Augustine Sokolovski

On May 11, 330, the consecration of the city of Constantinople took place. This event, of course, is not only a secular, but also a church remembrance and celebration.

During the Roman Empire, many metropolises were capital cities. For this or that city became the capital when the emperor stayed in it for quite a long time.

However, Emperor Constantine undoubtedly wanted more. For he founded not just a city, but New Rome. Unlike pagan Rome, full of idols on the banks of the Tiber, New Rome on the Bosporus had to be originally Christian.

The actual recognition of Christianity as the state religion was a genuine revolution. Perhaps this was the first revolution in history. True Revolution in Christ.

At the beginning of the reign of Constantine, Christians in the Empire were an absolute minority. However, the Emperor made his choice. In 313, the emperor signed the Edict of Milan, according to which Christianity became a permitted religion and was no longer subject to persecution.

Only 12 years later, in 325, the Ecumenical Council took place in the city of Nicaea. Constantine took an active part in formulating his dogmatic decrees. This event marked the beginning of a new era. It is no coincidence that, like the number of households of the Forefather Abraham in the biblical battle with wickedness, according to Tradition, the number of Fathers at the Council in Nicaea was 318 (cf. Gen. 14:14)!

Orthodoxy thus received a new dimension. Henceforth, it meant the formulation of the dogmatic doctrine officially approved in the Empire. This period in the history of the Eastern Church, called Constantinian, was extremely long and ended only in 1917 with the fall of the Russian Empire.

The Fathers of the Church of that time believed that the transition of Constantine to the side of the Christians, and then his own baptism in 337, according to the tradition of that time before his death, took place by the Holy Spirit. The universe became Christian, and Christianity, not only in theory, but also in practice, became a universal, that is, catholic confession for all. The foundation of the City was intended to serve this providential purpose.

It is important to note that the consecration of New Rome initially had no ecclesiastical significance. The local bishop was a simple bishop subordinate to the neighboring metropolitan. Only the IV Ecumenical Council in Chalcedon in 451 gave the bishop of the new capital the status of the first bishop in the Eastern Church. In fact, it was a paradoxical analogue of the future position of the Bishop of Rome in the West. But then this decision, the so-called Rule 28, was carried out retroactively, and then for centuries it did not receive the approval of the Universal Church.

Among the Fathers of the Church of that time, who approved and praised the act of Constantine, there was one single lonely voice that spoke contrary. Truly, it was an incredible, too early example of the so-called "lateral thinking"! In terms of its degree of difference from the consensus of others, it was perhaps akin to modern postmodern thinking. So St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430) in his political science work “On the City of God” wrote that Constantine undoubtedly did a lot of good. However, he founded a city named after him. And in this, if guided by the words of Scripture, he ... became like Cain.

Perhaps it is precisely this prophetic insight of Augustine that partly helps to comprehend the inconsistency and tragedy associated with the history of this great city, its great importance for the formation of Orthodoxy as the Universal Faith, and, at the same time, the gradual division of a single confession into the communion of five patriarchates, and then their mutual alienation.

It should be noted that Constantinople exists to this day. It is one of the largest cities in the world. Inspired by the example of the Bolsheviks, who had renamed the City of St. Peter on the Neva to Leningrad six years earlier, in 1930 Turkish nationalists officially demanded that Constantinople be called Istanbul.

But despite the renaming of arbitrary too human will, the New Rome founded by Tsar Constantine on the Bosporus simply could not cease to exist. For “manuscripts do not burn,” and the City of Constantinople is a precious page of history, written by the service and fellowship in the sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ of countless saints who shone in the Great City.