The Buildings


Except for a small portion of the patriarchal library, all of the buildings at the Phanar have been reconstructed over the last two centuries. The buildings situated on the western side of the Ecumenical Patriarchate are divided into two groups. The first group was constructed by Patriarch Constantine V (1897–1901), toward the end of the nineteenth century. Access to these edifices is by a long stairway. This group of buildings is called the Constantiniana and houses the rooms of the clergy. It is linked internally to the second group by an iron bridge.

The second group of buildings was constructed in stone as a patriarchal residence by Patriarch Joachim III in 1879, during his second tenure (1878–84). This group is called the Evgenidion because the project was sponsored by a benevolent banker and businessman, Efstathios Evgenidis (d. c. 1913-14). The two buildings of this group housed the offices of the Ecumenical Patriarchate from the time of Patriarch Benjamin (1936–46) until recently.

The Tower and Adjoining Edifices

Three buildings are located on the eastern side, behind the patriarchal church. Among them, the tower or “the house built with stone, as it was named by Athanasios Ypsilantis,” whose family had come to Constantinople from Trabzon in the late seventeenth century. This eighteenth-century post-Byzantine edifice is characterized by its remarkable architecture and design. The first floor, known as the Myrrhophylakion, stores the holy myrrh after it has been consecrated. The significance of the Holy Myrrh is described below. The second floor houses the archives and is known as the Archiophylakion, a remarkable repository of patriarchal documents and files. The third floor contains the treasury (the Skevophylakion or Thesaurophylakion) and the sacristy (or Kemeliophylakion) of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. The treasures housed in this building include unique icons dating to the sixteenth century, patriarchal vestments dating to the seventeenth century, and precious vessels dating to the eighteenth century.

The wooden conference building of the Mixed Ecclesiastical Council adjoins the tower. This edifice was constructed toward the end of the nineteenth century, during the first tenure of Patriarch Joachim III (1878–84). The first floor houses the office of the archivists and librarians of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. The second floor serves as a dormitory for the clergy of the patriarchal court.

A third, stone building also adjoins the tower. The first floor of this edifice was used for the patriarchal printing offices, which operated from the seventeenth century until 1964. The second floor contains the treasures of the patriarchal library, which was recently refurbished in 2003 through the generosity of Theodore Papalexopoulos, Archon Maistor (or dean) of the Great Church of Christ. Its treasures include two gospel manuscripts dating to the early twelfth century.

The Patriarchal Chapel

A small, private chapel exists near the personal quarters of the patriarch on the third floor of the Evgenidion building in the Ecumenical Patriarchate. It is dedicated to St. Andrew, the first-called of the Apostles and founder of the Church of Constantinople. The furnishings for this chapel were provided during the second tenure of Patriarch Joachim III (1901-12) by the generous gifts of Efstathios Evgenidis. The icons were painted on Mount Athos, Greece, a peninsula in Northern Greece dedicated for over one thousand years to the monastic life and home to twenty male monasteries under the spiritual jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

This chapel is used for special services, as foreseen by the Patriarchal protocol, as well as for daily personal prayer, particularly evening prayers, by the patriarch.

The Pavilion of the Holy Myron

A wooden, decorated pavilion is located in the courtyard. This is the site where the holy myron (myrrh), is prepared in special boilers during the days of Holy Week. When the amount of holy myrrh decreases and necessitates renewal, it is prepared in a series of formal rituals, commencing on Palm Sunday and culminating on Holy Thursday with a liturgical procession of all the hierarchs of the Ecumenical Throne.

According to ancient and sacred tradition, holy myrrh is officially and solemnly consecrated by the Ecumenical Patriarch, whereupon it is distributed to the various Churches throughout the world for use during the sacraments of Baptism and Chrismation (similar to Confirmation in the West), as well as for dedication of churches. It also constitutes a fundamental and profound sign of common faith and unity. His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew has consecrated holy myrrh in the Holy Weeks of 1992, 2002, and 2012. 

The Gate of Patriarch Gregory V

Facing the patriarchal house is the gate of Patriarch Gregory V, who was martyred on Easter Sunday, 1821 (April 10), together with other members of the Holy Synod, only weeks prior to the declaration of the Greek War of Independence. Accused of conspiring with Greek revolutionists, Patriarch Gregory was hanged from this gate, which has remained closed out of reverent memorial to the hierarch, whose remains are preserved to this day in the cathedral of Athens, Greece.

It is also said that, during that period, the icon screen in the patriarchal church was painted black as a sign of mourning. It was only recently restored to its former beauty, with the addition of gilding in 1994.