Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Church


Patriarch Germanos on the Church as Temple

February 26th, 2013, Promulgated by Bernie

Previously in this series Temple, Garden, OLV/SJ

The Church of the Holy Wisdom1 in Istanbul (Constantinople) remains one of the great achievements of world architecture. In it we can see the perfect church. Germanos, patriarch of Constantinople from 715 to 730, wrote from the perspective of the Church of the Holy Wisdom an interpretation of the symbolism of the Byzantine church:

The church is the Temple of God, a holy place, a house of prayer, the assembly of the people, the body of Christ. It is called the bride of Christ. It is cleansed by the water of his baptism, sprinkled by his blood, clothed in bridal garments, and sealed with the ointment of the Holy Spirit, according to the prophetic saying: ‘Your name is oil poured out’ and ‘We run after the fragrance of your myrrh’, which is ‘Like the precious oil, running down upon the beard, the beard of Aaron’.

The church is an earthly heaven in which the super-celestial God dwells and walks about. It represents the crucifixion, burial, and resurrection of Christ: it is glorified more than the tabernacle of the witness of Moses, in which are the mercy-seat and the Holy of Holies. It is prefigured in the patriarchs, foretold by the prophets, founded in the apostles, adorned by the clergy, and fulfilled in the martyrs.2


The Church of the Holy Wisdom, Istanbul (Constantinople), consecrated in 537. The Arabic medallions, furnishings and script were added when it was converted into a mosque, after the Turkish conquest. (Picture Source)

The patriarch’s reflection lays out the general understanding of the Church concerning church symbolism. Even accounting for local variations this basic understanding has traditionally been reflected in the sacred art and liturgy of both the Eastern and Western Church.

1 Hagia Sophia or Sancta Sophia

2 P. Meyendorff, St. Germanus of Constantinople on the Holy Liturgy (New York, 1984) 56-7

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