A Patriarch’s Chant: Athanasios V

The following is taken from guest-artist Achilleas Chaldaiakis’ fantastic program notes available for this weekend’s performances.

A Patriarch’s Chant: Athanasios V

The Patriarch of Constantinople Athanasios V is an exceptionally important Church figure, widely renowned in the relevant historical research. He was a Cretan; through historians he is described as “a wise man, whose outstanding prosperity was a scandal to the clergymen of the time; he would read European books and induce people towards education”; moreover he is reported as “an expert of Greek, Latin and Arabic dialects, being in parallel perfect as far as music is concerned”.

An example of one of the scores!

It seems that after a brief stay in an Arabic-speaking district (probably in Egypt or Palestine, or even in any place around the Patriarchate of Jerusalem, where –logically– he learnt Arabic) he resided in a region in Constantinople, where he acquired a richer education (not only in Greek but also in Latin studies) and he gradually rose to ecclesiastical offices. It has already been known, through historical sources, that since 1687 he was the Bishop of Tornovo; thus, Ι would argue that he had been holding the position from an earlier date, since in 1686 he is already mentioned as Bishop of Tornovo (in a composition of his, anthologized in a codex written by the monk of Iviron Monastery in Mount Athos Kosmas the so-called Macedon [codex Iviron No. 970 (Papadiki), ff. 225r-226v], a composition which is a Polychronion greetings to Serpanos, Master of Ougrovlachia area). He served in the said Metropolis until 1692, when he was transferred to the Metropolis of Adrianople, after he succeeded the abdicated Bishop Klemes. He served as Bishop of Adrianople until 1709, when he was elected the Patriarch of Constantinople either on May 27th or on May 28th 1709, succeeding his predecessor Kyprianos, in an anticipated way, characteristically described by himself in one of his epistles (written on May 28th 1709) which were addressed to Chrysanthos, the Patriarch of Jerusalem.

In Athanasios’ aforementioned letter, a first intervention of the political authority of that period in his life becomes clear; at first sight, this intervention is irrelevant for his musical activity, although it is one that later would define not only the rest of his life but also the special shades reflected in his oeuvre. The story is as follows: the Patriarch Synod elected the Kyrillos, Bishop of Kyzikos as a successor to the above-mentioned Kyprianos. When this news was broken to Vizier Ali-Pasha Jorlolos (whose last name means that he was descended from Tiroloi of Thrace), who was a brother-in-law of the Sultan Mustapha II, the said Vizier refused to observe this Synodic resolution and imposed Athanasios, Bishop of Adrianople, as a successor to the former Patriarch.

—Achilleas Chaldaiakis

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8pm, Fri., Nov. 8, St. Mary’s Cathedral


8pm, Sat., Nov. 9, St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church