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.

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