Having emerged from the water, the swimmers bunch together for a group photo. They are the youngest and strongest of Istanbul’s dwindling 1.500-strong Greek Orthodox community known as the Rum. In recent years, increasing numbers of Greek Orthodox Turks of Arab extraction have flocked to Istanbul from the southern provinces of Hatay and Antioch. (Iason Athanasiadis/GlobalPost)
Crowds of visiting Greek tourists jostle inside the usually empty Patriarchate’s Church on one of its busiest days of the year. (Iason Athanasiadis/GlobalPost)
Knee-length skirts and nuns’ habit alike mix inside the church during the two-hour liturgy. (Iason Athanasiadis/GlobalPost)
The patriarch, weighed under by his jewel- and icon-encrusted crown, proceeds through the festive crowds. (Iason Athanasiadis/GlobalPost)
Greek Orthodox priests move towards the Halic channel separating the two banks of European Istanbul against the background of traditional wooden houses crowding against each other on one of the seven hills upon which Istanbul is built. (Iason Athanasiadis/GlobalPost)
A solemn Patriarch Bartholomew holds a staff formed of interlocking snakes in one hand and the cross in his right hand. (Iason Athanasiadis/GlobalPost)
One of the swimmers has a tattoo that curls up his shoulder blades, right below the gold chain and cross he wears around his neck. (Iason Athanasiadis/GlobalPost)
Reaching it first, the winner of the race brings the Cross to his lips and kisses it to clicking camera shutters from onlookers. (Iason Athanasiadis/GlobalPost)
Having emerged from the water, the swimmers bunch together for a group photo. They are the youngest and strongest of Istanbul’s dwindling 1.500-strong Greek Orthodox community known as the Rum. In recent years, increasing numbers of Greek Orthodox Turks of Arab extraction have flocked to Istanbul from the southern provinces of Hatay and Antioch. (Iason Athanasiadis/GlobalPost)

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