Wednesday, November 5, 2014

A Ghostly Watch and Wait: A Reading



"The most hideous scenes of all, however, were enacted in St. Sophia. Matins were already in progress when the beserk conquerors were heard approaching. Immediately the great bronze doors were closed, but the Turks soon smashed their way in. The poorer and less attractive of the congregation were massacred on the spot; the remainder were led off to the Turkish camps to await their fate. The priests continued with the Mass until they were skilled at the altar, but there are among the faithful those who still believe that one or two of them gathered up the patens and chalices and mysteriously disappeared into the southern wall of the sanctuary. There they will remain until Constantinople becomes once again a Christian city, when they will resume the service at the point at which it was interrupted." 

 p. 380, "A Short History of Byzantium". John Julius Norwich

 Throughout October I listened to Twelve Byzantine Rulers, a podcast series giving a history of the Eastern Roman Empire through leaders whose reign punctuated its waxing and waning. The last episode on Constantine XI is worth listening to itself,  if only for the descriptions the last Emperor, going down fighting, and of the legend of priests 'melting into the walls' of the church, waiting for the city's redemption so that their shades could resume the Great Thanksgiving.  It's the kind of legend that makes for the very best of ghost stories and reminds one of the legends of Arthur and Frederick Barbarossa, both of whom are said to be resting in some ethereal realm until the moment they are needed. 

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