within the Church. It unquestionably proves the leading contribution of the Church to the scientific quest of that time. As K. Sathas mentions: "the well-known dispute between Evgenios Voulgaris and Balanos was born, because the latter, very much experienced in elementary geometry, but ignorant of the higher mathematical concepts, thought that he had solved the famous problem that two given straight lines are found proportional by geometrical proportion. He sent, thus, his idea to the European academies without notifying Evgenios, his rival. The students of Balanos, Zervoulis and Georgios, published the solution in Venice (1755) and Voulgaris, after taking the booklet from Tryphonas (1755), sent a letter to the sender revoking the solution applying a kind of youthful conscientiousness which was stronger than necessary. During 1700-1820, as G. Karras the historian –researcher notes, from a total amount of 33,512 manuscripts from all Sciences, 4,466 dates from the 18 th century and 915 from the first two decades of the 19 th century.

A considerable number of the above manuscripts were particularly studied by distinguished Clergymen, who provided services both for the Church as well as Education. Nikiforos Theotokis published the "Elements of Physics", "feeling sorry for his students and seeing continuously", as he wrote, "the painful and arduous task of copying." Balanos Kosmas published his Mathematics, while Iosipos Moisiodas published the theory of Geography. Benjamin from Lesvos was a pioneer in promoting Natural Sciences and declared: "Wherever Sciences progress, there is wealth and power; wherever arts and sciences do not exist, there is misery and unhappiness."

"Logios Hermes", a magazine leading the development of the scientific Spirit during the second decade of the 19 th century, considered the knowledge of Geometry, Arithmetic, Geography, Medicine and Chemistry necessary for the daily life of all the young people, along with the need to persist in the faith and the Orthodox tradition of the Nation.

It is obvious that there was a climax of scientific processes, as Konstantinos Paparrigopoulos, the historian, underlines; no noteworthy work of art was produced, as what was naturally important at that period was the consolidation of practical infrastructures which would provide in the distant future the framework for a spherical cultivation of art. Our national historian says: "… The real products of intellectual life are the works of literature, science and technical works. There is no need to assert the fact that art did not produce any intelligent work, worth noting during this period of our intellectual life."

Benjamin from Lesvos , distinguished mathematician, astronomer and clergyman, embraced the messages of the then modern times and worked passionately for the transfer of the new scientific knowledge to the young Greek people. He supported the great value of the Orthodox tradition, while at the same time, with the prestige of his big scientific education, he claimed that "we need modern books; books of Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics, whatever, that is, has appeared since 1805."

The Church facing the reality of the new era in Education and the acute needs for the restoration of freedom and the implementation of National desires exploited the existing conditions and, with very few exceptions, remained strictly devoted to the vision of National targets with wisdom and caution.

According to Professor Vl. Feidas, Education "was not an end in itself, because it functioned as a secret mystagogy with the aim of securing and strengthening the National self-consciousness and hope." The negative criticism of some scholars as regards the cautious position of the Church about the introduction of so many new European ideas propagandizing the development of Science, usually, to the detriment of morality and traditional spirit, is wrong. The Church, an agent of the original spirit of the Eastern Christianity in the meaning of preserving the experienced, high truths deriving from the Orthodox tradition, strictly adhered to the Universal values of Christian faith, although there were many and various difficulties and operational shortages; it also wisely supported the true pioneers of scientific thought. During that difficult period, "the disturbance created by the conflict between the old-philosophers and modern scientists, between scholastic fanatic intellectuals and non-fasting, atheist scientists and mathematicians," as M. Gedeon mentions, the principles of the French revolution invaded and flooded fields that had experienced another intellectual tradition. The ideas of Rousseau and, especially, Voltaire put strong and unmovable dogmas in danger and it is true that the Church found itself in the midst of a tempest and the waves of the atheists and dogmatists threw its vessel into a serious ordeal. "Thus the Orthodox Church of the East at the end of the previous century," writes M. Gedeon, "judging new philosophy in a strict way… neither condemned Christodoulos who was freely philosophizing, as it had not condemned Evgenios prior to that, nor Tryphon and Zarzouli, Moisiodakas and Theotokis…, but it reprehended the ones who did not care for the important issues."

The Enlightenment, a phenomenon strongly felt in the European Nations and, especially, in France with the Encyclopaedists, crossed the borders of the enslaved nation in a period of serious financial bloom. However, as the Enlightenment was connected in the West with events and situations which were anti-religious, as Vl. Feidas and N. Zacharopoulos mention, it was natural that a conservative group of Greek scholars and Church people were cautious or sometimes hostile towards the spirit and social climate cultivated by the Enlightenment; the reasons were precautionary and related to the preservation of the existential authenticity of the Orthodox spirit. This cautiousness, however, was not associated with a hostile stand against Natural Sciences which were genuinely supported by the Church.

The fact that scholarly Clergymen were top representatives of Natural Sciences, not only because they wrote original studies but also because they translated serious foreign scientific text books, collected and copied the manuscripts, classified them in the libraries that were set up, as well as edited and annotated the publications, is, of course, of major importance. This is a work of the Church of historical importance and an achievement that no one can disregard. The catalogues of the books which were published at that time give us a clear picture of the leading contribution of the Church to the consolidation of the scientific spirit and, more specifically, to the cultivation of all the fields of human knowledge.

Many ecclesiastical men, scholars with deep knowledge not only of theoretical studies, but also of Natural Sciences, were pioneers in a spirit of emulation in the writing and publication usually of companions for the courses of Chemistry, Arithmetic, Geometry and others "at their own expenses". They had realized that it was difficult, if not impossible, to provide Education without books. In order to meet the increasing needs of Education, they compiled studies in Mathematics and Geometry, translated text books- of famous European scientists- while, due to their exceptional intellectual multivariate knowledge, they wrote studies of Historical, Philosophical, Medical, Astronomical, Nomocanonical content which were significant for that time!

The catalogues of books, which came to light during the period of the Hellenic Enlightenment, offer a clear picture of the peak of scientific progress with distinguished ecclesiastical men as pioneers. The works of E. Legrand, Andreas Papadopoulos-Vrettos, Ginis Mexas, A. Dimitrakopoulos, as well as the relevant special articles of M. Gedeon and Sofronios Efstratiadis prove that this is true.

The development of Natural Sciences during the 18 th century is the peak of the intellectual processes carried out during the Turkish occupation, which was a harsh period for the enslaved nation. The darkness of those times accompanied by the lack of freedom, the adverse materialistic conditions of life and illiteracy were not serious, insuperable obstacles for the intellectual and National palingenesis. The Church, the physical and intellectual guide, played the most important role in the promotion of Natural Sciences, and, in general, in the development of Education. The few exceptions of cautious acceptance of the new spirit of Natural Sciences on behalf of the Church, simply confirm the rule. This cautiousness was related to the injudicious introduction of new ways of life, which threatened the ethos and the living truth of the Church. The opinion of Manouel Gedeon on this issue is of major importance. "New teachings and foreign dogmas disturbed the consciousness of the Orthodox Clergymen; there were some secular scholars who stirred issues, fanned the wrath of the Church, wanting perhaps revenge against wise men, whose intellectual superiority they looked on with a bad feeling."

It was natural for the Church to react in this new reality, where serious values were under dispute. The Church wanted faith to be the prevailing and active intellectual shield and power, especially during that period in which the national restoration presupposed deep unanimity, intellectual unity and awareness, high morale –virtues mainly deriving from faith. The Church correctly related real progress to the forging of the spirit of faith and hope. When their securing was not affected, then the Church was the coadjutant of the new scientific spirit. It really understood how important it was to conduct a national fight which would include the element of faith. The ideas about the autonomous perception of man and the World, disseminated by scholars, who had studied in Hesperia (the West), justifiably scared the pastors who fought for shaping the model of the Christian.

Let us go back again to Manuel Gedeon. Supporting the position of the Church, which offered resistance when the orthodox morale was at risk, and the faith and Christian consciousness was shaken, he says: "Our Orthodox Church maintained a wise attitude and did not condemn with synodic anathemas even Iosipos Moisiodakas, who, within the so-called beastly competition between pedants allying with the ones that sell everything and new-philosophers, dared to detach the clergy and sacred education from the alliance of peripatic philosophy; who dared teach and write works unprecedented for that period: neither France (the Western world) nor modernistic Philosophy distort the truth; frothiness is the special agent of distorting that makes man fall into atheism."

It is possible that Benjamin from Lesvos , Evgenios Voulgaris, Nikiforos Theotokis and others faced reactions, coming mainly from the old teachers and priests of the Church, in the introduction of new ideas which were the foundations of Natural Sciences. These reactions, though, such as the ones from Athanasios from Paros, Nikodemos from the Holy Mountain, Ieremias the 3 rd , were of benefit because they favoured the creation of a climate of intellectual conflict which promoted the bloom of science.

Most of the teachers of the Church, participants of the new European education, did not cease to demonstrate their faith to Christianity and Orthodox tradition. They had deeply realized that the scientists' achievements could not threaten the metaphysical essence and the mystic- merciful content of Orthodoxy. Characteristic of the immovable faith and devotion to Science is what Benjamin from Lesvos writes in his book "Geometry" a few months before the 1821 war for independence: "The Divine Providence seems to have taken care so that Pierides Muses returned Home in the 19 th century, to Parnassus . And the light, reaching the dawn, spread in the beginning of this century and by doing so, it gave strength and energy to the movements of life which did not exist before".

The nation rose to throw the yoke of the Ottoman tyranny, when the conditions, which were prepared with struggles and blood by the Church and schools, became mature.

It reached freedom with the enlightened Education which "breathed" the sacrificial climate of the Great Church of Christ, of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

The Patriarchic Academy, or as it was later called, the Great School of the Nation – a confirmation of the Ecclesiastical privileges and the tolerant stance of the Sultans in spiritual and administrative issues- had been operating for five hundred years in Constantinople. There were also some common schools, elementary ones, which later on became schools of higher level; some of them constituted centers of spiritual illumination such as the School of Patmos, the Smyrna Evangelical School, famous for the glory and appreciation shown to it (a series of Theologians and Scholars of high caliber, who watered the desert Greek intellectual environment, graduated from this school) and other important schools, such as Ambelakia School, the schools of Tyrnavos, Serbia , Kozani, the glorified Athonias School and others. During those harsh years, the role played by the Church was decisive in the struggle for liberation. The whole responsibility for Education stemmed from the Church that drew the educational curriculum, fed the schools with personnel coming from its trained members and borne all the expenses from its resources. The teacher was a priest or a monk. And the scholar was, usually, a metropolitan or Archimandrite. Church, Education and Literature were served by the same members of the Clergy. At the top, of course, there was the Patriarch. He was the head, the leader, by nature and position, of the enslaved and scattered Nation.

He was, of course, the Patriarch of Constantinople. Once or twice, though, during the dark hours of terror, the reigns were silently taken by Jerusalem or Alexandria . Secular teachers and scholars were scarce during the first centuries of slavery. Clergymen monopolized literature and literature. They lived in monasteries where they had the opportunity to develop intellectually and become the leaders when the great national-liberating revolution would break out.

The Ecumenical Patriarchate is literally Ecumenical; a substitute of the Byzantine administration; an ecclesiastical state that burst out of the limits of the Ottoman Empire . Its agents were the people illuminated through Education; scholars and teachers who were also priests. Literature, Education and Church were inter-woven and inter-fed concepts serving faith and the nation with the same devotion throughout the humble rank of the monk up to the highest cathedra of the Protohierarch and Patriarch. There were two periods of intellectual rebirth for the enslaved Greece until the enlightenment period. Both of them were led by people who belonged to the clergy. The first was Kyrillos Loukaris and the second Evgenios Voulgaris. The ideal of the Ancient Greek beauty, the guardian of which was the Church, was temporarily postponed in view of the dangers of Latinisation.

The polemic of certain Historians against the Church about the issue of the language is unfair; the Church fought against the demotic language only "in the form" being afraid of the intellectual detachment from the ancient "classical beauty". To all intents and purposes, the Church officially allowed its use so that people could be enlightened. As strange as it may seem, the cultivation of the demotic language derived, to a great extent, from the Church. And as a proof, we can call upon the great number of its teachers, who preached with inspiration leaving behind exemplary samples of the demotic language that guarantee its rights. This intellectual work, which brought enlightenment to the enslaved Greeks and prepared them to conscientiously raise the flag of revolution, was carried out in the midst of various adversities; it gives the measure of the -truly- colossal contribution of the Church to the 1821 war for independence. The sally of the 17 th century cost the lives of three patriarchs who were hanged. From the tens of patriarchs who were enthroned in the period from the abolition of Byzantium to the great hour of 1821, only thirteen closed their eyes peacefully. All the other hundreds of Bishops died stabbed, drowned, in exile, in prison...

This is the due answer to certain modern forgers of History. The Greek Church, which was the "Arc of the enslaved Nation", as the top Historian, Konstantinos Paparrigopoulos, says, carried the whole burden of education that brought light and warmth to the enslaved Greeks who lived "in darkness and under the shadow of death". It vitally and decisively contributed to the issue of liberation. How right was Therianos when he said: "...The Orthodox Church brought warmth to the Greek letters in the midst of the most adverse and difficult times; it was the cradle and the saviour in days of misery and unhappiness".

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