The column that was split by the Holy Fire (1579)
On Holy Saturday 1579, according to the Church chronicles of the city of Jerusalem, the Turkish governors forbad the Greek patriarch and the Orthodox faithful to enter the Church of the Resurrection for the customary rite of the Holy Fire.
The works that make reference to this event do not specify the exact date, but they mention that at the time the patriarch of Jeru salem was Sophronius IV, the patriarchs of Constantinople, Alexandria and An ti och were, respectively, Jeremiah, Silvester and Joachim, and the sultan of the Ottoman Empire was Murad III.
If we look at the official lists of these four patriarchates we shall find that the four Greek Orthodox patriarchs were indeed in office in the second half of the sixteenth century, and if we examine the exact period of each patriarch’s reign and that of Sultan Murad III, we discover that the only common year in which the leadership of the five men coincided was the year 1579.
The courtyard and entrance of the Church of the Resurrection.
According to written sources, on Holy Saturday of that year, a group of Turkish soldiers forbad the Orthodox entry into the Church of the Resurrection. The crowd of the faithful remained in the church courtyard throughout the entire day, and even after the sun had set.
The Greek Patriarch Sophronius IV was in the first year of his reign. It was the first time he would perform the most important rite of the year, but the Turks deprived him of his legal right. The patriarch stood in prayer at the left side of the church doorway, near a column. And suddenly, when night had already fallen, the column split and the Holy Fire leapt from its interior.
The patriarch immediately lit his candle and passed the Holy Fire to the faithful. Within a few minutes the sacred flame had spread to all those present and the courtyard of the church was illuminated. The awestruck Turkish guards then opened the doors of the church and the patriarch along with the rejoicing faithful poured in towards the Holy Sepulchre.
The split marble column to the left of the main entrance to the Church of the Resurrection, and beside it, the author. The fissure is 1.20 meters high and resembles a flame rising upwards.
The events of that day are recorded in all the so-called Proskynitaria of Jerusalem, guides for pilgrims to the Holy Land. The oldest of these proskynitaria in which the rupture of the column is mentioned is contained in a Greek manuscript found in the Bavarian State Library in Munich. It is the Codex Monacensis Graec. 346, which contains the Proskynitarion of Priest Ananias. The codex was written by the Cretan priest Akakios in 1634 and is a copy of the original work by the priest Ananias which was written in 1608, twenty-nine years after the miracle it describes. This means that Ananias was able to collect information from individuals who actually experienced the events.
An edition of the Bavarian State Library manuscript was first published in the original Greek in 1890 by Papadopoulos-Kerameus in St. Petersburg,1 together with a Russian translation. According to the account of the Cretan Akakios, the priest Ananias relates the following:
Outside the Holy Entrance, near the west side, there are three marble columns, and from the middle column, they say, a Holy Fire emanated in the olden days. And it is quite cracked and visible still to this day. And this miracle God showed in the following manner, as they say that back then those who gave orders to the patriarch did not allow [the Christians] to enter and Continue reading