The Marian Relics at Constantinople

The Marian Relics at Constantinople

Wortley, John

Greek, Roman and Byzantine Studies, articles (2004 – 2008)


A reassessment of the literary evidence serves to clarify the location and the dating of the several relics of Mary preserved in Constantinople, especially the icon Hodegetria and articles of her clothing.

CONSTANTINOPLE in its hey-day housed many churches and chapels dedicated in the name of the Mother of God.1 Of these three were preeminent in age, size, and distinction: the shrines of Chalcoprateia, Blachernae, and Hodegêtria. Legend associates all three of these with the name of the “Blessed” Pulcheria, sister of Theodosius II, wife of Marcian, and co-ruler with both. Whether the sainted Augusta was the founder, or even the benefactor, of any of the three2 is by no means certain; legend here may owe more to her championing of the title Theotokos for the Blessed Virgin Mary against Nestorius at the Council of Ephesus in 431 and again (together with Cyril of Alexandria) at Chalcedon in 451.3 It is alleged that she requested Marian relics for the capital (see below), but it is not at all certain that she was successful in her request.


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