Primus Inter Pares
My guidebook listed something called the “Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople” as a suggested stop on a walking tour. I had no idea what that was, but being a fan of big words, I decided to check it out. Down a nondescript street, I followed a plain brick wall until I came to a gate, which led to a courtyard. Within, people were milling about, and nobody paid me any mind. I might have left, but decided to press my luck and duck into the building which seemed to be the focus of general activity. What I had wandered into was essentially to the Vatican of the Orthodox Church. It’s not a great analogy; most orthodox churches are organized along national lines and are headed by their own bishops, or Metropolitans, and don’t have a single pope figure who would lead them all. But the Patriarch of Constantinople is regarded as “first among equals” (Primus Inter Pares) and is the de facto spiritual leader of the world’s 300 million orthodox christians. It was my dumbest stroke of luck to stumble, unknowingly, on such a religious center. With no tripod and the worthlessness of flash photography, I was limited in the shots I could get, but I you’ll get some sense of place from these.
The Wikipedia page for the Patriarchate is here. It’s a fascinating glimpse into the byzantine history of this institution (pun fully intended) and its relationship with the Ottoman and, later, the Turkish states.