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Greek Orthodox Church (Greece)

Last modified: 2019-03-02 by ivan sache
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Status of Orthodox churches in Greece

The Orthodox Church is composed of 15 autocephalous churches: Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, Patriarchate of Jerusalem, Patriarchate of Antioch, Patriarchate of Alexandria, Patriarchate of Russia, Orthodox Church of Greece, Patriarchate of Romania, Patriarchate of Serbia, Patriarchate of Bulgaria, Orthodox Church of Albania, Orthodox Church of the Czech lands and Slovakia, Orthodox Church of Poland, Orthodox Church in America, Orthodox Church of Cyprus, Patriarchate of Georgia).
There is no subordination between these churches: the Archbishop of Constantinople-New Rome bears the title of First Among Equals Patriarch. This means nothing more than that he is the president of All Orthodox Conferences, without any leadership over other church than his own, the Patriarchate of Constantinople. The Patriarchate is not an independent state like the Holy See. Legally, it is simply a Turkish corporation. The Patriarch is not the head of any state.

From an ecclesiastical, Orthodox point of view, Greece is in a peculiar situation:
- Areas that formed part of the Kingdom of Greece between 1830 and 1912 belong to the Orthodox Church of Greece, headed by the Archbishop of Athens;
- The parts of European mainland that were incorporated to Greece after the Balkan Wars of 1912-1913 - Greek Macedonia and Thrace are direct subjects of the Patriarchate of Constantinople. They are administrated, however, on its behalf, by the Orthodox Church of Greece;
- Rhodes, which became part of Greece in 1948, and the other Dodecanese islands belong to the Patriarchate, which directly administrate them.
Yannis Natsinas, Dimitri Kaminas, Ivan Marinov & John Udics, 13 February 2006


Use of the "Byzantine Imperial flag" by the Greek Orthodox Churches

[Byzantine Imperial Flag]

"Byzantine Imperial flag" - Image by António Martins , 27 January 1999

The "Byzantine imperial flag" is yellow with a black double-headed eagle clutching a scepter and orb, with crown above and between the two heads.
This flag doesn't have official status as the flag of the Orthodox Church of Greece, of any other Orthodox church, or of Orthodox Christianity as a whole. Its shape is neither determined, there are different formats in use. Its neither the flag of the Patriarchate of Constantinople.
The use of the flag has been reported from individual parishes in Greek Orthodox Churches with ethnic Greek populations (Patriarchate of Constantinople, Orthodox Church of Greece and Orthodox Church of Cyprus). The eagle is sometimes surrounded by the words"Εκκλησια της Ελλαδος Ιερα Αρχιεπισκοπη Αθηνων in black lettering
John Udics & Ned Smith, 15 February 2006


Flag of the Orthodox Church of Greece

[Flag] image by Pete Loeser, 14 February 2019

The flag of the Orthodox Church of Greece (photo, photo) is red with a large yellow cross. Along with four golden firesteels, there is the inscription "TOYTO NIKA" in white (the second "O" is actually an Ω, while "OY" is actually a ligature Ω / Υ), which is Greek for "In hoc signo vinces". The top arm of the cross is charged with the Χ-Ρ symbol in white. In the center of the flag is a white double-headed eagle fimbriated red, charged upon its breast with a red shield with a cross between four firesteels, all in gold, as used in the Byzantine Empire.
Tomislav Todorović, 12 May 2013

This flag may have been incorrectly identified. I think the flag is somehow related to Serbia, either the State or its Orthodox church, because the flag displays the 4 B's, according to our page: Serbia: Coat of arms. The meaning of the B's in our page is given as: Βασιλευς Βασιλεων Βασιλευων Βασιλευσιν, that is, "King of Kings, ruling over Kings". 
Klaus-Michael Schneider, 12 February 2019

This flag is not used in Serbia at all. Regarding the Greek Orthodox Church, the "Byzantine" flag may be more used, but the said flag is used as well - I did encounter its photos several times while exploring the flags of Golden Dawn. The reason for its infrequent use may be that much of present-day Greek territory is still under direct or indirect jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, while the Church of Greece, whose flag it is, has the jurisdiction only over the pre-1912 Greek territories, although it does administer much of "New Lands", as they are called, on behalf of the Ecumenical Patriarch. For more details about this complex situation, see here.
Regarding the flag design, the four large charges are not the B's, but firesteels, their shape being something in between the B's and the C's (between betas and sigmas, more correctly). Also note that there is also the inscription "ΤΟΥΤΩ ΝΙΚΑ" - Greek language is not used in the Serbian Orthodox Church, so if it had been a Serbian flag, the inscription would have been either in Church Slavonic or in modern Serbian. And perhaps the most important of all, to repeat once again: the flag is not used in Serbia at all, but it is indeed used in Greece, although not very frequently.
Tomislav Todorovic, 4 February 2019

I read it more as saying that some parishes use the Byzantine Flag as a symbol for Orthodoxy in Greece. The need for such a symbol would be that the country of Greece is ecclesiastically divided over three Orthodox churches. The actual Greek Orthodox Church we document as using a red flag bearing a yellow cross, with among other symbols B-like fire strikes in the quarters. Unfortunately, though we have photo's showing the flag, we don't have an image to show in the text.
The four B-s are really what shows it's more a Greek Orthodox Church flag, as I see it. I would say that in Serbian symbols, the fire strikes look like four C-s. The UFE has fire strikes looking like B-s, which is more Greek/Byzantine.
The original UFE request was posted by Jens Pattke; the source was das Erbe unserer Welt, unfortunately without any reference to the issue but the page was 122; the identifier was Tomislav Todorovic.
Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 4 February 2019

<> Here's another source identifying it as Greek Orthodox and two more photos from Greece (source #2) (source #3). These two sources do incorrectly attribute it to the Byzantine Empire, and the flag is indeed often incorrectly offered for sale as such. It is done partly because the Orthodox Church, especially the Ecumenical Patriarchate, had been considered to be a sort of spiritual successor of the Empire after its end, and partly in order to appeal to under-informed potential buyers.
The flag would have indeed been a fantasy flag if it had only been described as the flag of Byzantine Empire, however it does have a user in real life - the Orthodox Church of Greece. The same would apply for the yellow flag with a double-headed eagle, only its real-life user is the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
Tomislav Todorovic, 15 February 2019


Former flag of the Orthodox Church of Greece

[Flag] image by Tomislav Todorović & António Martins , 2 June 2015

An early flag of the Church was combining the designs of the "Byzantine Imperial flag" and of the national flag of Greece. It was divided vertically, with the Byzantine double-headed black eagle on golden field in the hoist, which occupied 1/3 of the flag length, and nine blue and white stripes in the fly, which occupied the rest of the flag. I have seen it only once, in the TV-report about the Meteora complex of monasteries which was broadcasted some time in the mid-1980s. Still I remember well that a light shade of blue was used, which I was seeing frequently in the illustrations, but never in real life until then, and that the black charge in golden field, although too small to reveal all the details on TV screen, was still recognizable as the double-headed eagle. Although used in the Meteora complex, it certainly was not a specific flag of its own; with such design, it could only be an early flag of the Church of Greece as a whole, used before the current flag.
Tomislav Todorović, 2 June 2015


Flag of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople

The flag of the Patriarchate of Constantinople is white with deep red - on the face, in a red circle with gold outlines, a double-headed eagle, with a crown on each head, and a crown over both, and the abbreviation "ΟΙΚ" and "Π" for Οἰκουμενικὸν Πατριαρχεῖον (Oecumenical Patriarchate), and in the right claw of the eagle, a cross, and in the left, an orb with a cross on its top. Below the eagle is an arc of wreathed branches - which may be of the same sort of tree. Below the tail, there is the outline of a closed book, atop of which are two keys, crossed. On either side of that, there are the letters "Κ" and "Π" for Κωνσταντινουπόλεως (Constantinople). On the reverse of the flag, a deep red equal-armed cross, with the abbreviations Βαρθ in the first quarter, λμς in the second (for Βαρθολομαίος, Bartholomeos) and in the third quarter Π with Τ, Ρ, and Χ superimposed to form one character, and in the fourth quarter, ΚΡΣ (for Πατριάρχης Κωνσταντινουπόλεως, Patriarch and Constantinople). There is a thin deep red circle around this, and the words Οικουμενικόν Πατριάρχην in gold, and in the base of the circle, a branch in deep red, and above it in small golden characters, the Greek numbers 'a' 'xsi' 'ts' 'a', indicating the date 1991. All this is surrounded by two thin deep red circles.
John Udics
, 15 February 2006

Mount Athos

Mount Athos (Όρος Άθως), aka the Holy Mountain (Ἅγιον Ὄρος) is located on the easternmost part of the peninsula of Chalkidiki (Macedonia). Mount Athos (389 sq. km) stretches into the Aegean Sea for about 57 km and varies in width between 7 and 10 km.
The 20 Athonite monasteries, placed under the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, form the Autonomous Monastic State of the Holy Mountain (Αὐτόνομη Μοναστικὴ Πολιτεία Ἁγίου Ὄρους). Its status is prescribed in Article 105 of the Constitution of the Hellenic Republic.

Ships sailing around the coast of mount Athos fly both the Greek flag and the flag of the "Byzantine Imperial flag".
Ships sailing from Ouranopoulos to the harbour of Dafni fly only the "Byzantine Imperial flag".
Thomas Becker
, 20 May 2002