Monday, August 27, 2012

Chapels of St. George, St. Symeon, St. Paraskevi, and St. Constantine

More chapels. 

On the border between the two parishes of Portaria is the town's cemetery, along with this cemetery chapel dedicated to St. Paraskevi, jointly administered by the two parishes.

Here you can see part of the cemetery off to the right.

Above, the inside of the chapel.

We also have a chapel dedicated to St. George. This chapel is not too far from the central temple, along the cobblestones roads connecting the central temple (and our house) to the main road.

A few of the local women have undertaken the responsibility to make sure the chapel is clean.

We've already celebrated Liturgy in this chapel. Often, a parishioner will request a Liturgy on Saturday so that a departed loved one can be commemorated with a memorial.

Here's a photo from the northwest of the chapel dedicated to St. Symeon. This one is properly called an exoklisio, which indicates that it lies outside the village proper (in a field). The others, inside the residential part of the village, are called parekklisia, or less formally, ekklisakia. This chapel is actually also dedicated to the Panagia, but it has come to be called St. Symeon because of a large, old icon of the saint inside. The main feast or panegyri for the chapel is St. Symeon on Sept. 1.

Above is a photo from the southeast of the "chapel" of St. Constantine. Actually, it's a three-aisle basilica style church (about the same size as our main temple), probably dating to the early 1800s if not before. Originally, it was the katholikon (central temple) of a monastery which no longer exists. This is also located outside the residential part of the village.

This is a photo taken from the chapel of the Holy Archangels. On the left, you can see the neighboring mountain village of Makrinitsa. Off to the right, you can make out the "chapel" of St. Constantine.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Chapels of the Holy Archangels and the Dormition

Within our parish's geographical borders, there are 8 chapels. As is common, two are attached directly to the main church, one on the north side and one on the south side. The other 6 are spread out. Above is the chapel of the Holy Archangels. This is located in a beautiful spot, with views of the gulf and the neighboring mountain village of Makrinitsa. It has a playground right next to it, and it is adjacent to the famous Xenia Palace, a luxury resort. The owners of the resort kindly take care of keeping the chapel clean. Here's a view from the east. That's Benny in the foreground.

Here's a view from the south.

Here's a view inside the chapel. There are several small icons hanging low, so the kids like to venerate them by themselves.

Above is the exo-narthex just outside the western entrance.

Here's a view from the west.

Another chapel, located on the main road into Portaria, is dedicated to the Dormition of the Theotokos. They call it "Panagitsa" (little Panagia). Built in 1876, it was originally a large central temple that somehow fell into disrepair and disuse. Portaria was occupied by the Germans during World War II, and may have been damaged then. I don't know yet. In any event, a local woman took up the project of restoring it about 20 or 30 years ago, but on a smaller scale, preserving basically just the altar space and a little beyond that. That is why the altar is so wide in comparison to the rest of the chapel. Above is a view from the western, front entrance. In the foreground, you can see a table loaded with loaves of bread, wine, and oil, in anticipation of the artoklasia we did on the eve of the Dormition.

Above, a view into the main part of the chapel from the exo-narthex.

Above, the nave of the chapel. In the center, you can see the epitaphion (or bier) prepared for the Panagia. On the eve of the Dormition, we started Vespers at 7:00, and concluded with the Lamentations and a procession through the main street of Portaria. Traffic was stopped, but I actually never saw any of the drivers looking upset. Instead, many of them got out of their cars to stand and cross themselves as we went by.

Our parish comprises the lower half of Portaria, so we walked up the road and joined our procession in the middle of Portaria, at the square, with the village's other parish. We then processed into the square, where they had set up a large platform. There we performed a joint artoklasia service, with all the town's politicians, representatives from the police, etc. They were hundreds and hundreds of people packing the square.

On the morning of the feast, we probably had 200 people for the Liturgy at the Panagitsa chapel, many standing outside in the courtyard, listening to the service through the speakers.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Our New Church of the Holy Unmercenaries

Here are some more photos of our parish's main church, dedicated to the Holy Unmercenaries Cosmas and Damian. For those unaware of traditional Christian terminology, a "parish" refers to a specific geographical area with defined borders. All the people residing in this geographical area are its "parishioners." It is not a matter of one's preference.

The parish is located with a broader "diocese," which is composed of many parishes. It is analogous to counties in a state. In this analogy, the bishop is akin to the governor, and the priests to the heads of the counties. In each parish, the first priest (if there is more than one) is tasked by the bishop with being responsible for everything related to the spiritual life that takes places within that parish's borders. 

In Greece and other traditionally Orthodox countries, a parish will often have more than one church or chapel. (The distinction between the two is somewhat arbitrary, mainly related to size.) Actually what we call the "church" (i.e., the building) is more properly called the "temple," since "church" (ekklisia in Greek) refers to the gathering of the people of that particular geographical area in one place for the purpose of worship. But it is common (and natural) in both Greek and English to refer to the building where this takes place as the "church."

From what I have learned so far, our parish's central temple was built in 1791. Above is a view of its south side. The priest's office and house are to the southeast corner of the church, i.e. just to the right of the photo above.

Here is the front entrance to the temple (i.e., from the west).

Water flows freely throughout Portaria, and here we have a natural spring at the front of the church. To the left, you can see the entrance to the church. In the background, you can see the gulf and Volos.

These photos above and below are of the balcony in the back of the church.

A view toward the front of the temple from the balcony. As you can see, it is not a traditional Byzantine-style domed church. Almost all of the churches built during the period of Ottoman occupation (ca. 1451-1912) are in this style, which I believe is referred to as a three-aisle basilica, a standard style for churches until the 5th or 6th century.

Another view from the balcony down to the center of the temple. On the left, you can see the bema or pulpit, which the deacon ascends to proclaim the Gospel.

A view along the northern aisle. On the right, you can see the narrow winding steps leading up to the bema.

Here is the iconostasis, or, more properly, the "templon." The icons are from 1838 and were done by well-known iconographer brothers, who painted many of the churches of this area. They were trained on Mt. Athos in what is called the "Athonite" style. Ironically, Mt. Athos was the entry point for much of the westernization of iconography, which occurred during this period (18th-19th c.). The western influence is evident especially in the attempt at more realism, the somewhat baroque excess of folds in the clothing, etc. This western influence was probably mediated through Russia, which exerted a heavy influence on Mt. Athos during this time period, due to the flowering of Orthodoxy in Russia under the Tsar and the great suffering of the Greeks under the Turks.

A view of the center of the church, from the right chanter's stand across to the left.

The altar area. On the left, you can see the back of the templon, which is wood-carved.

We are greatly, greatly blessed to have the holy relics of Sts. Cosmas and Damian.

Another view of the inside of the church, this time from the left chanter's stand to the right.

The exo-narthex of the church, at the front entrance. When you sit on the benches there, you have a wonderful view of the city and the gulf (below).

Portaria is a mountain village, so everything is on a slope. Here is Presbytera Pelagia coming down the stairs on the northwest side of the temple.

Here are the kids playing on those stairs. The bell tower is in the background.

For more photos, click here.

The next two posts will cover some of our parish's chapels, or smaller temples.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Our New Parish

Now that I've finished my doctorate in Thessaloniki, the time has come to move. There don't seem to be any positions available for us in the US, but our bishop here in Greece, Metropolitan Ignatius of Demetrias and Almyros (i.e., Volos) was very enthusiastic about offering us our choice of several parishes in his metropolis, so it looks like we will be staying in Greece, but relocating about 2.5 hours south.

So, on July 31, I was appointed rector of the parish of the Holy Unmercenaries in Portaria. The main church, dedicated to the Holy Unmercenaries Cosmas and Damian, was built in 1791, and features relics of the saints. The parish also includes 8 chapels, as well as a house and small office for the priest.

Portaria is a small mountain village famous as a resort. Only about 20 minutes up Mt. Pelion, it is close to both the sea and ski centers. Above, you can see a photo of the view from our new house. That's Volos in the background.

One interesting note is that Alexandros Papadiamantis, the revered Greek author (as well as chanter for St. Nicholas Planas), actually chanted in our church when he was in Portaria to visit his brother.

On July 31, all of us (including Rebecca, who was visiting from Yakima) went down to Portaria and began "camping" in our new house. The house needs some work (painting, etc.) before we can move in for good.

Mt. Pelion is famous for its crystal clear mountain water, which flows freely through channels along the side of the old, narrow cobblestone streets. The church and priest's house actually can't be reached directly by car because of the streets, but we can get pretty close. Chickens wander around.

Above, you can see the kids on some stairs in the church's courtyard. Alongside the stairs, to the left, you can see a water channel. In the background, the bell tower.

Portaria is just a couple miles from Makrinitsa, another mountain village and favorite tourist destination. One day, we went over there for lunch and to walk around. Above you can see Rebecca and Phoebe, with Volos in the background.

Portaria has a shaded square full of restaurants and cafes. Here's a view from the square (a boy on a horse is riding down the main street).

Here's Presbytera Pelagia walking down the stairs to the church. You can see the water and Volos in the background. Understandably, our church is a popular place for weddings.

The Monastery of Panagia Odigitria, which is under the spiritual direction of Elder Ephraim (of Philotheou and Arizona), is 0.8 miles from our house. Several of the nuns in America came from this monastery. One day we went there to greet the nuns and to show Rebecca the monastery. Above is a photo of Phoebe, with the monastery's small chapel in the background.

We had (and have) a lot of work to do to get the house ready. Here are Pelagia and Rebecca taking a break for a frappe (a Greek cold coffee) on our porch.

The Xenia Palace resort is just down the road from our place. Around it are a public playground and one of our parish's chapel. Here are the kids playing at the playground. In the background, you can see the houses of Makrinitsa along the mountainside.

One day, we took the kids to a gorgeous beach on the Aegean, about 50 minutes from Portaria along windy mountain roads.

For more photos, click here. I'll be following up with more posts explaining all the photos.