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Basileios of Smyrna

Author(s) : Stamatopoulos Dimitrios (12/10/2002)
Translation : Panourgia Klio

For citation: Stamatopoulos Dimitrios, "Basileios of Smyrna",
Encyclopaedia of the Hellenic World, Asia Minor
URL: <http://www.ehw.gr/l.aspx?id=7381>

Βασίλειος Σμύρνης (11/13/2007 v.1) Basileios of Smyrna - has not been published yet 

1. Birth-Family-Formal education

Basileios was born on 25 March 1835 in Zagoritsani or Zagoritsa of the Kastoria province which was later renamed Vasileiada in his honour. His father was called Asterios and his mother Aikaterini. His mother’s father, a priest by the name of Nikolaos had settled in Constantinople and served in Vlaga for 25 years (he died there in 1849). Both his son Cosmas and his nephew Emmanuel were also priests. Young Basileios, after attending basic education school in his home town, was sent, aged 13 in 1847, to Constantinople to his grandfather and uncle where he completed his formal education at the municipal school of Vlaga, the preliminary school of Fanari and the Great School of the Nation. In 1853 patriarch Germanos IV, the founder of the Theological School of Chalki himself, entered Basileios to the Theological School during the period when the bishop of Stavroupoli Constantine Typaldos (the first director and founder of the School) was still director.

Basileios distinguished himself in ancient Greek and Latin and Typaldos entrusted him with the teaching of the particular subjects (particularly Latin) to the School’s lower classes, under the supervision of the important scholar Helias Tandalidis. Tandalidis inspired him with a particular love for refined language and the study of the ancient Greek classics and the fathers of the church.

2. His activities at the dioceses of Nikaea and Anchialos

On 13 March 1860 he was ordained deacon by Typaldos; in July of the same year he graduated as doctor of Theology and was immediately engaged as archdeacon by the bishop of Nicaea Ioannikios, aged only 26. The diocese’s spiritual supervision by Basileios was particularly important as Ioannikios was almost permanently in Constantinople. So, when in 1865, the bishop of Anchialos Sofronios resigned due to a chronic illness, Ioannikios recommended Basileios’ promotion to bishop of Anchialos. On 25 September 1865 he was promoted to bishop by Ioannikios and, two days later, on 27 September, he was elected by the Holy Synod to bishop of Anchialos during the patriarchate of Sophronios III (1863-66). Despite the effusion of the Bulgarian issue during this period, he did not face particular problems, even though the province had a mixed ethnological composition (it was among the demands of the Euxinus Pontus which the Bulgarians had not yet included in their requests to form part of the Province’s territory), while the richest of the Greek speaking inhabitants developed commercial dealings with Constantinople, Romania (where there were rich settlements of people from Anchialos), and Russia, which, in turn, helped promote the area’s educational levels. Within this relatively favorable climate, Basileios supported the foundation of new school and the improvement of existing educational establishments. He also cared for his ailing predecessor Sofronios, who finally died in 1867.

3. Director of the Theological School

In October 1870 Basileios was called by the Ecumenical Patriarchate to assume temporary directorship of the Theological School of Chalki which, after the departure of its first director C. Typaldos, was in turmoil due to constant confrontations among its students and the Headmasters who succeeded him.1 The speech addressed by Basileios “on acceptance of the Directorship of the Theological School”2 on 23 October 1870 reflects precisely the tense situation at the School. Moreover, a month later, on occasion of the commencement by Basileios himself of the lesson of pastoral theology, he assembled the School’s students and announced that he prohibited their passage to Constantinople because he believed that their associations there were the cause of the troubles at the School. The strict disciple imposed by Basileios in relation to the behavior of the School’s pupils was the result of the tense atmosphere within the circles of the Ecumenical Patriarchate after the issuance of the decree of the 27th February 1870 by the Sublime Porte which decided upon the foundation of the Bulgarian Exarchate. The Orthodox Greek community of Constantinople was split on the choice of an uncompromising or, respectively, a compromising attitude toward the Bulgarians’ demands for ecclesiastical autonomy; naturally, this disunity affected the behavior of the pupils of the Theological School.

The then patriarch Anthimos VI, appreciating Basileios’ stance on the issue, recommended him as successor to the diseased bishop of Caesarea, Paisios. Anthimos’ proposal was particularly honorary for Basileios and everyone was surprised by his refusal. His reasons were, basically, two: a) Basileios had a firm opinion on the non-movement of bishops because he believed that the frequent transferal of prominent clergy promoted abuse and corruption, b) there was strong opposition to Anthimos’ choice by almost all the large community of Caesareans of Constantinople, which supported and, finally imposed Eustathios Kleovoulos as bishop of Caesarea.

4. His attitude to the issue of the establishment of the Bulgarian Exarchate

After the exam period at the Theological School in September 1871, Basileios returned to Anchialos. Thus, he was not present at the Local Synod which was called in August-September of the following year (1872) and condemned the supporters of the establishment of the Bulgarian Exarchate as schismatic. Basileios had, of course, signed the patriarchic invitation for the convergence of the Local Synod on 27 April 1872, but was skeptical on whether a hard political stance had to be held towards the Bulgarian side, which led finally to the Schism. He was in favour of the ideas which had been proposed at the time by other important members of the orthodox clergy, such as the bishop of Jerusalem Cyril, and the professors of the Theological School of Chalki Helias Tantalidis and Ioannis Anastasiadis (later bishop of Caesarea).3 This attitude led to the proposal by the Bulgarian Exarchate to Basileios to enter its bosom – a proposal Basileios refused.

A year later, in September 1873, and while Ioakeim II (1860-63, 1873-78), had ascended to the patriarchal throne for the second time, Basileios was called upon once again to take on the directorship of the Theological School, after the failure of the previous Schoolmaster, Gregorios Foteinos, to impose discipline on the School’s pupils. Basileios remained Schoolmaster until July 1876. During this period the Patriarchate assigned Basileios and Ioannis Anastasiadis to pronounce, separately, on the validity of the ordinations which were being performed by the clergy who had acceded to the Bulgarian Exarchate. Basileios’ opinion, based on the principle of leniency, supported the validity of the ordinations in question.

Basileios returned to Anchialos in 1876, but the situation was already intense due to the outburst of the Eastern Crisis (1875-78). In June 1877, Basileios was ordered by the Patriarchate to abandon Anchialos and retire to the monastery of St. Anastasia in Sozopoli. After a while it was announced to him that he had been relieved of his duties after demands by the Porte, because of the sympathy he had allegedly showed toward the advancing Russian troops during the Turkish-Russian war of 1877-78. After an intervention by the rich banker Georgios Zarifis, Basileios managed to return to Constantinople and become prelatic supervisor - during the patriarchic reign of Ioakeim III – in the richest parish of Stavrodromi, where the “aristocracy” of the Greek Orthodox community had settled. His three-year stay in Constantinople led to a close friendship between Basileios and Ioakeim III. Thus, on 11 February 1881, the Holy Synod reinstated him as bishop of Anchialos where he remained over the next three years, contributing to the establishment of the town’s new girl’s school and the appointment of new students to the Zarifeian Didaskaleion in Filippoupoli, the Great School of the Nation, the Theological School and the Commercial School of Chalki, and the University of Athens.

5. Activities at the diocese of Smyrna

In December 1884, after the death of the bishop of Smyrna Meletios, the Holy Synod elected the bishop of Anchialos to the vacant position. The appointment was preceded by intense backstage activity, as Basileios’ election was supported by the archdeacon of Smyrna (and later of Philadelphia and Mithymni), Stefanos Soulidis, an admirer of Basileios, who had been his pupil at the Theological School. Soulidis convinced the eminent members of the Greek Orthodox community of Smyrna to ask for Basileios’ transferal to Smyrna. At the same time, members of the Ecumenical Patriarchate tried and finally managed to convince Basileios himself, for he held strong opinions on the movement of bishops as was mentioned previously. On 22 December 1884, Basileios was finally elected bishop of Smyrna (running against the bishops of Kallipoli Ieronymos and Kastoria Kyrillos), and settled in his new diocese in March of the following year (1885).

The diocese of Smyrna formed the centre of the town’s ecclesiastical and communal administration. During this period the clergy of the town’s 14 churches and of a further 12 places of worships in the surrounding area depended on the diocese. At the same time, the bishop headed the general meetings of the Elders of the town’s vibrant Orthodox Greek community as well as the community’s Ecclesiastical and Mixed Courts. It becomes obvious that this position demanded broad educational horizons and administrative capabilities. Basileios, apart from having a classical education, also had knowledge of foreign languages (he knew French, German and, more importantly Ottoman), while his administrative capabilities had already been tested at the diocese of Anchialos. At the same time, Basileios was an exemplarily pious prelate,4 while he was also known for his disregard for money. The way with which he used his bishopric subsidy is of interest.

6. His view regarding bishopric incomes

In Anchilaos, Basileios’ bishopric subsidy was, in any case, small. The bishop however offered it in support of the Greek Gymnasium in Tsotyli in Macedonia. When he arrived as bishop in Smyrna in 1885 he borrowed in order to buy his new vestments. Regarding his bishopric subsidy, he faced a serious problem on his arrival, as the town’s church assemblies had, on the one hand, decided to defray the 100.000 piasters to the bishop, without, however, taking into account the lire’s new parity which had been fixed by the Ottoman government during this period (from 1 lire = 108 piasters to 1 lire = 178 piasters) which meant that the subsidy had suffered a 34% depreciation. Basileios initially reacted by saying that he would charge the difference to the churches; this monetary difference was never, however, paid to the bishop.5 Also, Basileios never pursued a rise in the so-called “chance” incomes (incomes from liturgies, weddings, christenings, funerals etc), while he avoided the ordination of new priests – one of the main sources of income and common practice of many bishops during this period.

7. His activities regarding the function of educational institutions

Basileios assisted particularly with the restoration and reinforcement of the educational movement in Smyrna. During his reign (1886-7), the large Girl’s School “Agia Foteini” left its old premises in the courtyard of the aforementioned church and next to the Evangelical School, and was established in Meimaroglou Street, at the expense of Smyrna’s great benefactors Dimitrios and Sofia Kioupetzoglou. In 1889 new boy’s and girl’s schools were established in the Terevinthos (Tsikoudia) neighborhood, were a church was also built (1894-1904). Next to the church of the Virgin Mary’s birthday in the Fasoula neighborhood, which was a dependency of the Voulkanou monastery (which is in Messinia), a boy’s school (1890) and a girl’s school (1895) were founded after the dependency was relinquished by the monastery’s abbots to the Greek Orthodox community of Smyrna following persistent efforts by Basileios and the bishop of Athens Germanos Kalligas. Also, with Basileios’ initiative and through the utilization of the Mimikos Chatzeantoniou bequest, the primary school next to the church of Hagios Dimitrios (which had been founded in 1834) was upgraded to Chatzeantonion Six-Form School (1907).

Basileios also supported and directly supervised unions such as “Orthodoxia” (founded in 1885), “Eusebeia” (founded in 1894), the “Sisterhood of Ladies” (founded in 1887) and the “Laikon Kentron” (founded in 1907) – the first two aimed at strengthening religious feeling, the other two with aims for social provision. For the realization of all these causes Basileios sometimes appealed to the Greek politicians Trikoupis and Theotokis, the rich fellow countrymen Averof, Maraslis, Zarifis, Evmorfopoulosm and others. For the decoration of the chapels of the Girl’s School and the “Homer”, moreover, Basileios appealed to Queen Olga for financial support; she heard the bishop’s appeal and immediately sent two icon screens, one for each chapel.

8. His activities regarding community altercations

Basileios also renovated the bishopric mansion of Smyrna – which was completed in 1887 -, while he also made insistent attempts for the definitive ratification of the communal charter which finally took place in 1889 by patriarch Dionysios V. The ratification put an end to a period of intense altercations between the Council of Elders and the Central Committee (a body which had been founded by members of the Greek Orthodox community who doubted the authority of the traditional stratums which controlled the Council of the Elders). Basileios’ intervention, however, caused intense antipathies against him which were expressed through two of the town’s most important newspapers: the Amaltheia, (directed by S. Solomonides), and the Armonia, (directed by M. Seizanis). In 1890 the kadi of the town’s ecclesiastical court asked for Basileios’ removal from the bishopric throne because, in his opinion, he had offended Islam with a particular phrase. The timely intervention of the Russian ambassador Nelidov brought about the opposite result: instead of Basileios being removed the Ottoman judge was removed, as was the Ottoman warden who had tried to impose the latter’s demand.

9. His position on the Concessive Issue

During the period 1890-91 the second phase of the Concessive Issue emerged. The Ecumenical Patriarchate Dionysios V’s answer to the Ottoman government’s demands (that Turkish courts should handle cases regarding the ratification of Christian marriages, that the Porte supervises orthodox schools, etc), was his resignation and the discontinuance of rituals in churches. Several bishops disagreed with this second measure; among them was Basileios who was particularly targeted by the Neologos newspaper. Basileios also took action against the uniatic movement of Smyrna after the publication of the relevant decree by Pope Leo XIII (1894).

10. His activities during the last years of his life

During 1895-97, during the reign of Anthimos VII, Basileios was summoned to Constantinople as a Synodic. At the same time as his positioning in the Synod, Basileios was also a member of the Continuous National Mixed Council and president of the board of the Great School of the Nation While in Constantinople in 1897 Basileios took an active part in the election of the metropolite of Ephesus Constantinos as new Ecumenical Patriarch. As soon as his synodic term was complete, Basileios returned to Smyrna where the clash between the Elders and the Central Committee for control of community issues had become more intense. Over the next three years Basileios tried to sooth community feelings. In 1902 he was called once again to the capital as a member of the Holy Synod, as during the previous year he had participated in the election of the new Ecumenical Patriarch Ioakeim III (who rose to the patriarchic throne for a second time, (1901-12), while he was also a candidate. Also in 1902 he was also elected president of the board of the Ioakeimeio girl’s School. In 1904 he returned to Smyrna where, however, he found community relations still difficult.

In 1905 he tried to solve the serious problem of the payment of wages to the lower levels of the clergy through the union “Eusebeia”. In a circular written in February 1905 he forecast that “Eusebeia” would take over the payment of wages to parish clergy (priests and deacons), and in return, the union would collect the so-called “chance” incomes (payments for christenings, weddings, funerals etc). In January 1906 he established a Committee, equivalent in jurisdiction to the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s Central Ecclesiastical Committee; it supervised, in other words, the function of the town’s Greek Orthodox Schools. In April 1906 he validated the Charter of the Educational Association of Smyrna, while in August 1907 he formed a special committee made up of school-masters from the town’s lyceums in order to examine the “abilities and conduct of all applicant” teachers.

Basileios died on 23 January 1910. His death caused deep grief to the inhabitants of Smyrna.

11. Scholarly works

Basileios published over 40 essays and religious studies. During his stay in Kios in Bithynia as archdeacon of the bishop of Nicaea Ioannikios, he wrote two speeches which were published in the Egkolpio (Vade Mecum):a) “On fasting and prayer” (1861) and b) “On prayer” (1863). These speeches and other more recent writings are included in Basileios, bishop of Smyrna, Εγκόλπιον μαθητών και τροφίμων της εν Χάλκης Θεολογικής Σχολής. Εκδίδοται πατριαρχική και συνοδική εκγρίσει προς χρήσιν των μαθητών της Σχολής (Constantinople 1902).

During his bishopric in Smyrna he re-published and prefaced the Ιερό Νυμφαγωγό, a work which had been translated in its first edition from Russian by the archimandrite of the Greek Orthodox community in Budapest Gr. Gogos. The revenue from this publication, as well as from the publication of the work Υπόμνημα περί αφορισμού κατά τους ιερούς κανόναςin 1897, Basileios offered to the town’s Benevolent Fund for the Poor. Basileios translated Cicero’s De Senecture into Greek while he had also written many books in ancient Greek.

1. During the period 1865 to 1870 the Directorship of the Theological School of Chalki had been assumed by Philotheos Vryennios, Preslavas Anthimos, Germanos Grigoras, Nikiforos Glykas and Vretos – they all faced problems with the School’s students.

2. Βασίλειος, μητροπολίτης Σμύρνης, Εγκόλπιον μαθητών και τροφίμων της εν Χάλκης Θεολογικής Σχολής. Εκδίδοται πατριαρχική και συνοδική εκγρίσει προς χρήσιν των μαθητών της Σχολής (Constantinople 1902), pp. 1-7.

3. Παπαδόπουλος, Γ., Η Σύγχρονος Ιεραρχία της Ανατολικής Ορθοδόξου Εκκλησίας (Athens 1895), p. 431.

4. Basileios was never heard to swear or blaspheme. The only “swearwords” he used in a derogatory manner against someone was “psomas” (baker) or “haftas” (???????), while his most ireful expression was “Kyrie eleison” (God have mercy), followed by “isn’t it so”, see Διαμαντόπουλος, Α. Ν., «Βασίλειος μητροπολίτης Σμύρνης (25 Μαρτίου 1834-23 Ιανουαρίου 1910)», Μικρασιατικά Χρονικά 2 (1939), p. 168.

5. Basileios however kept a book of the community’s debts to himself, which in time had risen considerably. A few days before his death, the deputy bishop of Christoupoli Iakovos, in order to rid the community of these depts., which the Patriarchate would most definitely ask for after taking the bishop’s calculations into account, convinced Basileios to write them off  in exchange for very small sums paid by the churches’ assemblies. So, for example, a debt of 300 lires was written off in exchange for just 4, see Διαμαντόπουλος, Α. Ν., «Βασίλειος μητροπολίτης Σμύρνης (25 Μαρτίου 1834-23 Ιανουαρίου 1910)», Μικρασιατικά Χρονικά 2 (1939), p. 169, note 1.


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