Monday, August 31, 2015

The Prophecy Engraved on the Cover of St. Constantine's Tomb

This fragment of royal purple colored stone is all that is left of the tomb of St. Constantine the Great, located in the archaeological museum of Istanbul.

By John Sanidopoulos

St. Constantine the Great died in 337 AD and was laid to rest in the Church of the Holy Apostles in Constantinople.

The Church of the Holy Apostles was also known as the Imperial Polyándreion (imperial cemetery). The first structure dates to the 4th century, though future emperors would add to and improve on the space. It was second in size and importance only to Hagia Sophia among the great churches of the capital. When Constantinople fell to the Ottomans in 1453, the Holy Apostles briefly became the seat of the Ecumenical Patriarch of the Orthodox Church. Three years later the edifice, which was in a dilapidated state, was abandoned by the Patriarch, and in 1461 it was demolished by the Ottomans to make way for the Fatih Mosque.

The original Church of the Holy Apostles was dedicated in about 330 by Constantine the Great, the founder of Constantinople, the new capital of the Roman Empire. The church was unfinished when Constantine died in 337, and it was brought to completion by his son and successor Constantius II, who buried his father's remains there. After his departure from this life, his sacred relics were buried with imperial honors in the narthex of the Church of the Holy Apostles, where they gave off a powerful aroma and myrrh and performed many miracles.

The basilica was looted during the Fourth Crusade in 1204. The historian Niketas Choniates records that the Crusaders plundered the imperial tombs and robbed them of gold and gems. Not even Justinian's tomb was spared. The tomb of Emperor Heraclius was opened and his golden crown was stolen along with the late Emperor's hairs still attached on it. Some of these treasures were taken to Venice, where they can still be seen in St Mark's Basilica, while the body of St. Gregory was brought to Rome.

In 1453 Constantinople fell to the Ottoman Turks. The cathedral Church of Hagia Sophia was seized and turned into a mosque, and the Sultan Mehmed II assigned to the Ecumenical Patriarch Gennadios Scholarios the Church of the Holy Apostles, which thus became the new administrative center of the Greek/Roman Orthodox Church. But the church was in a dilapidated state, and the area around the church was inappropriate and soon settled by Turks. After the killing of a Turk by a Greek, the Turkish dwellers became hostile to the Christians, so that in 1456 Gennadios decided to move the Patriarchate to the Church of the Theotokos Pammakaristos in the Çarşamba neighborhood.

After the demolition of the ramshackle church in 1462, from 1463 to 1470 the Sultan allowed the building on the 11 hectares wide free site on the top of the hill a mosque complex of comparable magnificence. The result was the Fatih Cami (Mosque of the Conqueror), which - although rebuilt after its destruction because of the earthquake of 1766 - still occupies the site and houses Mehmed's tomb.

The church's mausoleums were the resting place for most Eastern Roman emperors and members of their families for seven centuries, beginning with Constantine I (d. 337) and ending with Constantine VIII (d.1028).

History of the Prophecy

This prophecy appears frequently in Orthodox publications concerning the Apocalypse, the Antichrist and the Second Coming of Christ. There is usually a historical footnote for this prophecy:

"The aforementioned prophecy, according to historic testimonies, was written by wise and holy men on the cover of St. Constantine's tomb when his son transferred his relics from Nicomedia to Constantinople and interred them in the Church of the Holy Apostles. This prophecy was cryptic because in the original Greek text, about half the letters in each word were missing, so as to conceal the meaning until the pre-determined time of deciphering [according to some publications, this prophecy was made up of only consonants and all the vowels were missing]. It wasn't until the year 1440 that the prophecy was deciphered by George Scholarios (the future Patriarch Gennadios of Constantinople), which was 13 years before the Turks captured Constantinople. Over 1,100 years had passed between the time of St. Constantine's death and the year the prophecy was translated. The prophecy was translated when it was useful for the Christians and not beforehand. And even though many wise and holy men had lived in Constantinople before the time of Gennadios, only he was able to decipher it" [some publications give a list of wise and learned Saints who lived in Constantinople yet could not decipher this prophecy; i.e. St. Photius the Great, etc. though these Saints did not mention this prophecy in any of their writings].

Gennadios left nο detailed account of the Turkish conquest of his city and the death of its Emperor Constantine. But he compiled a series of chronological observations οn the ways in which the hand of providence could be seen to have influenced the dreadful events of his lifetime. He noted that the Christian Empire of the Romans had originated with the Emperor Constantine and his mother Helen and had come tο its end when another Constantine, son of Helen, was Emperor and was killed in the conquest of his city. Between the first and the last Constantine there had been nο Emperor of the same name whose mother was a Helen. He observed that the first Patriarch of Constantinople under Constantine Ι was Metrophanes and the last Patriarch was also called Metrophanes, who died in 1443; for his successor, the Patriarch Gregory ΙΙΙ, whom Gennadios never recognized, went off to Rome and died there. There was nο other Patriarch with the name of Metrophanes between the first and last. Gennadios also noted that the city of Constantinople had been founded οn 11 May (330), finished οn another 3 Μay and captured οn 29 Μay (1453), so that all the events of its birth and death occurred in the month of Μay. Finally, he recorded the prophecy that when an Emperor and a Patriarch whose names began with the letters Jo- reigned at the same time, then the end of the Empire and of the church would be at hand. So it had come about. For the men who brought ruin οn the church in Italy (at the Council of Florence) were Joannes the Emperor and Joseph the Patriarch. Gennadios was an accomplished scholar and retained a faith in prophecies. It had long been foretold that the world would end with the Second Coming of Christ which, οn Byzantine calculation, was scheduled to happen in the 7000th year after the creation of the world (in 5509-08 BC), or in AD 1492. He took some comfort therefore from the belief that, in 1453, there was not long to go.

Gennadios jotted down his chronological notes some time after the death of the Patriarch Gregory ΙΙΙ in 1459. He was thus not the first to remark οn the coincidence of names between the first and the last Constantine and Helen. The Venetian surgeon, Nicolo Barbaro, in his Diary of the siege of Constantinople, notes that God decided that the city should fall when it did in order that the ancient prophecies should be fulfilled, one of which was that Constantinople should be lost to the Christians during the reign of an Emperor called Constantine son of Helen. Cardinal Isidore, who managed to escape from the ruins οf the city disguised as a beggar, reported it as a fact rather than a prophecy in a letter which he wrote to Pope Nicholas V οn 6 July 1453: "Just as the city was founded by Constantine, son of Helen, so it is nοw tragically lost by another Constantine, son of Helen." Kritoboulos of Imbros, one of the principal historians of the event, wondered at the coincidence of names in the city's long history: "For Constantine, the fortunate Emperor, son of Helen, built it and raised it to the heights of happiness and prosperity; while under the unfortunate Emperor Constantine, son of Helena, it has been captured and reduced to the depths of servitude and misfortune." The coincidence was remarked upοn by several of the writers of the so-called Short Chronicles and by the author of at least one of many laments οn the fall of Constantinople.

The Prophetic Text as Interpreted by St. Gennadios Scholarios

"Τ. πτ. τ. ιδτ. Η βελ. τ. ιμλ. Ο Κλμν. μαμθ. μ. δ. ν. τρπσ. γν. τ. πλολγ. τ. επτλφ. κρτσ. εσθ. βελε. εθν. ππλ. κτξ. κ. τ. νσ. ερμσ. μχρ. τ. εξν. πτ. ιστργτν. πθσ. τ. ινδκτ. πλυσ. κτδ. τ. εντ. τ. ιδκτ. ε. τβρ. τ. μρ. μλ. δ. ν. στρτσ. τ. δκτ. τ. ιδκτ. τ. δμτ. τρπσ. πλ. επστψ. ετ. χν. τ. δμτ. πλμ. εγρ. μγ. μρκτ. στρβν. κ. τ. πλθ. κ. τ. φλ. σνδ. τ. επρ. δ. θλσ. κ. ξρ. τ. πλμ. σνω. κ. τ. ισμλ. τρπσ. τ. απγν. ατ. βσλσ. ελτ. μκρ. ολγ. τ. δ. ξθ. γν. αμ. μτ. τ. πκτρ. ολ. ιμλ. τπσ. τ. επλφ. επρο. μετ. τ. πρμ. ττ. πλμ. εγρ. εφλ. ηγρων. μχ. τ. ππτ. ωρ. κ. φν. βσ. ττ. στ. στ. μτ. φβ. σπστ. πλ. σδω. ε. τ. δξ. τ. μρ. αδ. ερτ. γν. θμστ. κ. ρμλο. ττ. εξτ. δσπυ. φλ. γ. εμ. υπχ. κ. ατ. πρλβτ. θλμ. εμ. πλρτ."

"Τη πρώτη της Ινδίκτου, η βασιλεία του Ισμαήλ ο καλούμενος Μωάμεθ, μέλλει δια να τροπώση γένος των Παλαιολόγων, την Επτάλοφον κρατήσει, έσωθεν βασιλεύσει, έθνη πάμπολα κατάρξει, και τας νήσους ερημώσει μέχρι του Ευξείνου Πόντου. Ιστρογείτονας πορθήσει τη ογδόη της Ινδίκτου, εις τα βόρεια τα μέρη μέλλει δια να στρατεύση τη δεκάτη της Ινδίκτου τους Δαλμάτας τροπώσει, πάλιν επιστρέψει έτι χρόνον, τοις Δαλμάτοις πόλεμον εγείρει μέγαν μερικόν τε συντριβήναι και τα πλήθη και τα φύλα συνοδή των εσπερίων δια θαλάσσης και ξηράς τον πόλεμον συνάψουν, και τον Ισμαήλ τροπώσουν. Το απόγονον αυτού βασιλεύσει έλαττον μικρόν ολίγον. Το δε ξανθόν γένος άμα μετά των πρακτόρων όλον Ισμαήλ τροπώσουν, την Επτάλοφον επάρουν μετά των προνομίων. Τότε πόλεμον εγείρουν έμφυλον ηγριωμένον, μέχρι της πεμπταίας ώρας και φωνή βοήσει τρίτον, στήτε, στήτε, στήτε, μετά φόβου σπεύσατε πολλά σπουδαίως εις τα δεξιά τα μέρη άνδρα εύρητε γενναίον θαυμαστόν και ρωμαλέον, τούτον έξετε. Δεσπότην, φίλος γαρ εμού υπάρχει. Και αυτόν παραλαβόντες, θέλημα εμού πληρούται ."

"In the first of the Indiction, the kingdom of Ishmael called Mohammed is going to defeat the family of Palaiologos and will possess the City of the Seven Hills [i.e. Constantinople]. He will reign in the interior, he will suppress many nations, and he will desolate the islands as far back as the Black Sea. He will conquer the peoples neighboring the Istrus River [i.e. the Danube River] in the eighth of the Indiction. He will suppress the Peloponnese in the ninth of the Indiction. He is going to make a campaign into the areas of the north in the tenth of the Indiction he will defeat the Dalmatians and will return again after some time to make a great war on the Dalmatians, where he will be crushed partially; and the multitudes and nations [lit. tribes], accompanied by the Western nations by land and sea, will make war and defeat Ishmael whose descendent will reign less and minor for a short time. And the Blond race, along with it's agents, will defeat the whole of Ishmael and will conquer the City of the Seven Hills with her privileges; then they will provoke a savage civil war until the fifth hour; and a voice will shout thrice: 'Stand fast, stand fast, and with fear earnestly hasten to the area on the right, and find there a brave, wondrous, and robust man; you shall have this one as your ruler because he is my beloved. So take him with you and fulfill my resolution.'"