Alexander of Constantinople
|Bishop of Byzantium and then Archbishop of Constantinople|
|Venerated in||Eastern Orthodoxy|
Alexander of Constantinople (Greek: ?; c. 237/240 - c. 340) was a bishop of Byzantium and the first Archbishop of Constantinople (the city was renamed during his episcopacy). Scholars consider most of the available information on Alexander to be legendary.
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Information from the Synaxarion mention that Alexander was originally from Calabria in Italy and his parents were George and Vryaine. From very young he was given to God and stayed in a Monastery, where he cultivated virtue and became a good labourer of God's commands. He was granted divine visions, while for twenty days he stayed completely fasting. But he also stayed naked for four years and fell into thousands of problems because of attacks of the Saracens. In this way, he lived many years travelling around Greece with his pupils Vitalius and Nicephorus.
Alexander was elected as a vicar to assist the aged bishop Saint Metrophanes of Byzantium. As a result, both Alexander and Metrophanes are reported as the first Bishop of Constantinople (both are also sometimes listed as first "Patriarch" of Constantinople, though the episcopal see had not yet been elevated to that rank). Alexander served as bishop for about 23 years, until his death at 73 years of age, in 337. At the time of Metrophanes' death, he left instructions in his will to elect his vicar to the throne of Constantinople.
During his episcopacy, Alexander engaged in debate with pagan philosophers and opposed heresies. He was highly praised by Gregory Nazianzus and Epiphanius of Cyprus.Theodoret called him an "apostolic" bishop.
When the Arian controversy began, Alexander, the Patriarch of Alexandria, requested his cooperation in combatting what he perceived to be heresy. According to most sources, Alexander of Constantinople was present at the First Council of Nicaea as Metrophanes' deputy, although some sources state that Metrophanes (who would have been 117 years of age at the time) attended the council personally. At the council, Arius and his teachings were condemned.
Later, Arius desired to be received back into the communion of the Church. The Roman Emperor Constantine I, having been convinced by the Eusebians, commanded Alexander to formally receive Arius back. According to Socrates Scholasticus, Arius did not in fact repent of his heresy, but was equivocating, and Bishop Alexander was aware of this. Alexander, though threatened by the Eusebians with deposition and banishment, persisted in his refusal to admit Arius back into the Church, and shut himself up in the Church of Hagia Irene (which at that time was the cathedral of Constantinople) in fervent prayer that God would take him from this world rather than be forced to restore someone to communion who he feared was only feigning repentance. As it happened, Arius died on his way to the church, before he could be received back into communion.
Alexander did not long survive Arius. On his deathbed he was said to have nominated his vicar, Paul, as his successor, and to have warned his clergy against Macedonius, who became bishop of Constantinople in 342 and whose teachings inspired Macedonianism.
After his death, Alexander came to be regarded as a saint of the Church. The service in his honor was printed in Venice in 1771. According to some ancient manuscripts, the feast of St Alexander was commemorated on June 2. Today, his feast day is celebrated annually on August 30, in a common commemoration with his fellow Patriarchs of Constantinople John the Faster (582-595, also commemorated on September 2) and Paul the New (780-784).