Church of St. George, Istanbul
The Church of St. George is the principal Greek Orthodox cathedral still in use in Istanbul, the largest city in Turkey and (as Constantinople), the capital of the Byzantine Empire until 1453. Since about 1600, it has been the seat of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, the senior patriarchate of the Greek Orthodox Church and recognised as the spiritual leader of the world's Eastern Orthodox Christians.
The church, dedicated to the Christian martyr Saint George, is the site of numerous important services and is where the patriarch will consecrate the chrism (myron) on Holy and Great Thursday, when needed. For this reason, the church is also known as the "Patriarchal Church of the Great Myrrh". At one time, the patriarch would consecrate all of the chrism used throughout the entire Orthodox Church. However, now most of the heads of the autocephalous churches sanctify their own myrrh.
The church is located in the Fener (Phanar) district of Istanbul, north-west of the historic centre of old Constantinople. (Its address is Fener Rum Patrikhanesi, Sadrazam Ali Pasa Cadesi, Fener 34220, Istanbul.) It is a relatively small church, especially so considering its status in world Christianity; this, however, can be explained by the Islamic laws of the Ottoman Empire that governed the rights of dhimmis, which stipulate that all non-Islamic buildings must be smaller and humbler than corresponding Islamic buildings such as mosques. Had it not been for the Islamic conquest of Constantinople in 1453, the church of the Patriarchate would have been in Hagia Sophia.
The church is open to the public from 8.30 am to 4 pm, but strict security screening is in place, as a measure against the possibility of an attack from extremist groups and others with similar views, as well. It is visited by a stream of pilgrims from Greece and other Orthodox countries. Behind the church are the offices of the Patriarchate and the Patriarchate Library. The Church, which was part of a convent or monastery before becoming the seat of the Patriarch, is outwardly unimpressive, but its interior is lavishly decorated in styles much loved by Orthodox Christians.