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The Great Church in Captivity: A Study of the Patriarchate of Constantinople from the Eve of the Turkish Conquest to the Greek War of Independence

4.7 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0521313100
ISBN-10: 0521313104
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Editorial Reviews

Book Description

First published in 1968, this classic study of the Patriarchate of Constantinople traces the Grecian church's survival as the spiritual center of the Byzantine world during the four centuries of Turkish rule which followed the fall of Constantinople.

From the Back Cover

The Great Church, as the Greeks called the Orthodox Patriarchate of Constantinople, was the spiritual centre of the Byzantine world. The Church's survival during the four centuries of Turkish rule which followed the fall of Constantinople bore witness to its strength and to the unquenchable vitality of Hellenism.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 454 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press (March 31, 1986)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521313104
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521313100
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 1 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #99,602 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I'll say right off what my quibble with this well-written study is: it would rate 5+ stars if it were illustrated. It is really too bad the publishers didn't bother to put in a few portraits of various Patriarchs of Constantinople, several representative Icons, a map of the city showing the Phanar, and some photos of the remaining churches and chapels. We have plenty of this sort of thing in books on western Christianity; why not in a book about eastern Orthodoxy? That said, it is an excellent read. It took me awhile to pick it up, perhaps out of fear of it being too "scholarly". Once underway, I was very much engaged by it, and it filled in a significant gap in my knowledge of the eastern churches. I'm grateful to Runciman for having given me a learning experience, which I wish I could say about many other authors, but can't. This is strongly recommended for students of Christian and near- and middle-eastern history, Orthodox believers who want to know more about their faith, and readers who like to explore what happens when cultures collide. I enjoyed reading this while curled up in a big comfy chair with a pot of tea. A nicely written study of a neglected part of human history!
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By A Customer on January 15, 1999
Format: Paperback
The book discusses in detail the many adventures that the Orthodox Church has been through during its long reign. Very few historians have covered the Great Church in such a detailed fashioned. Runciman is a very good historian and it's a shame that some of his other books are out-of-print.
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By A Customer on April 7, 2004
Format: Paperback
The dilemma facing English speakers of Greek decent is that there are so few books written in English on Greek medieval history, and I can think of none written specifically on the Orthodox Church during the turkocratia, except of course Runciman's "The Great Church in Captivity". At first, I was skeptical. After all, Runciman is an Englishman and I was leery about potential ignorance or bias which could seep its way into his book. No need to be concerned. Runcimen's book is a well researched and a thorough history on the subject. I could hardly put it down.
Generally, the book was easy to read and very informative. One chapter deals heavily with theology, and finding the subject brain numbing, I must admit, I skipped over most it. No matter, the balance of the book, which deals with Church history, was very enlightening. I do have one issue with Runcimen's account, however. Greek history teaches that during the captivity, Greek children were taught Greek by the clergy, under covert conditions, usually at night in underground caves, so as to not alert the Turks. By doing this, the Greek people were able to maintain their identity through language and religion, and resist turkification. This is a fact of paramount significance to the Greek people, a legend of heroism passed down from generation to generation, yet there is no mention of it by Runciman. Even though this account was omitted, there is so much content in this book, that I highly recommend it to those interested in the history of the Orthodox Church.
To Greeks: A bit of warning to the wide-eyed and uninitiated: You were not taught this history at home or in Sunday school, so you may be shocked by some of this. I was.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I'll be honest with you.The only reason I bought this book, was because I'd already read all of Runciman's "real" history books and just wanted to complete my collection.Church history and theology aren't exactly my cup of tea.So, I thought I'd open it, start reading and fall asleep after page....ix.But I was wrong of course.I underestimated Runciman's ability to make even a debate about the role of Epiklesis in Transubstantiation appear interesting.No,really,I'm being serious.This is a well-written and interesting book that provides an answer, from a unique perspective, to the question everyone has after reading the "Fall of Constantinople": "Well,what happened next?"

We also get a deeper insight on Runciman's own ideas about religion and theology that we only catch a glimpse of, in his most ...ermm, "secular" works.

This book also piqued my interest on a more personal level as well, being (nominally) Orthodox.For anyone who has read his books, it's not a secret where Runciman' s sympathies lay - and he certainly tries to explain and excuse many "unfortunate" acts and decisions on behalf of the Orthodox Church.But be warned - this isn't a rose-tinted hagiography - the story of the "Great Church" in "captivity" becomes literally nauseating at times, and it doesn't lack in cynicism and petty squabling.It certainly didn't make me want to get rid of that pesky "nominally" in front of my religion....
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By A Customer on July 24, 1999
Format: Paperback
Sadly, this is the only book on the topic in English. Runciman's treatment of theological disputes the Orthodox subjects of the Turks knew to be of prime importance is often dismissive, and one can wonder about the historical judgement that led him to devote so much space to the Constantinopolitan Patriarchate's response to feelers from various religious rebels (i.e., Protestants) from the Latin west; there never was much chance either that the Protestants would surrender to Tradition or that the Mother Church would allow them to be deluded into thinking themselves Orthodox. Still, this is a good book, full of information readers who don't know, e.g., French and modern Greek won't find elsewhere.
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