Heybeliada - Monastery of Hagia Triada

In Byzantine times, there were at least three monasteries on Heybeliada, then known as Halki. The most renowned of these was Hagia Triada, the Holy Trinity, whose site on Ümit Tepesi is occupied by the Greek Orthodox theological school of the same name, a direct descendant of the original Byzantine monastery. The present monastery is the most prominent monument on Heybeliada, dominating the view from an approaching ferry and from within the village itself.

The earliest reference to a monastery on Halki is in the writings of St. Theodore of Studius early in the ninth century. Theodore, abbot of Constantinople’s famous monastery of St. John of Studius, was exiled to a monastery on Halki by Leo V (r. 813-20) because of his criticism of the emperor’s iconoclastic policy. While on Halki, Theodore wrote a number of letters, theological treatises, and poems, one of which was addressed fondly to the monastic cell in which he was confined.

The monastery of the Holy Trinity was restored by the patriarch Photius I (r. 858-67, 877-86), who was twice exiled there, first between his two terms as patriarch and then in the years 887-90. Photius died in the monastery in 890 and was buried there; he was subsequently canonized and is today revered as the patron saint of the Theological School of the Holy Trinity.

The monastery was apparently destroyed at the time of the Turkish Conquest in 1453, moving one anonymous chronicler to lament the loss of what "had earlier been a place where wisdom and knowledge were studied, not only by monks but also by kings and noblemen." In 1550 the monastery was rebuilt or at least partially restored by the future patriarch Metrophanes III (r. 1565-72, 1579-80). Metrophanes also gave to the monastery some three hundred manuscripts, a priceless gift that formed the nucleus of what was to become one of the most renowned libraries in the Orthodox world after that of the Patriarchate in Istanbul.

Hagia Triada went through difficult times in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, but its finances, at least, improved after Peter the Great, Tsar of Russia (r. 1682-1725), issued a chrysobull giving the monastery a long-term endowment. The monastery was rebuilt and refurbished in 1773 through the efforts of its energetic abbot, Samuel the Deaf. The monastery was badly damaged in 1821, at the beginning of the Greek War of Independence, when it was attacked by a mob and set on fire. The monastery was rebuilt in 1844 by Patriarch Germanos IV, who decreed in a synod that "a theological school should be built for a purpose pleasing to God and dwelt in by theology teachers, priests who wish to learn, and future priests." Wooden buildings were erected to house the classrooms, study hall, teachers’ quarters, student dormitories, refectory, infirmary, and patriarchal apartments, while a two-storey stone structure was built for the library. Then in 1891 a three-storey wing was added to house the administrative offices and new dormitories. All of these structures were seriously damaged in the great earthquake of 1894. Thus a completely new building had to be erected for the monastery, all of the funds for which were provided by the philanthropist Pavlos Skylitsis Stephanovik. The new monastery was designed by the architect Pericles Photiades, and the building was officially dedicated on 6 October 1896, the archimandrite Germanos Gregoras presiding as Rector of the Theological School.

Theological School

The main entrance to the theological school is a combination of neo-classical and neo-Byzantine styles. Two monoliths of Proconnesian marble crowned with intricately carved Corinthian-type capitals divide the front of the porch, with smaller columns of the same type supporting the stilted arches of the tripartite window above. Four columns identical to those in the porch support the ornately painted ceiling of the entrance hall, from which a pair of marble stairways lead to the great reception hall on the main floor above. The walls of the reception hall are hung with portraits of patriarchs, rectors of the theological school, and others associated with the history of the monastery. At one end of the hall a niche contains the carved wooden iconostasis and its icons from the Byzantine church of the Virgin Kamariotissa on Heybeliada, which was taken over by the Turkish Navy in 1942. The patriarchal apartments, the administrative offices, and the rooms of the faculty are also on the main floor.

The classrooms of the school are situated on either side of the transverse corridor on the first floor, and the dormitories of the seminarians are in the north and south wings. The renowned library is also on the first floor as are the refectory, the infirmary, and service facilities such as the barber shop and tailor, while the gymnasium is to the south of the complex. The theological school was closed by the Turkish government in 1971, but political discussions are now under way which, hopefully, will lead to its reopening.

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