Finally, our last stop was the Ecumenical Patriarchate for Divine Liturgy -- a fitting way to end the trip.
As with all the Christian sites we visited that morning, the Patriarchate was small and practically hidden. They are all located outside of the main part of town and you could walk right by them on the sidewalk and not notice them. The Turks have pushed these Christian reminders to the very fringe of the city's consciousness.
The top photo is of the entrance to the Patriarch's church.
Inside, I stood behind the right chanters' stand. I took the second photo from behind the right choir over to the left choir. (The Byzantine chant was absolutely beautiful, by the way.) On the very left of the photo, you can make out one of the two Catholic bishops who were attending the service. (They're probably thinking: Is this thing ever going to end?) The Patriarch celebrated and was joined in the altar by bishops from Serbia and Slovenia (I believe).
I took the third photo at the end of the Liturgy as the Patriarch was preparing to come out.
The fourth photo is of the recently returned relics of St. John Chyrsostom and St. Gregory the Theologian. They are located behind the left chanters' stand. Pope John Paul II returned them shortly before his death in a gesture of good will. (They were stolen during the disasterous Fourth Crusade which permanently crippled Byzantium.)
That was the end of our whirlwind trip. Well, actually, we then had a 12-hour bus ride back to Greece. The group actually broke into applause (us included!) when we crossed the border into Greece.
I was worn out and came down with a cold during the bus ride. And, of course, the tour group didn't provide us with a shuttle back to Panorama, so we were stuck trying to catch the last bus out of Thessaloniki at midnight. But we arrived home safe and sound. We took in a lot in a very short amount of time, but we're very glad we went.
Steven Runciman's book 'The Great Church in Captivity' is, by the way, one of the best books I've ever read. It does a fantastic job of explaining the later history of Byzantium and the period of Ottoman occupation, with particular reference to the Patriarchate. The history seems much more vivid to me now that we've been there and seen not only the sites but the ongoing oppression.
Well, that's all for this trip. I was supposed to start Greek classes today, but when I showed up this morning at 9, they said, "Oh yeah, by the way, we're not starting today. Maybe in a few days. Check back tomorrow." (It's an hour trip each way.) Err...