6 October 2013: The Victory of St Constantine and Nish – the Emperor’s City

Nish, in Cyrillic Ниш, is one of the oldest cities in Europe and has from ancient times been considered a strategic gateway between East and West. Named after the River Nishava, in 75 BC it was taken from the Celts by the Romans, who called it Naissus. The great claim to fame is the birth of Constantine the Great (272-337) in Nish, which was also the native city of his father, Constantius Chlorus, who may have been buried in York, where Constantine was proclaimed Emperor in 306.

Besieged by the Huns in 441, Nish was restored by the Roman Emperor Justinian I, but then it was destroyed by the Avars. It came under Serbian control in 1241, succumbed to Ottoman rule in 1448 and was finally freed only in 1878. After the German occupation in 1941 over 10,000 Serbs were shot here. On 7 May 1999 the city was the victim of NATO cluster bombing and a memorial chapel was built in memory of those murdered.

Today Nish is the third largest in Serbia, with an official urban population in 2011 of 187,544. (The true population is unknown, since there are also tens of thousands of Serbian refugees from Albanian and NATO-occupied Kosovo). The local airport is called Constantine the Great Airport.

On Sunday 6 October 2013 the leaders of eight Local Orthodox Churches and representatives of the other six concelebrated there on the occasion of the 1700th anniversary of the Edict of Milan. This was issued by the Emperor Constantine and his co-Emperor Licinius and freed Christianity from persecution.

Like the last Roman Emperor, St Nicholas Romanov, St Constantine, the first Roman Emperor, is one of the most slandered figures in Christian history. The origins of these slanders are in the works of a pagan sophist called Eunapius (345-414) who wanted to discredit Christianity and therefore especially St Constantine. He was a contemporary of the fiendish Julian the Apostate and a later pagan historian called Zosimas (450-510), a Hellenist from Antioch.

Many more recent Western historians also repeat the same slanders. Foremost among them stand Gibbon and several more recent anti-Christian authors, for example, A. H. M. Jones in his 1948 ‘Constantine and the Conversion of Europe’. All of these authors, pagan and neo-pagan, are vigorously opposed to the doctrine of the Incarnation which means that the State is to be Christianised by the Church.

The Liturgy on 6 October was conducted in eight different languages. Thousands of faithful gathered in the square in front of Sts Constantine and Helen Cathedral in Nish. Answering questions, His Holiness Patriarch Kyrill of Moscow and All the Russias explained that the Edict is the foundation stone of European culture. He warned Western European countries that if they continued in their present anti-Christian course, they would undermine that very culture.

This culture, he said, is the culture of Christian Europe, of Christian civilisation and it risked being replaced by permissiveness, hedonism and unbridled consumerism. His Holiness added that such materialism meant that the human personality could not develop, saying: ‘Today we live in an age of militant atheism, the result of the philosophic ideas of liberalism, but these ideas are being perverted and are trying to force people to renounce the Cross of Christ, the faith that it represents and the basic moral values on which European civilisation is founded’.