The Dedication of Constantinople

May 11, 330

Arculf, a bishop from Gaul, visited Constantinople in 670, where he heard a legend about its founding. Arculf told the tale to Adomnán of Iona, who wrote it down: Constantine, wanting to found a new capital, gathered materials and “an infinite multitude of men” on the coast of Asia Minor. “One night, while the innumerable forces of workmen were sleeping in their tents over the vast length of the camp, all the different kinds of tools used by the artificers of the different works were suddenly removed, no one knew how.” Eventually the tools were found “on the European side, across the sea, gathered together in one heap in one place between the seas.” Constantine said, “Let us build a city on the spot divinely revealed to us.”

The story reflects the mystique that Constantinople/Istanbul and its magnificent church, Hagia Sophia (now a mosque), hold among many Orthodox Christians. Its patriarch was ranked second to Rome in the early Church and is considered “first among equals” among Orthodox today, although disagreement on what this means in practice is a source of divisions between Orthodox churches.

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James M. Kushiner is the Director of Publications for The Fellowship of St. James and the former Executive Editor of Touchstone.

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