Pontian Greek Society of Chicago

Preserving the history and heritage of the Pontian Greeks

Religion and Education

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Chrysanthos Philippidis
Metropolitan of Trebizond

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From the book The Pontos of the Hellenes, the article below, written by Veroniki Dalakoura - Kamara doctor of Anthropogeography, Researcher, is  posted here with the permission of the publishing company Ephesus.

My wish to study Hekklisia tis Trapezountos [The Church of Trebizond], the sole work that deals in detail with one of most important cities on the coast of the Pontos, led me to become acquainted with its writer, Metropolitan Chrysanthos of Trebizond (1913-1925) and Archbishop of Athens (1938-1941). It is difficult to convey in a few pages even the outline of a personality with the stature of Metropolitan Chrysanthos. I will therefore emphasize those points that highlight the course of a prelate who on the one hand played a significant role at a critical period in the history of the Pontic Greeks, and on the other was distinguished as an outstanding church scholar for his intellectual and spiritual contribution and his moral fiber.

Childhood and studies

"/ don't remember my father, I was very young when he died ... and my sister Elisabeth... I remember her vividly... at her funeral." "And where will you go now?"

"I shall go to Leipzig"

The man known to the world as Charilaos Philippidis, son of Zissis Philioglou, was born in Komotini (Gumulcina) in March of 1881. Komotini was then a rural area that is described in detail in the Metropolitan's Autobio­graphy, and together with his traumatic childhood experiences, provide evidence of his indissoluble bonds with his family and homeland. The premature death of his father (merchant of wheat and silk­ worm cocoons) and two of his siblings created a profound trauma, as well as a sense of responsibility in the tender soul of little Charilaos. His widowed mother undertook the upbringing of her three surviving children, with the help of her sole protectors and supporters, her brother Yangos Karabasis and above all her sister Lambrini Pegiou (Pegiaina) who "even though she was illiterate and had no knowledge of commerce, ran the business splendidly," as Chrysanthos wrote. He never forgot that "when later I was to be admitted to the Theological School of Chalce, my aunt Pegiaina gave me five gold Turkish pounds as my starting out money." After completing his general education in Komotini, he continued his studies in Constantinople, at the famous Theological School of Chalce (1897-1903) where he made a name for himself with his brilliant studies and ethos ("... I once again received distinction in all subjects for the seventh year, which was as arduous as the sixth.")

Chrysanthos Philipidis, decon and teacher of
   religion at the Frontisterion of Trebizond,

Click to enlargeAfter his studies were over, and upon their commendation of the Metropolitan Ioachim  Sgouros of Xanthi  to Metropolitan Constantinos Karatzopoulos of Trebizond, Charilaos was ordained archdeacon at the Cathedral of Trebizond, at which time he took the name Chrysanthos. He was appointed teacher  of religion at the city's Frontisterio (school) and preacher. In 1904, at the age of just 23, he was  assigned  the duties  of Genikos Epitropos (representative of the Metropolitan) of the diocese of Trebizond, seat of an important vilayet,   and  thereby undertook  new  respon­sibilities. His success in resolving the problems that arose in the relations between Christians and Muslims (forced conversions to Islam, groundless prosecutions of Greeks, etc.) as well as his undisputed administrative abilities, increased the prestige of the young Epitropos, who was totally dedicated to the increasing demands of the diocese. "I spent these holidays too in Constan­tinople, without being able to visit my homeland[...] I am once again very sorry, but duty comes before all." The sudden death of his beloved mother in May of 1905 found him in Trebizond. "I lamented and mourned her death grievously, but at the same time I continued my work and on Sunday I preached in the church of St George Tsartakli about sorrow related to God and man." The death of the Metropolitan of Trebizond two months later shook the city. Chrysanthos, who was already rundown through grief over the loss of his mother and wishing to avoid any involvement in the succession process, began a tour of the remote monasteries of Pontos: St John of Imera, Kromni, the Pariadros plateau (summer pastures), Livera, the Soumela Monastery and the Monastery of St George Peristereotas. Upon his return, Chrysanthos addressed the newly elected Metropolitan Constantinos Arampoglouon behalf of the community: "coming into this community you will find it flourishing and prosperous for all..."

Having become aware that he was expending all his creativity on his growing obligations (Exarch of the Monastery of Soumela, teacher at the Frontisterio of Trebizond, Epitropos of the Diocese), he decided at the end of the 1907 school year to resign from all his duties and devote himself to the purpose which attracted him and in which he had excelled: to continue his higher education in Western Europe, and in particular at Leipzig. The expenses of his stay there were borne by two friends from Trebizond who were pillars of the Greek community, Georgios Fostiropoulos and Constantinos Theophylaktos. The first stop was Vienna, where he attended classes in Philosophy by the famous professor Wundt, Canon Law by Zoom, and Lin­guisticsby Bruggeman. He met sociologist George Scleros (Georgios Konstantinidis) and made friends with poet and author Constantinos Hatzopoulos who dedicated two poems to him ("On a tree" and "On the same tree"), evidence of the close intellectual contact and friendship that linked the two men. Moreover, Chrysanthos kept up his relations with the intelligentsia. Athanasios Souliotis-Nikolaidis, D. Glinos, N. Politis, G.Hatzidakis, the famous English archaeologist William Boyd Dawkins, Stephanos and Ion Dragoumis, and Penelope Delta, who consulted him when she was writing the Life of Christ, were just a few of those in his immediate environment. His broadness of mind, profound culture and love of art were well known. We read in his Autobiography: "Throughout the school year, I took part in the rich artistic life of Leipzig, attending the entire series of Wagner's works at the theatre, the then famous operettas of Vienna, productions of works by Schiller, Goethe and Ibsen, performed by first class theatre companies...”

During subsequent years, Chrysanthos continued his studies in Switzerland (Lau­sanne), where he was fortu­nate enough to attend cou­rses in sociology given by Vilfredo Pareto and where also he chanced to meet musicologist Melpo Merlier, founder of the Centre for Asia Minor Studies in Athens  ("Every Saturday I was in audience of rehearsals for the Sunday music programs. Classical works were performed that were introduced and performed by the Greek artist and Melpo Logothetti, later Merlier.”)

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Religion and Education

Religion and education are the two factors that have helped the survival of Pontian Hellenism from antiquity to the present. In the year 35 A.D., the Apostle Saint Andrew was the first preacher of Christianity in the Pontus region and by the 2nd century A.D., Christianity quickly spread to the coastal Black sea area and the inner region of Pontos.

Throughout the centuries, Pontos produced well known scholars such as Bessarion (theologian, philosospher), Georgios Amiroutzis, Georgios Chrysokokkis (physician, astronomer), Genadios of Trebizond, Saint Eugenius of Trebizond and many others.

During the Comnenus dynasty (1204-1461), the cultural and educational activities of the Pontos reached their highest peaks.

According to Diamantis Lazaridies, Vice–Chairman of the Committee of Pontic Studies in his essay “The Pontos of the Hellenes” published by Ephesus Publishing:

“….…the religious belief of the Pontians ran very deep, was purely Orthodox and was cultivated by the Church, the school and the family. The product of this faith was the large number of places of worship –churches, monasteries, chapels and country churches-which one could see in cities, tons, and villages, in the forests and on the hills.”

Sophronis Hatzisavvides, Professor of Linguistics, Aristotelian Univesity of Thessaloniki in his essay “Greek Education in Pontos”, published by Ephesus Publishing, observed the significance of religion and education to the Pontian Greeks:

“.. ....one might conclude that by saying that the high educational and cultural level of Trebizond and of Pontos as a whole, which was based on the Greek language, Orthodox tradition and engagement with scholarly pursuits, made it possible for refugees from Pontos to overcome the problems they faced and to integrate easily into Greek society” after they were expelled from their homeland.

In the centuries following the Ottoman Turk conquest in 1461, religious practice and education was held hostage to the attitudes of the various Ottoman rulers: but even during these difficult years, the Pontian Greeks managed to preserve their religion, culture, tradition and dialect until their expulsion.


by Sophia Petrides-Kappatos
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The promised journey, Pontus - Kefalonia