A comparatively humble building in Fener, Istanbul, houses the worldwide headquarters of the Greek Orthodox Church. The structure includes the Patriarchal Cathedral Church of St. George (Aya Yorgi).
Constantinople (now known as Istanbul) has been the center of the Eastern Christian Church since Constantine moved the Roman capital there in the 4th century. To this day, the city remains the home of the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, who is recognized as the "first among equals" of all Orthodox spiritual leaders.
The Orthodox Patriarchate was briefly headquartered in the Church of the Holy Apostles in the 15th century, but was soon transferred to the Theotokos Pammacaristos Church (now Fethiye Mosque). It remained there until 1586, when it moved to St. George Church.
St. George had been part of a monastery before it welcomed the Orthodox Patriarchate. Over the centuries, it has been periodically damaged, the last time during the fire in 1941. Repairs began in 1989 and were completed in 1991.
What to See
The Church of St. George is not terribly impressive or important in terms of architecture, although it has all the opulence and beauty of any Orthodox church.
The church's main boast, aside from its association with the Patriarch, are its artifacts and relics, which include: the patriarchal throne, believed to date from the 5th century; three rare mosaic icons; the Column of Flagellation to which Jesus was tied and whipped; relics of Sts. Gregory the Theologian and John Chrysostom; and the tombs of three female saints.
The Patriarchate complex includes the Authorization Offices, the Patriarchate Library, the Financial offices, the public enterprices of Patriarchate and the Patriarchate Cathedral Church of Saint George.