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An Armenian Catholic diocese. The city owes its ancient name to the fact that it was built on the shores of the Black Sea in the form of a trapeze. It was a Greek colony from Sinopus, established in the eighth century, B.C., and not a colony from Trapezus, in Arcadia, as Xenophon relates, who was received here with enthusiasm during the retreat of the Ten Thousand. After having formed a part of the Kingdom of Armenia, and then of that of Pontus, it fell into the hands of the Romans, and was declared a free city by Pompey. The Emperor Hadrian adorned it and endowed it with great commercial importance by creating its artificial harbor. Under Valerian the Goths took and pillaged it; its inhabitants were slain or sent as slaves to the Cimmerian Bosphorus. Justinian raised it from its ruins and thenceforth it became rich in monuments, especially churches and monasteries. In 1204 when Constantinople fell into the power of the Latins, a prince of the family of the Comneni, who in 1185 sought safety in Iberia, proclaimed himself Emperor of Trebizond under the name of Alexis, and founded a Greek empire, the rival of that of Nicaea. The new state comprised nearly all of the ancient Pontus Polemoniacus and stretched eastward as far as the River Phasis. It was in perpetual conflict with the Seljuk Turks and later with the Osmanli Turks, as well as with the Greeks of Nicaea and Constantinople, the Italian republics, and especially the Genoese. During the two centuries and a half in which it succeeded in subsisting the Empire of Trebizond contributed greatly to the development of Christian civilization and Greek literature in those distant parts, until then somewhat backward. In 1462 Trebizond was taken by assault by the troops of Mohammed II, and its last emperor, David, was exiled to the vicinity of Serrae in Macedonia. He was soon obliged to choose between embracing Islam or forfeiting his life; he kept the faith and was executed together with six of his children. The seventh fled to the Peloponnesus where he founded the Comneni of Morea. From 1204 to 1462 Trebizond had, in all, twenty emperors.

At present Trebizond is the capital of the vilayet of the same name, bounded by those of Sivas and Erzeroum, the Black Sea, and Asiatic Russia, which after the war of 1877 absorbed a part of its territory. The vilayet measures about 270 miles from west to east by 65 miles at its extreme length; its area is 11,275 sq. miles. Its total population may be estimated at 900,000. The city itself has 50,000 inhabitants, among whom are 12,000 Greeks, 10,000 Armenians, some Jews, and a few hundred Catholics The remainder are Turkish Mussulmans, Lazis, Circassians, and Afghazis. Trebizond has a citadel, at least 40 mosques, 10 Greek churches, some of which have preserved ancient paintings, several Armenian churches, etc.; it carries on an active trade with Persia, Russia, and European countries by way of the black Sea. Close to the city are several Greek monasteries still inhabited, and which played a certain part in Byzantine history.

The first traces of Christianity at Trebizond are found under Diocletian when St. Eugenius, still the patron of the city, St. Canoeists, and their companions were martyred. Among the saints of whom mention is still made were the Bishop St. Basil, tenth century (feast, 20 October), and St. Theodore Gabras, martyred about 1098 (feast, 2 October). At first merely a suffragan of Neocæsarea in Pontus Polemoniacus Trebizond became the metropolitan see of Lazica when the ancient metropolis, Phasis, was lost by the Byzantine Empire. At the end of the ninth century it had seven suffragans, which number continued to increase. The emperors of Trebizond profited by their political situation to secure privileges for the bishop of their capital. By an official act of 1 January, 1260, the Greek Patriarch of Nicaea, at the request of Michael VIII Paleologus, recognized a semi-independence of the Metropolitan of Trebizond. Thenceforth the titulars of this city went neither to Nicaea nor Constantinople to receive episcopal consecration from the patriarch; it was given them in their own church in the presence of a delegate from the patriarch who assisted at, or, if he were a bishop, presided at the ceremony. But the patriarch reserved to himself as formerly the ordinations of the other metropolitans or the autocephalous archbishops of the empire. Of course after the suppression of the Empire of Trebizond in 1462 the metropolitans of this city lost these privileges and were made like all the other metropolitans, in which condition they are at present. Le Quien (Oriens christ., I, 509-14) gives a list of eighteen Greek bishops of Trebizond, to which other names might be added. Among them Domnus, the oldest known, who assisted at the Council of Nicaea in 325; Atarbius, at Chalcedon in 451; Anthimus, the future Monophysite Patriarch of Constantinople, who deposed Pope St. Agapitus in 536; Dorotheus, who assisted at the Council of Florence (1439), and signed its decree of union; Cyril, who in 1653 was in Paris with the Dominican Pere Goar, and made a profession of Catholic faith at Rome. To these may be added the Bishop Ouranios who, according to an inscription (C.I.G., 8636), restored buildings in the year 542. In the Middle Ages, because of the Venetian and Genoese merchants and also because of the missionaries who went to evangelize the Khazars, Comans, and Tatars, a Latin see was established at Trebizond. The oldest-known titular was a Franciscan, Andronicus Comnenus, mentioned in 1289. In Le Quien (op. cit. III, 1097-1100) and in Eubel (Hierarchia catholica medii aevi, I, 520) will be found the names of several other bishops from 1344 to 1437. The Latin diocese must have lasted until the capture of the city by Mohammed II.

The Armenian Catholic diocese erected in 1850 by Pius IX, is of vast extent; it has 4300 faithful, 4 churches, 7 stations, 4 primary schools, 9 secular priests, and 4 Mechitarists. There are also Jesuits at Marsivan and Amasia, engaged exclusively with the Armenians; the Oblates of the Assumption are at Amasia for the same object. The Capuchins are established for the Latins at Trebizond, Samsun, and Ineboli, and are dependent on the delegate Apostolic at Constantinople; the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Apparition have a boarding-school at Trebizond.


GAINSFORD, The Historic of Trebizonde (London, 1616); FALLMERAYER Gesch. des Kaisertums Trapezunt (Munich, 1827); FISCHER, Trapezunt u. seine Bedeutung in der Gesch. in Zeitschrift fur allgemeine Gesch., III (Stuttgart, 1886), 13-39: IDEM Trapezuns im 11 u. 1 Jahrhundert in Mitteilungen des Instituts fur ost. Geschichtsforsch. X, 77-127; KRUMBACHER Gesch. der byzantinischen Literatur (Munich, 1897), 1049-1051; MILLET, Les monasteres et les eglises de Trebizonde in Bulletin de correspondance hellenique XIX, 419-459; IDEM, Inscriptions byzantines de Trebizonde, op cit. XX, 498-501; STRZYGOWSKI Les chapiteaux de Sainte-Sophie d Trebizonde, op. cit., XIX, 517-522; PETIT, Acte synodal du patriarche Nicephore II sur les privileges du metropolitain de Trebizonde in Bulletin de l'institut arch. russe de Constantinople VIII, 163-171; Missiones catholica (Rome, 1897), 759.

About this page

APA citation. Vailhé, S. (1912). Trebizond. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.

MLA citation. Vailhé, Siméon. "Trebizond." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 15. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1912. <>.

Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Joseph E. O'Connor.

Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. October 1, 1912. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.

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