Philanthropos
Community ID
 
4991
 
Alternate Names
 
Convent of Christ Philanthropos
 
Town
 
Constantinople
 
Medieval Location
 
The convent was built into the Theodosian sea walls in the easternmost part of Constantinople.
 
Modern Location
 
Remains are located on the grounds of the sultan's palace in Constantinople.
 
Dedication
 
Christ Philanthropos
 
Date Founded
 
1307
 
Foundation Information
 

Irene Choumnaina founded the convent and retired to it in 1307 (Introduction, Philanthropos: Typikon of Irene Choumnaina Palaiologina for the Convent of Christ Philanthropos in Constantinople, p. 1383).

At the convent's foundation, Irene Choumnaina composed a typikon for the convent. Only a small portion of the typikon remains today. The surviving excerpt was preserved by the monk Pachomios Rhousanos of the Athonite monastery Iveron in 1540. Pachomios included the surviving portion as support for his attack on idiorhythmic monastic foundations. From the small fragments of the typikon which remain, it appears that Irene Choumnaina reworked the typikon from the monastery Kecharitomene (Introduction, Philanthropos: Typikon of Irene Choumnaina Palaiologina for the Convent of Christ Philanthropos in Constantinople, p., 1384).

 
Notable Members/Residents/Guests
  
Population Counts
 

Nicephorus Gregoras (c. 1295-1360) stated that the community had more than 100 members (Gregoras, III, ch. 29, p. 238, ln. 22-23).

 
Other Ecclesiastical Relations
 

The convent was associated with a companion male monastery also dedicated to Christ Philanthropos, where Irene's father Nikephoros Choumnos retired (Introduction, Philanthropos: Typikon of Irene Choumnaina Palaiologina for the Convent of Christ Philanthropos in Constantinople, p. 1383). As a double monastery, it functioned as a cloister of men and women who formed a single legal entity, who were ruled by one administration, who lived in the same place, and who shared some activities. It is unclear how many activities men and women partook of together. Trone suggests that men and women associated at meals, had a common diet, and did some work together. They did not worship together (A Constantinopolitan Double Monastery of the Fourteenth Century: The Philanthopic Savior, p. 81 & 86).

 
Patrons/Benefactors
 

Irene Choumnaina (1291-1360) was the second of two daughters to Nikephoros Choumnos, chancellor to the Byzantine Emperor Andronikos II Palaiologos. Andronikos chose Irene to be the wife of his nephew, the emperor of Trezibond. This plan failed, and Irene soon married Andronikos’ eldest son, the Despot John Palaiologos, at age 12. Irene and John had a reportedly happy marriage, and Irene had hopes of becoming the Empress, but John died suddenly in 1307 after only 4 years of marriage. After this, Irene turned towards an ascetic life and founded the convent of Christ Philanthropos. She immediately entered the convent and took the name Eulogia, authoring a typikon upon the convent’s foundation (Irene-Eulogia Choumnaina Palaiologina, Abbess of the Convent of Philanthropos Soter in Constantinople, p. 120-122).

During her life, Irene-Eulogia had two primary spiritual mentors, the Metropolitan Theoleptos of Philadelphia and a second, unnamed individual. Five letters from Theoleptos to Eulogia remain, and from these we see a close spiritual friendship between the two. Theoleptos tonsured Eulogia himself and during their correspondence he advised her in spiritual and personal matters as well as tasks of daily life. She wrote of her concerns in running the convent- the challenge of managing her subordinates, quarrels among them, and illness in the community. She missed having personal contact with Theoleptos, and at one point she contemplated leaving the convent in order to retire someplace closer to her mentor. Theoleptos strongly rebuked this, and likewise he chastised her pride, authoritarianism, severity as a disciplinarian, pettiness, and touchy temper. Eulogia complained of depression, which Theoleptos attributed to her continual contact with her family (The life and letters of Theoleptos of Philadelphia; Irene-Eulogia Choumnaina Palaiologina, Abbess of the Convent of Philanthropos Soter in Constantinople, p. 122-129).

Theoleptos died when Eulogia was 31, and another 10-15 years ensued before she found a second spiritual advisor who fit her needs. This unnamed individual was a hesychast who lived in Constantinople with another monk. 22 letters between the two remain, 8 by Eulogia and 14 by her mentor. Eulogia's poor spelling and syntax demonstrate that she had not received a formal literary training even though her father had been one of the most erudite men of his time. From him she received a passion for learning, and a desire for literary discourse fills her letters to this unnamed mentor. Her mentor was a fitting match since he had been classically educated. Like Theoleptos, she shared with her new advisor the daily trials of running the convent as well as her emotional state. Her advisor agreed with Theoleptos in attributing Eulogia’s depression to her relationship with her family (A woman’s quest for spiritual guidance : the correspondence of Princess Irene Eulogia Choumnaina Palaiologina; Irene-Eulogia Choumnaina Palaiologina, Abbess of the Convent of Philanthropos Soter in Constantinople, p. 130-138).

The normal limits of monastic life did not stop Eulogia from remaining in close contact with her family and friends, continuing to administer her property, and involvement in political affairs. She supported the religious opponents of Emperor John VI Kantakouzenos during the civil war of 1341-1347. When the theologian and monk Gregory Akindynos (ca. 1300-1348) was condemned in July 1341, Eulogia provided shelter to him, and whenever his enemies came looking for him she engaged them in theological discussions. She helped Patriarch Kalekas organize a synod in spring 1341 against Gregory Palamas (1296 - 1359), Akindynos’ main opponent. This led Palamas to author an invective against her. This dispute offered an outlet for Eulogia’s creativity and intelligence that the monastic life could not (Irene-Eulogia Choumnaina Palaiologina, Abbess of the Convent of Philanthropos Soter in Constantinople, p. 139-147).

 
Religious Activities
 

The surviving typikon reveals only sparse details about life in the convent. The nuns lived a cenobitic lifestyle. They shared a common refectory and kitchen and worked together on handiwork, church services, housekeeping duties, reading, prayer in their cells, and all other spiritual labor. Nuns were to refrain from private handiwork, preparing food privately in their cells, and behaving like businesswomen (Philanthropos: Typikon of Irene Choumnaina Palaiologina for the Convent of Christ Philanthropos in Constantinople, ch. 2).

Irene-Eulogia acted as abbess to the community during her life. She was a rigorous disciplinarian. In addition to running the convent, she also supervised the upbringing of a child who lived in the convent and care for her sick sisters (Irene-Eulogia Choumnaina Palaiologina, Abbess of the Convent of Philanthropos Soter in Constantinople, p. 127-8).

 
Architecture & Archaeology
 

The French army carried out excavations in the area of the sultan's palace during their occupation of Constantinople in 1921-1923. The excavations revealed the foundations of the church associated with the monastery (Introduction, Philanthropos: Typikon of Irene Choumnaina Palaiologina for the Convent of Christ Philanthropos in Constantinople, p. 1384).

 
State Of Medieval Structure
 

Russian travelers from the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries report the existence of the convent and speak of a famous miracle-working image of Christ located there. They also describe a healing fountain located under the church. Even after the monastery's destruction, local Greek Christians continued to visit the fountain (Russian travelers to Constantinople in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, p. 373-374).

The construction of the sultan's palace led to the demolition of the monastery, but the cistern and foundations of various monastic buildings and the church still exist today. Some of these monastic substructures may represent an earlier monastery on which Philanthropos was built and about which nothing else is known (Philanthropos: Typikon of Irene Choumnaina Palaiologina for the Convent of Christ Philanthropos in Constantinople, p. 1383-4).

 
Secondary Sources
 

Russian travelers to Constantinople in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries; Kirche und theologische Literatur im Byzantinischen Reich, p. 647; Le quartier des Manganes et la première région de Constantinople, p. 49-68; Vyzantinon heortologion. Mnēmai tōn apo tou IV mechri mesōn tou XV aiōnos heortazomenōn hagiōn en Kōnstantinoupolei. Syngramma systēthen dia patriarchikēs kai synodikēs enkykliou epistolēs tois sevasm, p. 204; Après le schisme arsénite. La correspondance du Pseudo-Jean Chilas; Zu den Bruchstücken zweier Typika; Irene-Eulogia Choumnaina Palaiologina, Abbess of the Convent of Philanthropos Soter in Constantinople; Theoleptos of Philadelphia (ca. 1250–1322): From Solitary to Activist; Les églises et les monastères; Les monastères du Christ Philanthrope à Constantinople; La direction spirituelle à Byzance: La correspondance d'Irène-Eulogie Choumnaina Paléologine avec son second directeur; Une princesse byzantine au cloître: Irene - Eulogie Choumnos Paléologine, tou Philanthropou fondatrice du convent de femmes soteros; The Byzantine churches of Istanbul : a photographic survey, 200-204; Bildlexikon zur Topographie Istanbuls : Byzantion, Konstantinupolis, Istanbul bis zum Beginn d. 17. Jh., p. 109; Les monasteres doubles chez les Byzantins; Un directeur spirituel à Byzance au début du XIVe siècle: Théolepte de Philadelphie; La vie monastique grecque au début du XIVe siècle d’après un discours inédit de Théolepte de Philadelphie; Peri tes en Konstantinoupolei mones tou Soteros tou Philanthropou; Choumnaina, Irene; A Constantinopolitan Double Monastery of the Fourteenth Century: The Philanthopic Savior; Notes prosopographiques sur la famille Choumnos