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Diocese of Drystra

Author(s) : Kontogeorgis Dimitrios (6/20/2008)
Translation : Tsokanis Anna

For citation: Kontogeorgis Dimitrios, "Diocese of Drystra",
Encyclopaedia of the Hellenic World, Black Sea
URL: <http://www.ehw.gr/l.aspx?id=11521>

Δρύστρας μητρόπολη (12/14/2008 v.1) Diocese of Drystra (2/23/2009 v.1) 

1. Introduction

The Drystra diocese is identified as the early Byzantine diocese of “Dorostolos”, located in Lower Moesia, i.e. the present day Dobrudja area.1 Its see must have been the Danubian city of Silistria (Silistra) in northeastern Bulgaria. Since the 11th century onwards the Dorostolos diocese was called “Drystra” diocese, probably a corrupted Slavic pronunciation of its former name.2

2. The diocese of Drystra during the Ottoman period (15th-18th century)

The available information concerning the history of the diocese of Drystra during the first centuries following the Ottoman conquest in early 15th century are rather scarce and often somewhat hazy. However, the diocese was located in Silistria and had jurisdiction over the whole Dobrudja area, while the local metropolites had taken part in the Council of Ferrara-Florence in 1438.3

During the 17th and 18th centuries, the diocese of Drystra was closely involved with the princes of Wallachia and the principality’s ecclesiastical authorities, as is indicated by the fact that the prince (“hospodar”) of Wallachia Grigorios Gikas I (1660-1664, 1672-1673) built the diocese’s cathedral in Silistria, while the metropolitan of Drystra was often sent to Wallachia as exarch of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.4

The most prominent personage to become metropolitan in the diocese of Drystra was Ierotheos Komninos, a multifarious man who had studied in Italy, with a significant literary and publishing corpus of work.5 Ierotheos in his letters often describes the poverty of his diocese and the torments Christians had to suffer because of the depredatory raids by Tatars, evidently originating from southern Russia and the Crimea.6

From 1806 onwards, when the metropolitan of Drystra fled to Bucharest due to the ongoing Russo-Turkish war, the diocese see remained vacant. Let it be noted that as early as the mid-18th century northern Dobrudja had been put under the jurisdiction of the bishop of Proilava (Brailov), located in Brăila; consequently, the significance of the diocese of Drystra had waned. Maybe that is the reason why the Ecumenical Patriarchate decided in 1813 to unify the dioceses of Brailov and Drystra.7

3. The history of the diocese of Drystra during the 19th century

The Peace Treaty of Adrianople (Edirne, September 2nd, 1829), which terminated the victorious for the Russians war over the Ottoman Empire, also determined the annexation of Brăila to the Wallachia principality. Subsequently, the diocese of Brailov ceased to be and the one in Drystra reappeared, located again in Silistria and with jurisdiction all over the Ottoman region of Dobrudja.8

The diocese of Drystra was an ecclesiastical province relevantly of small importance during the 19th century, ranking 45th in a total of 82 in 1885, while its financial status was also rather bad, since in 1825 it owed 73,500 piastres to the Ecumenical Patriarchate.9 Furthermore, the Dobrudja region was scantly populated and the Christians, mainly Bulgarians and Romanians, as well as Greeks, inhabiting the few urban centres, had limited economic potential.10 Some efforts appear to have been made after 1829 in order to reconstruct economically the province. Specifically, in the early 1840s the metropolitan of Drystra decided to add as his see Tulcea, as well as Silistria, obviously because of the financial growth of the former.11

However, the development of a strong movement scholarly and ecclesiastical circles for the establishment of an autonomous (outside the jurisdiction of the Patriarchate) Bulgarian Church led to a crisis in the relations between the “Great Church” and the Bulgarians. Already since the 1850s a Bulgarian national movement had surfaced in the Dobrudja region centered in Tulcea.12 From the summer of 1860, many Bulgarian communities refused to acknowledge Dionysios, the patriarchal metropolitan who was of Greek origin; after the declaration of an autonomous Exarchate in 1870, the Bulgarian diocese of Ruse was established, where the diocese of Drystra, or rather where those of the dissenting communities, mainly Bulgarian, were icluded. The rivalry between the patriarchal and the exarchate diocese considering the approach made to Romanian Orthodox communities was harsh.

It appears, however, that most of the communities continued to acknowledge metropolites Dionysios, complaints notwithstanding that he was essentially indifferent to their problems. Furthermore, the Greeks of Constantinople, but also Greek diplomats, considered him an as obstacle for both the Greek Educational Associations taking action in the area and the prospect of collaborating with the Romanians.13

1. The historical Dobrudja area is divided into two sections; the northern one, which is the largest and is part of Romania (Tulcea, Constanţa districts) and the southern which is part of Bulgaria.

2. See Janin, R., “Dorostorum”, in Dictionnaire d’Histoire et de Géographie ecclésiastiques 14 (Paris 1960), column 683-684. For the city also see Browning, R., “Dorostolon”, Oxford Dictionnary of Byzantium 1, p. 653.

3. See Mateescu, T., “Les Diocèses orthodoxes de la Dobroudja sous la domination ottomane”, Balkan Studies 13/1 (1972), p. 280.

4. Mateescu, T., “Les Diocèses orthodoxes de la Dobroudja sous la domination ottomane”, Balkan Studies 13/1 (1972), pp. 281-282, 284-287.

5. See Cicanci, O.,-Cernovodeanu, P., “Contribution à la connaissance de la biographie et de l’oeuvre de Jean Hierothée Comnène (1668-1719)”, Balkan Studies 12/1 (1971), pp. 143-186; Καραθανάσης, Α., Οι Έλληνες λόγιοι στη Βλαχία (1670-1714) (Θεσσαλονίκη 1982).

6. See Mateescu, T., “Les Diocèses orthodoxes de la Dobroudja sous la domination ottomane”, Balkan Studies 13/1 (1972), pp. 283-284.

7. See Mateescu, T., “Les Diocèses orthodoxes de la Dobroudja sous la domination ottomane”, Balkan Studies 13/1 (1972), pp. 287-288.

8. Mateescu, T., “Les Diocèses orthodoxes de la Dobroudja sous la domination ottomane”, Balkan Studies 13/1 (1972), p. 288. For the Peace Treaty of Adrianople see Jelavich, B., Russia and the Formation of the Romanian National State, 1821-1878 (Cambridge 1984), pp. 29-31.

9. See Janin, R., “Drystra ou Dystra”, στο Dictionnaire d’Histoire et de Géographie ecclésiastiques 14 (Paris 1960), p. 826.

10. Details on the history of Dobrudja between the years 1829-1878 see Rădulescu, A.,-Bitoleanu, I., Istoria Dobrogei (Constanţa 1998), pp. 273-329.

11. Mateescu, T., “Les Diocèses orthodoxes de la Dobroudja sous la domination ottomane”, Balkan Studies 13/1 (1972), pp. 288-289 and Κουρελάρου, Β., Οι Εκκλησίες των Ελληνικών Κοινοτήτων της Ρουμανίας τον ΙΘαιώνα (2006), p. 28.

12. See Ischirkoff, A., Les Bulgares en Dobroudja. Aperçu historique et ethnographique (Berne 1919), pp. 65-70.

13. See Κοντογεώργης, Δ.Μ., «Σύσταση και οργάνωση ελληνικών κοινοτήτων στη Ρουμανία. Η περίπτωση του Τζιούρτζιου και της Τούλτσεας (β΄ μισό του 19ου αιώνα)», Μνήμων 28 (2006-2007), pp. 224-228. Also see Mateescu, T. (επιμ.), Documente privind istoria Dobrogei (1830-1877) (Bucureşti 1975), pp. 280-283 and Ιστορικό Αρχείο Υπουργείου Εξωτερικών Ελλάδος, fol. 76/1ζ, Ε. Μαυρομμάτης, Υποπρόξενος Ισμαηλίου προς Υπουργείο Εξωτερικών, n. 354, 16 December 1872.


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