Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Our Polyelaioi (Chandeliers)

Back in December, I had a post about Pres. Pelagia cleaning one of the two large chandeliers we have in the center of our main parish church. The one she is cleaning in the photo above probably dates to the 1960s or 70s, while the one to the right dates to about the 1860s or 70s. According to our local expert, it probably came from Rostov, Russia, and constitutes, as far as he knows, the oldest polyelaios (chandelier) in our region.

This is it in the photo above. As you can tell, it needed some work. Obviously, it predates electricity and operated originally with oil lamps (hence the Greek name, polyelaios, which means, literally, something like "much oil"). One of our faithful parishioners, an electrician, remembers being on the crew that retrofitted the chandelier for electricity in 1959. Until then, because it is so difficult and impractical to take it down, it seems that it was regularly cleaned by simply bringing in a hose and spraying it down. The water was then mopped off the church's tile floors.

My friend, Fr. Dn. Riginos, came in late January to take down this old chandelier for cleaning and repair. It took hours to get it down and separated into manageable pieces. Above and below are what the glass pieces looked like before cleaning.

We also found this much smaller chandelier, which has a similar design, in the attached side chapel to St. Anthony. Our idea was to clean and repair this one and put it in the place of the much larger glass one Pres. Pelagia cleaned.

Here is Fr. Riginos and his koumbaros Ioannis taking down the glass one. Fr. Riginos is, fittingly, standing in the raised ambon from which the deacon reads the gospel. It dates from the building of the church in 1791 and is quite small.

Our faithful electrician, who was the one who remembered helping retrofit the chandelier for electricity in 1959, came to finish hooking up the newly cleaned and repaired chandelier, which among many improvements, had the cords running through the inside rather than on the outside.

Here is my friend Nikos, one of our epitropoi (church wardens), putting in the light bulbs.

Here is a photo of both chandeliers from the back of the church. You can see the smaller one in the foreground. The rather unique blue, red, and white strings of glass decorations (strung together by silver wire) were distributed between the two so as to make them match even more.

A closer shot of the large polyelaios. The photos don't do it justice. There is an amazing difference between then and now.

The whole project cost 1250 euros. For a point of reference, the basic monthly salary in Greece is now 500 euros (for those fortunate few who have jobs). Thanks be to God, one parishioner donated nearly 500 euros for the project, and another woman donated 200 euros to get us started. I made an appeal on the first Sunday after the chandelier went for cleaning, and this last Sunday after it returned, and we raised 140 euros that way. So we're well on our way, and we hope to undertake other badly needed projects as well, such as cleaning the smoke residue off the murals on the walls (1000 euros), and replacing the icons of the Holy Unmercenaries above the west and south outside entrances (300 euros each, or 1000 euros each for mosaics).

Although it is a difficult time in Greece, the people still care for the beauty and upkeep of their holy churches.

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