Earlier, I posted A Historical Tour of Hagia Sophia. The penultimate Divine Liturgy was served in the Great Church in 1453. Here is the story of the last.From the Greek Rep✯rter
By Philip Chrysopoulos
Although it may sound more like wishful thinking than historical fact, there was indeed a brave Greek priest who managed to hold an Orthodox liturgy in Hagia Sophia in 1919, at a time when the iconic cathedral was being used as a mosque.
It is commonly believed that the last Orthodox liturgy in Hagia Sophia in Constantinople took place on May 28, 1453, just one day before the fateful moment that the beacon of Orthodoxy fell into Ottoman hands.
But there was a brave Cretan priest who dared perform the sacred rite once again in the enormous cathedral, and he did so on the 19th of January in 1919. Eleftherios Noufrakis (1872-1941) from Rethymno, Crete was the man who performed this act of heroism out of his love for God and his country.
Inexplicably, Father Noufrakis’ name is not even a footnote in the modern history of Greece.
The Turks watched in silence, still unable to grasp at that point what was actually taking place inside the Church.
Papa Lefteris quickly said the Communion prayers while Liaromatis chanted: “Blessed be the Name of the Lord…,” while all the rest of the officers received Holy Communion. The priest then told Lieutenant Nicholas, “Gather everything quickly and put it in the bag,” before saying the prayers of the Dismissal.
Meanwhile, Major Liaromatis and Captain Stamatios were able to disarm the Turk, who was readying to hit the priest again.
The five men finally made it to the waterfront and jumped in Kosmas’ boat, and he began rowing as fast as he could. Soon the were able to board the Greek warship, safe and sound — and victorious.
However, their daring act did end up causing an inevitable diplomatic brouhaha. The Allies came together as a group and severely condemned the action in a protest to Greek Prime Minister Eleftherios Venizelos, who was forced to reprimand Papa Lefteris.
But Venizelos later secretly contacted the brave Greek priest and congratulated him for the immense courage and patriotism that he had shown. Father Eleftherios Noufrakis had fulfilled the secret wish of an entire nation, even if it was for just a brief moment in time.