Today in Catholic History – Dedication of the Nea Ekklesia in Constantinople

On 1 May 880, Basil I dedicated the Nea Ekklesia. The Ottoman Empire would later use the church to store gun powder and the church would be destroyed when it was struck by lightning in 1490.

The Nea Ekklesia, or New Church, was designed to exemplify the construction projects of Basil and his wish to renew the Byzantine Empire. It was dedicated to Jesus, the archangel Michael, the Prophet Elijah, the Virgin Mary and Saint Nicholas. Basil had a special devotion to the Prophet Elijah because it was claimed that he appeared to Basil’s mother in a dream and encouraged her to sent her son to Constantinople where he would have a exceptional future.

The five domed church is believed to have been built in a cross-in-square structure and was the model of other churches throughout the Byzantine Empire. It was Basil’s Hagia Sophia and he designed it so that it could be seen from all over the city. It contained a spectacular mosaic of Christ Pantocrator, an iconostasis of gold and silver and a high altar of “a material more precious than gold”, as Photius described it. There was also a large mosaic of the Virgin Mary, “extending her pure hands towards us and granting to the Emperor long life and victory over his enemies.”

3-D reprodution of the Nea Ekklesia

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