See of Sardes

The See of Sardis (or Sardes, Italian Sardi) was an episcopal see in Sardis. It was one of the Seven Churches of the Apocalypse, held by metropolitan bishops since the middle to late 1st century,[1] with jurisdiction over the province of Lydia (formed in 295). Since 1369 it was intermittently occupied by both Eastern Orthodox metropolitan bishops (until 1986) and Roman Catholic archbishops consecrated in partibus infidelium and later titular archbishops (until 1976).


After Diocletian reorganized the region in 295, Sardis became the capital of the district of Lydia, the seat of the governor and metropolitan archbishop.[2]

There is only one known epigraphic reference to the see of Sardis, published in the 5th or 6th century.[3] A 1959 landslide revealed several ecclesiastical artifacts and a throne that archaeologists postulated may have been used by the bishops of Sardis.[4] The first systemic investigation of the ruins of Sardis came in 1910 with an expedition from Princeton University.[1] Excavations in 1912 revealed a small "Church M", containing coins which were dated to the 5th century and an apse overhanging one of the earliest known Christian altars, near the north eastern corner of the Temple of Artemis.[1]

According to the Menologion, Clement, a disciple of Paul of Tarsus and one of the Seventy (Philippians 4:3), was the first bishop of Sardis.[1] Little is known about the ancient episcopacy of Sardis, with the notable exception of Saint Melito, a contemporary of Marcus Aurelius from the 2nd century,[5] whom some sources refer to as the second bishop of Sardis[6]—citing the "improbability of seventy years in the episcopate"[7]—making him the successor to the "angel of the church of Sardis" referenced in the New Testament (Rev. 3:1-3), while other sources regard Melito himself as the "apostle" or "angel of the church of Sardis."[8] In the Book of Revelation, Saint John writes a letter to the church of Sardis, reproaching it and its bishop.[9]

The Council of Rimini deposed Bishop Hortasius of Sardis in 359 because he had been ordained without the saction of the bishops of Lydia.[10] The See had 27 suffragan bishops (including the bishop of Thyatira[11] and Philadelphia[12][13]) in the 7th century, and approximately that number until the end of the 10th century.[9]

Arabs sacked Sardis in 716, but the city remained a part of a resurgent Roman (Byzantine) Empire until the aftermath of the battle of Manzikert in 1071. Euthymius, a Metropolitan Bishop of Sardis, was martyred in 824 in relation to iconoclasm.[14]

East-West schism

In 1118, Byzantine general Philocales recaptured Sardis from the Seljuk Sultanate of Rum. AndronikosTemplate:Dn, an Eastern Orthodox Bishop of Sardis circa 1283, made several attempts at East-West reunification.[9] Ottoman Turks captured Sardis in 1306; the city was destroyed by Timur in 1402.[15]

The Metropolitan of Sardis, which had once ranked sixth in precedence in the Eastern church,[9] continued to be appointed into the 13th century, long after Sardis had shrunk into a village which was no longer a regional locus of power.[16] In 1369, Philadelphia replaced Sardis as the site of the metropolitan bishop,[9] Sardis having been suppressed by the Patriarch of Constantinople,[17] and Roman Catholic archbishops of Sardis began to be consecrated in partibus infidelium (in a diocese which had fallen into the power of infidels) until 1882, when they were instead called titular archbishops.[9][18]

Dionysius, the Metropolitan of Sardis in 1438, died during the Council of Florence and thus was not made to sign its decree.[19]

Metropolitan Bishops

One of the first scholarly listings of the bishops of Sardis is given by Michel Le Quien in Oriens christianus in quatuor patriarchatus digestus, in quo exhibentur Ecclesiae patriarchae caeterique praesules totius Orientis (abbreviated Oriens Christ.), published posthumously in 1740.[9]

Eastern Orthodox Metropolitans

Titular Archbishops


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