August 6th Archbishop Visit to Transfiguration Greek Orthodox Church During Covid-19 Pandemic

Archbiship Elpidophoros

            “We celebrate the first fruits of the harvest on August 6th, the Transfiguration (Metamorphosis) of Christ Feast Day,” said His Eminence, Archbishop Elpidophoros. “I am happy to be here in this summer community on the Feast Day of the church. Metamorphosis of the Sotiras is more than just changing clothes and glasses. It means seeing the light of earth, immortality and leaving the darkness of the abyss. We are an ecclesiastical family, not just a congregation.”

            The Transfiguration of Christ Greek Orthodox Church, on Breakwater Road, Mattituck, had an uplifting, religious experience, during the 2020 Covid-19 Pandemic. His Eminence. Archbishop Elpidophoros performed the Feast Day service on August 6th. The service was viewed on Facebook and recorded by the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese.  Rev. Andrew (Andreas) Cadieux, protopresbyter of the Transfiguration of Christ Church, Rev. Protopresbyter Jerasimos Ballas, Saints Anargyroi, Taxiarchoi and Jerasimos Church, Greenport assisted Archbishop Elpidophoros. Unity as an ecclesiastical family of churches was emphasized. Cantor John Rontiris and the archdiocese cantors sang religious hymns. Archons, and the community attended.

Blessings

Quarantine, masks, social distancing, for the first time in American history, was lightened by seeing and hearing a Christian survivor of Turkish life: Archbishop Elpidophoros.  The parish council and volunteers performed an excellent procedure following the guidelines for Covid 19 gatherings.

Transfiguration by George Filippakis

“We are honored to have His Eminence visit us for a second year,” said Michael Kavourias, President of the Parish Council/archon of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate. “His visit is bringing persons back to the church during Covid-19 Pandemic.” Barbara Kavourias Thermos, Vice-President of the Parish Council assisted. For an accurate list of  persons who helped in this unique event, contact the Transfiguration Church office at 631 298-9652.

Michael Kavourias, Parish council president and Barbara Kavourias, vice-president

“We welcome His Eminence, Archbishop Elpidophoros, who will be leading her in prayer today,” said Father Andreas. “We are an ecclesiastical family. God grant him many years. EIS POLLA ETI DESPOTA.”

Father Andreas

“I am happy that Father Andreas is here,” said Archbishop Elpidophoros. “I saw more persons with he covid-19 Pandemic than on August 6, 2019. I am happy Father Andreas is here. He is a new air in the community. He is a family man with children. The church is clean and is an example for all churches. We are happy he is here. We will have happy days when the Covid-19 Pandemic is over, and we see faces. These are difficult times. We must respect ourselves and others with masks. I promise to come back next year and for many more years as I serve as Archbishop of America.”

Father Andreas Cardieux is a genuine hero of the Covid-19 Pandemic. He was hospitalized five days. He was released, quarantined, and performed Lenten services with an oxygen tank. We saw on Facebook virtual service posts created by Father Andreas on his laptop as he performed the liturgy. “When I began my ministry in January 2020, I began an outreach program to inspire parishioners to attend services,” he said. “Parishioners were coming. Then Covid-19 hit.” His Greek is excellent. He had virtual services on the Transfiguration Facebook page that inspired all.

            Father Andreas has a love story. He cared for the elderly of St. Michael’s Home in Yonkers as a seminarian. He gave hope and comfort to the elderly by speaking Greek and English. Many of us are indebted to Father Andreas’ for the compassion he showed our elderly relatives. He was introduced to Joanne, a warm, friendly NYC educator, during his work at St. Michaels’s Home. They had common interests, married, and have a family of three children.

            I first met Archbishop Elpidophoros, who was the Metropolitan of Bursa at the last Feast Day service of the original Dormition of the Holy Virgin Mary in Southampton, Long Island on August 15, 2012 with Rev. Alexander Karloutsos and Rev. Constantine Lazarakis.  His Eminence showed warmth, humility, and genuine friendliness. He said, “I came here in 2002 or 2003 as a deacon. I come here from the Mother Church, the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, the Mother of All churches. The Mother Church has a weakness for the church of America. Patriarch Athenagoras, who was Archbishop of America, formed a love of America with Constantinople. “No matter how large a church grows, the Mother church (the Patriarchate of Constantinople) loves you.”

His Eminence is a champion of Greek language and culture education. “Educators have my respect and love.,” he said. “Greek Paideia is my soul. We cannot do anything without a love for Greek heritage and history. Christianity, Byzantium, and Greek Orthodoxy is built on Greek Philosophy and civilization. We will not lose Greek Civilization here in the United States of America that is a Democracy. We must not lose our Greek language, soul, roots, and history. We will support Greek language, civilization and Greek Orthodoxy.” Demetris Filippidis of Hellasfm, in his August 5th program, described Archbishop Elpidophoros same devotion for Greek language.   

            The iconography was created by George Filippakis  He is from the Cretan Byzantine iconography school. Mr. Filippakis is a legend. His work will outlive him and be remembered by future generations. The incredible beauty gives a person hope in their darkest moments. All members of the East End shared in the building of this rural church with magnificent iconography. The Transfiguration iconography is mostly seen in Greek Orthodox churches of Greece. Being in this traditional Greek Orthodox church gave me hope for the future during the 2020 Pandemic.

Links:

https://greekamericanexperience.wordpress.com/2019/12/30/education-as-a-light-highlighted-at-christmas-party-of-greek-american-education-organizations/

photos

photo1 – Archbishop Elpidophoros with Father Cardieux (left) and father Ballas (right)

Photo 2  Archbiship Elpidophoros

Photo 3- Blessing of holy bread

Photo 4  Transfiguration of Christ by George Filippakis Photo 5 – Michael Kavourias, Parish council president and Barbara Kavourias Thermo

Archbishop Elpidophoros with Father Cardieux (left) and father Ballas (right)

            “We celebrate the first fruits of the harvest on August 6th, the Transfiguration (Metamorphosis) of Christ Feast Day,” said His Eminence, Archbishop Elpidophoros. “I am happy to be here in this summer community on the Feast Day of the church. Metamorphosis of the Sotiras is more than just changing clothes and glasses. It means seeing the light of earth, immortality and leaving the darkness of the abyss. We are an ecclesiastical family, not just a congregation.”

            The Transfiguration of Christ Greek Orthodox Church, on Breakwater Road, Mattituck, had an uplifting, religious experience, during the 2020 Covid-19 Pandemic. His Eminence. Archbishop Elpidophoros performed the Feast Day service on August 6th. The service was viewed on Facebook and recorded by the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese.  Rev. Andrew (Andreas) Cadieux, protopresbyter of the Transfiguration of Christ Church, Rev. Protopresbyter Jerasimos Ballas, Saints Anargyroi, Taxiarchoi and Jerasimos Church, Greenport assisted Archbishop Elpidophoros. Unity as an ecclesiastical family of churches was emphasized. Cantor John Rontiris and the archdiocese cantors sang religious hymns. Archons, and the community attended.

Quarantine, masks, social distancing, for the first time in American history, was lightened by seeing and hearing a Christian survivor of Turkish life: Archbishop Elpidophoros.  The parish council and volunteers performed an excellent procedure following the guidelines for Covid 19 gatherings.

“We are honored to have His Eminence visit us for a second year,” said Michael Kavourias, President of the Parish Council/archon of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate. “His visit is bringing persons back to the church during Covid-19 Pandemic.” Barbara Kavourias Thermos, Vice-President of the Parish Council assisted. For an accurate list of  persons who helped in this unique event, contact the Transfiguration Church office at 631 298-9652.

“We welcome His Eminence, Archbishop Elpidophoros, who will be leading her in prayer today,” said Father Andreas. “We are an ecclesiastical family. God grant him many years. EIS POLLA ETI DESPOTA.”

“I am happy that Father Andreas is here,” said Archbishop Elpidophoros. “I saw more persons with he covid-19 Pandemic than on August 6, 2019. I am happy Father Andreas is here. He is a new air in the community. He is a family man with children. The church is clean and is an example for all churches. We are happy he is here. We will have happy days when the Covid-19 Pandemic is over, and we see faces. These are difficult times. We must respect ourselves and others with masks. I promise to come back next year and for many more years as I serve as Archbishop of America.”

Father Andreas Cardieux is a genuine hero of the Covid-19 Pandemic. He was hospitalized five days. He was released, quarantined, and performed Lenten services with an oxygen tank. We saw on Facebook virtual service posts created by Father Andreas on his laptop as he performed the liturgy. “When I began my ministry in January 2020, I began an outreach program to inspire parishioners to attend services,” he said. “Parishioners were coming. Then Covid-19 hit.” His Greek is excellent. He had virtual services on the Transfiguration Facebook page that inspired all.

            Father Andreas has a love story. He cared for the elderly of St. Michael’s Home in Yonkers as a seminarian. He gave hope and comfort to the elderly by speaking Greek and English. Many of us are indebted to Father Andreas’ for the compassion he showed our elderly relatives. He was introduced to Joanne, a warm, friendly NYC educator, during his work at St. Michaels’s Home. They had common interests, married, and have a family of three children.

            I first met Archbishop Elpidophoros, who was the Metropolitan of Bursa at the last Feast Day service of the original Dormition of the Holy Virgin Mary in Southampton, Long Island on August 15, 2012 with Rev. Alexander Karloutsos and Rev. Constantine Lazarakis.  His Eminence showed warmth, humility, and genuine friendliness. He said, “I came here in 2002 or 2003 as a deacon. I come here from the Mother Church, the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, the Mother of All churches. The Mother Church has a weakness for the church of America. Patriarch Athenagoras, who was Archbishop of America, formed a love of America with Constantinople. “No matter how large a church grows, the Mother church (the Patriarchate of Constantinople) loves you.”

His Eminence is a champion of Greek language and culture education. Educators have my respect and love. Greek Paideia is my soul. We cannot do anything without a love for Greek heritage and history. Christianity, Byzantium, and Greek Orthodoxy is built on Greek Philosophy and civilization. We will not lose Greek Civilization here in the United States of America that is a Democracy. We must not lose our Greek language, soul, roots, and history. We will support Greek language, civilization and Greek Orthodoxy.” Demetris Filippidis of Hellasfm, in his August 5th program, described Archbishop Elpidophoros same devotion for Greek language.   

            The iconography was created by George Filippakis  He is from the Cretan Byzantine iconography school. Mr. Filippakis is a legend. His work will outlive him and be remembered by future generations. The incredible beauty gives a person hope in their darkest moments. All members of the East End shared in the building of this rural church with magnificent iconography. The Transfiguration iconography is mostly seen in Greek Orthodox churches of Greece. Being in this traditional Greek Orthodox church gave me hope for the future during the 2020 Pandemic.

Links:

https://greekamericanexperience.wordpress.com/2019/12/30/education-as-a-light-highlighted-at-christmas-party-of-greek-american-education-organizations/

https://www.qgazette.com/articles/el-greco-lecture-and-exhibition-during-christmas-season/

On The Road to Constantinople: Repairs of Hagia Sophia Dome by 10th Century Armenian Architect

“All truths are easy to understand once they are discovered; the point is to discover them,” by Galileo di Vincenzo Bonaulti de Galilei, an Italian astronomer, physicist, and engineer.

Hagia Sophia

            Hagia Sophia is an architectural Monument that belongs to the heritage of not only the Greek  and Orthodox nations, but to the Armenian civilization. The Armenian civilization is more than just the Armenian Holocaust. Wherever they go, they adopt the customs of their new country, building he community, but always remembering their Armenian roots. Hagia Sophia’s dome was in a dangerous condition in the tenth century A.D. A Byzantine Emperor with Armenian roots, who was firstly a supporter of the Greek language, culture, and Greek Orthodoxy, asked he greatest Armenian architect to make repairs. It is never said in mainstream culture. Scholars know the truth.

            “Trdat the Architect” or Tiridates (c. 940s-c. 1020s?) was a Armenian architect who is noted for his role in the reconstruction of the Hagia Sophia’s dome in Constantinople following an earthquake in the 10th century CE, as well as the Cathedral of Ani and the Church of Gagik in what is now present-day Turkey. Along with Momik (c.1270-1333 CE), Trdat is the most famous Armenian architect of the Middle Ages.”2

Dome

            “Very little if anything concrete is known about Trdat’s earliest years aside from that he was Armenian with extensive talents in mathematics and architectural design. Trdat’s life coincided with the medieval Armenian golden era as well as the so-called “Macedonian Renaissance” of the Byzantine Empire (867-1056 CE). After centuries of intermittent warfare and constant invasions, Armenians and Byzantines halted the tide of the Arab onslaught, stabilizing their borders and safeguarding their population centers. This was a time of political and economic stability in addition to cultural effervescence in both Armenia and Byzantium. Historians and archaeologists can trace Trdat’s movements based on his construction and reconstruction projects around historical Armenia as well as the Byzantine Empire. Trdat lived and worked primarily in Shirak province, which in the 10th and 11th century CE included the city of Ani, the capital of Bagratid Armenia (885-1045 CE).”

It is not known how Trdat first came to Constantinople and was ultimately entrusted with the reconstruction of the Hagia Sophia, following an earthquake in 988 CE. It is entirely possible that Trdat was already in Constantinople while work halted on Ani Cathedral after the death of Smbat II in 989 CE. Armenians frequently rose to positions of great prominence as scholars, generals, and rulers under the Byzantine emperors of the Macedonian dynasty (867-1056 CE). Many of the Byzantine emperors of this dynasty were also either Armenian or partially Armenian by ancestry. Emperor Basil II (r 976-1025 CE.), ever concerned with the boundaries of his eastern frontier with the Georgians, Armenians, and Arabs, might have heard of Trdat and his work from those he encountered while campaigning in the Caucasus. According to the Chronicle of the Armenian historian Matthew of Edessa (d. 1144 CE), Basil II conversed with Armenian scholars during his frequent travels throughout the Caucasus.

dome

            Trdat was charged by Basil II to repair the Hagia Sophia’s western dome arch. This was no simple task as the Hagia Sophia employs four triangular pendentives to transpose the weight of its circular dome to a quadrilateral supporting superstructure without the use of columns or pillars in interior spaces. Trdat rebuilt and strengthened the destroyed dome arch with fifteen dome ribs. Repair and reconstruction took six years, and the Hagia Sophia reopened in 994 CE. The fact that the Hagia Sophia has not suffered severe damage in the same area for over 1,000 years serves as a testimony to Trdat’s brilliance and acumen as an architect.        

Trdat’s Legacy stands out amongst medieval Armenian architects as he undertook large-scale projects in both Armenia and Byzantium. The scholastic debate as to the amount of cross-cultural exchange in architecture facilitated by Trdat continues, but it is difficult to deny that Trdat’s enduring legacy lies in his ability to have refined and expanded the architectural models and traditions of his Armenian and Byzantine patrons.”3 This is the truth of Hagia Sophia that Galileo said “must be discovered”.

Interior

References:

  1. https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/galileo_galilei_136976
  2. https://www.ancient.eu/Trdat_the_Architect/
  3.  https://www.ancient.eu/Trdat_the_Architect/

Photos:

Photo1 -Hagia Sophia dome, Istanbul (Constantinople) Turkey.

Photo 2- Hagia Sophia dome.

Photo 3 – -Hagia Sophia

Memories of Greece: Mati Catastrophe in Attica

   

July 23, 2020 is the Second Anniversary of the Mati Fires of Attica, Greece. In 2018, a series of wildfires in a resort and affluent coastal areas of Athens, occurred. 700 persons were evacuated from Rafina, Kokkino Limanaki and Mati. Entire families were wiped out. I arrived in Athens on July 23rd, 2019, on the First Anniversary of the Mati Fires. The SYRIZA government spokesperson said, “We must remember the persons who died and make sure it never happens again.”

            The persons I talked with said “we do not need prayers and blessings. The Government must be prepared and know the physical location and geography of the area. The best memorial is changing the fire procedures and laws”. The SYRIZA government is no longer in power.

            The real heroes of Mati are the middle class firemen, who believe it is their duty to save. I interviewed Fireman Kosta, before the Covid-19 Pandemic, when Americans with American passports were able to fly on Delta to Greece 2019. The interview took place at Replay Biliards & Net, Recreation Center, Tripolis, Arcadia. “I was in 2012 Chios, fighting the fires,” he explained. “The Chiotes lost 5 million euros in Mastiha tree production. Half of this area burnt down. The Chiotes were gracious and hospitable. Firemen from all over Greece were helping the Islanders. In 2017. I was fighting fires in Zakynthos, Rhodes, and  Peloponnese. Many fires are natural, caused by burning garbage, that releases chemicals.” Kosta is stationed in Tripoli.

            “We are always working out physically,” he said. “We must be in good physical shape to fight fires. I must be focused, and healthy to save someone.” News sources claim arson. Let us hope the Summer of 2020, celebrating the Second Anniversary of the Mati Fires, will be safe.

References

1.     https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-44971351

Photos:

Photo 1 – Mati1

        

           

References

  1. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-44971351

Photos:

Photo 1 – Mati1

Memories of the Road to Constantinople: the Late Travel Agent Taki Kapogiannis

Mr. Kapogiannis (3rd from left) with staff in Istanbul

“Finding joy and passion in the work they do is what propels travel agents to succeed. It is this love for their work that drives agents to be the best that they can be. That passion is contagious and encourages others to seek them out for travel too!”1       

A man beloved by the international community Mr. Taki Kapogiannis of Kapogiannis Travel Agency in Tripoli, Greece recently died. He brought happiness to many in Tripoli and the international community of the Greek diaspora. Above all he made many persons of Tripoli forget their troubles and enjoy life with his affordable tours, within the reach of middle class Greeks.

Pitsa Faethon said on Facebook “Another good man, a fellow citizen, left for the big trip. Takis was our own Takis who took us on trips, and we had such a good time. A good professional. We forgot for a while whatever bothered us. Have a good trip. Rest in peace and let the earth that will cover you be light. Good paradise. My dear, my warmest condolences to you and your wonderful girls. He was a good family man, good and worthy, a man and a good father. May God give you (wife Kostoula) strength and courage to continue his work as you know. and as he taught you. Takis will always be in our hearts and with us on all journeys.”

The late Takis Kapogiannis

I saw the Byzantine Empire of the textbooks on a 2019  excursion “On the Road to Constantinople”. The Greek point of view, not the politically correct version of international travel groups, was presented. We even saw Patriarch Bartholomew, head of the Eastern Orthodox Churches (Russian Orthodox Church seceded” in a free optional trip to the Upper Bosphorus Orthodox Church of Dormition of the Mother of God Panagia, Kumariotisa Yeniköy. FREE. Mr. Kapogiannis wanted to help all, looking out for loners and families.

Taki’s partners Kostoula (left) and Maria Kapogiannis.

This visit to Constantinople was part of a seven day excursion for 430 euros per double occupancy, A cruise of the Bosphorus with our own guide explained the importance of Constantinople, with its waterways and monuments. “Show respect to the culture of the nation we are visiting,” Taki said about Turkey. Everyone had loyalty and listened to him always. A quiet, soft spoken , serious man, he commanded respect in Macedonia, Thrace, Istanbul, and Princess Islands. He helped us many times. Not only shopping, museums, churches, we had an evening of Anatolian music at Gar Music Hall. An evening where everyone had a good time with Anatolian dancers of both sexes. This wonderful evening was put together by a serious, Greek travel agent who wanted us to have a good time.

Writer (left) with Mr. Kapogiannis and Anatolian performer at GAR Music Hall

The late Taki Kapogiannis’ philosophy was “Enjoy travel experiences, forgetting his/her problems.” He brought happiness to middle class Greeks in a time of crisis. Our deepest sympathy to his family. Our deepest sympathy to Kostoula, Maria and family.

References:

  1. https://khmtravel.com/become-a-travel-agent/10-travel-agent-quotes/

Links

https://www.facebook.com/catherine.tsounis/videos/3008028622616875/ – His All Holiness, Patriarch Bartholomew performed a Patriarchal SERVICE on Sunday, August 4th at the Greek.

Greek E-Learning Platform “Ellinopoula.com” Wins Gold at the Education Leaders Awards 2020.

Athens, Greece – The 5th Annual Education Leaders Awards in Athens, Greece have awarded the Greek language e-learning platform for kids, www.Ellinopoula.com with the Gold Award for Best Online & Distance Learning Platform. The Awards Committee awarding Ellinopoula the Gold Award is composed of teachers, experts, academics, and representatives of educational institutions and is headed by Ms. Anna Diamantopoulou, Chairperson of the Reform Network in Greece and Europe, former EU Commissioner and former Minister of the Hellenic Republic. 

Ms. Anna Sakkis, CEO of www.Ellinopoula.com states “Our vision began in 2016 when we set out to revitalize the Greek language and Hellenism for Diaspora kids through an innovative online learning platform and app. It is a great honor for us to win the Gold Award for Best Online & Distance Learning Platform for Kids Learning Greek. It is an honor we do not take lightly; we are thankful for the Awards Committee placing Ellinopoula.com at the top spot and we are thankful to all parents, schools, teachers, students, and partners who trust and support Ellinopoula. In this especially challenging time, we are all going through with the lockdown and institutions shutdown, we are humbled by the response of parents and schools choosing Ellinopoula to support the kids learning Greek all over the world. We are inspired by them and remain committed to supporting them with premium content and support.”

www.Ellinopoula.com is an innovative online Greek language and Hellenism education platform inspired by a vision for a new Hellenic Renaissance through Education Technology. The platform offers a complete Greek language learning solution for Diaspora parents and teachers through a syllabus created according to the standards of the Greek Ministry of Education and Religious Affairs.        Ellinopoula incorporates a wealth of original Greek cultural and historical content throughout the platform to enhance Heritage Learning. It contains games, videos, and thousands of interactive educational activities for students and a range of management tools for schools and teachers.  

For more information, contact Anna Sakkis, CEO, Ellinopoula.com, 4400 Keller Ave, Suite 140, Oakland CA 94605, USA, anna@ellinopoula.com, Tel: 510-375-1954   

Websites:

www.ellinopoula.com

www.educationleadersawards.gr

Photos:

Photo1 – Game

Photo2 – Greek heritage games

Photo 3 -Icarus Learning path

Memories of the Road to Constantinople: Hagia Sophia, Istanbul

Hagia Sophia

            “Today we view Hagia Sophia as an architectural achievement withstanding earthquakes. Famous for its dome. It is the masterpiece of Byzantine architecture,” said attorney Panagiota Petropoulou. Visiting Hagia Sophia, known as The Church of the Holy Wisdom, in the summer of 2019 with a middle class Greeks in a Kapogiannis Tripoli tour was an eye opener. I heard the Greek point of view . I now appreciate all the Greek I learned at St. Demetrios School in Astoria and my Greek grandmother who only spoke Greek.

Comnenos mosaic.

            When we crossed the Evros River in Eastern Thrace, our guide, the late Taki Kapogiannis explained “Hagia Sophia is not a Greek Orthodox Church. Do not expect to worship icons, or light candles. We must respect the civilization of the country we are visiting.” Everyone did and were ARISTOCRATS. Our guide was Mesout from Xanthi, Western Thrace. I noticed in his guided tour he did not spend any time with icons of Byzantine emperors. Persons can see virtual tours on online. I am relating what interested me, as a descendant of the “Lost Greek Communities of Asia Minor, Western Anatolia”.

Hagia Sophia

            On my own, I studied the amazing iconography. The Comnenos mosaic, also located on the eastern wall of the southern gallery, dates from 1122. The Virgin Mary is standing in the middle, depicted, as usual in Byzantine art, in a dark blue gown. She holds the Child Christ on her lap. He gives His blessing with His right hand while holding a scroll in His left hand. On her right side stands emperor John II Comnenos, represented in a garb embellished with precious stones. He holds a purse, symbol of an imperial donation to the church. Empress Irene stands on the left side of the Virgin, wearing ceremonial garments and offering a document. Their eldest son Alexius Comnenos is represented on an adjacent pilaster.1

                 The Diesis mosaic has John the Baptist on the right and the Virgin Mary on the left asking Christ in the Center to intercede for humanity. The apse is the semi-dome located behind the altar. The mosaic decorating the apse in Hagia Sophia was completed during the 9th century. It is a representation of Virgin Mary sitting on a backless throne, with young Jesus Christ on her lap. Set on a golden background, it creates a strong contrast with the dark color of her clothes. This mosaic is very important because it was the very first one created after iconoclasm. It was unveiled on March 29, 867, by Patriarch Photios I and Emperors Michael III and Basil I.

The Hellenistic marble lustration urn from Pergamon is enormous. Sultan Murad III (1546-1595) took it from Pergamon and placed in Hagia Sophia. “My family is from Pergamon, Asia Minor,” said the late Jimmy Tsoros in the 1980’s. He was my parents’ patrioti (friends from their region). “The entire city lies in a German museum. But you must go to Germany to see Greek heritage.”3

The Pantokrator mosaic decorated with a Jesus figure, located on the top of the Imperial Gate shows Jesus sanctifying with his right hand and carrying a bible with his left hand. The following Greek words are written on the Bible: ‘May Peace Be with You. I Am the Divine Light’. The right medallion has Archangel Gabriel figure while the left medallion has Mother Mary. Below the feet of Christ is Emperor Leon VI of Byzantine Empire who has prayer position. The mosaic dates back to the 9th century.”4

When exiting Hagia Sophia, I saw the mosaic that made an impression. The 10th century mosaic of the Virgin Mary in the center with two Byzantine emperors.. To the left is Justinian I presenting a model of Hagia Sophia and the inscription “Famous Emperor Justinian”. To the right is Constantine presenting a model of his city and the inscription “Among the saints is great Emperor Constantine”.5 Mesout did not spend adequate time explaining mosaics. I was inspired to do research in New York City.

            I began watching Netflix “The Rise of the Ottoman Empire.” After one episode, I stopped. Why? As scholar Mardo Anastasian says “The West gave Constantinople as a gift to the Ottoman Empire.” The Series, forgets the West’s lack of support, concentrates on astrology, and shows a positive image of the Ottoman conquerors.

            Only scholas know the flag of Constantinople was adopted by the Ottomans with the 1453 City Conquest. “When the Ottoman Empire conquered Constantinople in 1453 they adopted the flag of Byzantium because of the dream that Osman I had, which he believed to be a good omen and therefore a good symbol for his new empire.”4This fact distressed students reading it in Greek at a  university class I taught in New York City. I never had anyone read this Greek passage again.

            “Many may ask What enabled Byzantium to last for so long? Long answer: Because it had a healthy foundation on economy, societal order, religion, army, and administration. The Byzantine Empire got all the vices of the Roman Empire corrected – and the Byzantine Empire was everything what the Roman Empire should have been.”6

With the Covid-19 Pandemic, this Hagia Sophia tour from the Greek viewpoint is a sacred memory. The late Taki Kapogiannis said,  “I am watching over you and making sure you enjoy your trip.” Special appreciation to Kostoula and Maria Kapogiannis who worked behind the scenes in Tripoli and Sofi Goc of Aziz Moderno Travel and assistant George.

References:

  1. https://nomadicniko.com/2013/09/18/byzantine-mosaics/
  2. nomadicniko.com
  3.  https://eu.greekreporter.com/2012/12/26/greek-treasures-in-berlins-pergamon-museum/
  4.  https://istanbulclues.com/hagia-sophia-mosaics/
  5. https://theculturetrip.com/europe/turkey/articles/9-cool-facts-about-turkeys-national-flag/
  6. 6. https://www.quora.com/Why-did-the-Byzantine-Empire-last-for-so-long

Links:

https://greekamericanexperience.wordpress.com/2019/10/31/lecture-on-the-world-of-byzantine-princess-anna-comnena-with-armenian-roots/

Tourism in Venice in June 2020 During Covid – 19 Pandemic

Venice, empty of traffic with clear sea waters. Photography by Professor Father Nicola Madaro.

“There is something so different in, Venice from any other place in, the world, that you leave at, once all accustomed habits and, everyday sights to enter an, enchanted garden.” Mary Shelley1

Venice, empty ferry by S. Zaccaria stop

Venice is one of the top attractions of Italy. Always busy, bringing prosperity to Northern Italy and Rome with tourism. We have the honor of having correspondence with Professor Father Nicola Madaro. He is the Greek Orthodox priest  of  San Giorgio dei Greci (“Saint George of the Greeks”) Church, in Venice Italy in a previous trip  with Professor Father Nicola Madaro. The Church was the center of the Scuola dei Greci, the Confraternity of the Greeks in Venice. His photos of Venice on June 26, 2020 show the state of tourism in Venice during the Covid-19 Pandemic.

Aristocratic home with Byzantine domes, in empty, crystalline waters of Venice lagoon

References:

  1. https://italiannotes.com/venice-quotes/

Photo 3-

Off the Beaten Trail: In Search of St. Nicholas in Russia

photo1 (936x1280) (201x275)
Velikoretsky St. Nicholas icon, St. Basil’s Cathedral, Moscow

 

 

Santa Claus is not from the North Pole. He is based on Nicholas, the Greek Orthodox Bishop of Myra, Lycia. This Greek/Byzantine city today is called Demre, in the Antalya province of Turkey.

            I had the unique opportunity of visiting Russia in late September through early October 2015, seeing the Byzantine Orthodox civilization of the North.  I visited sites of  Byzantine civilization in Moscow, St. Petersburg and Novgorod, the birthplace of Russian Orthodox Christianity. At Christmas 2015, there is a worldwide travel alert to Russia for a possible risk of travel due to increased terrorist threat (November 23, 2015).1   I managed to get out of Russia in safety.

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The Tretyakov Gallery has a St. Nicholas icon from the 12th-early 13th century.

A whopping 72% of the  Russian adult population identified themselves as Orthodox Christians in 2008.Every Greek family has a member or friend called Nick. Russian iconography that stems back to the 10th century gave me a new perception of this ethnically Greek saint.

My search for St. Nicholas began at St. Basil’s Cathedral (Cathedral of the Intercession of the Most Holy Theotokos on the Moat)  Museum in Red Square, Moscow.  St. Nicholas of Velikoretskoye was in an illuminated case. It is a 16th century tempera on wood icon It shows St. Nicholas with scenes of his life.  In 1555 the icon was brought from Vyatka to Moscow. The name Velikoretsky  means “of the big rivers”.  St. Basils Cathedral is divided into ten inner churches. The southern church was consecrated in honor of  the Velikoretsky  St. Nicholas  icon.

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St. Nicholas of Zaraisk, Tretyakov Gallery

We did not have the time to visit St. Nicholas Naval Cathedral in St. Petersburg. It is associated with the Russian Navy and has two churches. The lower St. Nicholas church is located on the first floor. The main shrine has a 17th century Greek icon of St. Nicholas with a relic.8  The Church of the Saviour on the Spilt Blood has an 1890’s St. Nicholas the Wonder worker icon. Our main focus in St. Petersburg was the Hermitage, Peterhof Gardens and Catherine the Great’s Palace.

The Tretyakov Gallery has a St. Nicholas icon from the 12th-early 13th century, Tempera on Wood. This is the earliest surviving Russian icon. This is the Novgorod icon painting style, when Christianity was beginning. St. Nicholas of Zaraisk with scenes of his life is of the Rostov-Suzdal School of the late 13th-early 14th centuries. The only full length fresco of St. Nicholas with an open gospel, 1108-1113 A. D.  is displayed in the Tretyakov Gallery.

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Only full length fresco of St. Nicholas with open gospel, 1108-1113 A. D., Tretyakov Gallery.

On a visit to the “Decorated Icon Exhibit” at Cathedral of Christ the Savior, Moscow, and jeweled St. Nicholas icon was exhibited at the Fine Arts Center. The Cathedral is the largest Orthodox Church in the world. There is a side chapel of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker with a prominent wall icon. “It is located in the south part of the gallery, for the country where St. Nicholas lived. Christianity came to Russia from the south, so the paintings in St. Nicholas’ side chapel illustrate the history of Christianity from the 3rd to the 9th centuries AD, before Russia’s’ conversion to it. It is here that one can see…..the theme of the Seven ecumenical Councils. St. Nicholas, bishop of Myra, an ardent defender of Orthodox Christian doctrines, took part in the first Ecumenical council. That’s why these subjects are to be found next to those concerned with his pious life and Christian virtues in his chapel.”3         

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A jeweled St. Nicholas icon, Fine Arts Center, Cathedral of Christ the Savior, Moscow.

  The art of the Moscow goldsmiths in the 16th century is displayed in the Armory, Moscow Kremlin Museum. The art of fine enameling with large uncut stones is displayed in icons. “The folding icon of St. Nicholas the Miracle-Worker…is silver, but its cover is gold decorated with gems and pearls.”4

                We did not have the time to visit St. Nicholas Naval Cathedral in St. Petersburg. It is associated with the Russian Navy and has two churches. The lower St. Nicholas church is located on the first floor. The main shrine has a 17th century Greek icon of St. Nicholas with a relic.5  The Church of the Saviour on the Spilt Blood has an 1890’s St. Nicholas the Wonder worker icon. Our main focus in St. Petersburg was the Hermitage, Peterho  Gardens and Catherine the Great’s Palace.

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Side chapel of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker, Cathedral of Christ the Savior, Moscow.

            An eight hour round trip from St. Petersburg took us to Novgorod, near the Swedish border. “The Novgorod State Museum’s collection of early Russian painting is unquestionably one of the finest in the world…Highlights from the earliest period (11th to 13th centuries) include ..St. Nicolas of Myra in Lycia (St. Nicholas of Lipno). These are prototypical images of the 14th and 15th centuries. ‘St. Nicholas of Lipno’ icon painted by Aleksa Petrov in 1294 is the earliest dated Russian icon. The fact that it bears the artists’s signature gives it unique historical significance.” 6  A circular icon of St. Nicholas that is dated 13th-14th century? possibly 16th century is the first icon that came into view when we entered the icon section.The site http://www.novgorod.ru/english/read/information/icons-sorted/ shows St. Nicholas icons from the middle 13th to end of 16th century.

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Folding St. Nicholas icon, 16th century, Armory, Moscow

            Early Russian painting was one of the most significant achievement of this civilization. Byzantium with its capital in Constantinople had a unique splendor of artistic Christian art that impressed the Slavic tribes. The early Russians believed that they “knew not whether we were in heaven or on earth for surely there is no such splendor or beauty anywhere on earth. We know not how to describe to you. The only thing we are certain about if that God makes His dwelling among the people there and their service is better than in any other country. We can not forget the beauty.”7 The Russian icon for centuries has been striving to reflect the ideal beauty of the heavenly world. 8

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Circular icon of St. Nicholas that is dated 13th-14th century, possibly 16th century, Novgorod State Museum.

Nicolas, Bishop of Myra, has always been the most admired saint, according to the book, “The Russian Icon” by the editorial Board of the Russian Orthodox Church. He prays for all Christians, helps people in misfortunes, protects travelers and quickly defends those to whom injustice has been made. His veneration in Early Russia was almost as great as that of Christ and Mary. Numerous churches were dedicated to St. Nicholas. A large quantity of icons were created in his memory. Russian proverbs show a deep faith in his power.9 Our roots are in Greece, a country plundered by conquests. My 2015 Russian trip showed me that our Byzantine inheritance lived on after the fall of Constantinople with, as the next generation of my family says, “with the Greeks of the North”.

References:

  1. http://moscow.usembassy.gov/warden.html
  2. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/02/11/religion-russia-orthodox-christian_n_4766753.html
  3. “Cathedral Of Christ The Savior (Ivan Fiodorov Printing Company: Russia, 2005), pp. 25-9.
  4. S. Goncharenko and V.I. Narozhnaya, “THE ARMORY: A guide” (Red Square Publishers:Moscow, 2012), PP.36-9.
  5. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St._Nicholas_Naval_Cathedral
  6. N, Grinev, “NOVGOROD THE GREAT” (Ivan Fiodorov Art Publishers: St. Petersburg,2004), pp. 48-50.
  7. Editorial Board of the Russian Orthodox Church, “Russian Icon” (P-2 Art Publishers: St. Petersburg,, 2011) p. 1,
  8. “Russian Icon”, pp. 2-3.
  9. “Russian Icon” p. 9.

https://picasaweb.google.com/105743188183721570894/December142015-

Links:

http://www.tretyakovgallery.ru/en/- Tretyakov gallery

http://www.novgorod.ru/english/

Memories of Greece: St. Nektarios Monastery of Aegina

Aegina is the island everyone visits because of Proximity to Athens. For minimal price, I went on a Kapogiannis Day tour of the entire island, on a wonderfully comfortable bus. This travel took place in June, prior to the 2020 Covid-19 Pandemic. A time of carefree tourism, without masks, constant temperature checking, no social distancing in a packed bus. A pleasant memory, dream that we will not experience. The residents of Tripolis, Peloponnese travel Greece on very affordable prices.

Much has been written about the monastery of St. Nektarios, The Holy Trinity.  I was impressed with Bishop Nektarios’ crown. We had empty bottles to fill with Holy Water (Agiasma). Because of the constant tourism traffic, commercialism is everywhere. The church has impressive iconography. The living quarters of Saint Nektarios were austere and simple. A lantern was lit by the saint’s personal icon of Panagia from Mount Athos. Volunteers and nuns offered us refreshments at the conclusion of our visits. Spring flowers were in bloom. We with volunteer and staff overworked.  A vendor outside the monastery sold religious items at a 1 or 2 euros. A real bargain! The vendor shared with us his pleasant experiences in the United States.

St. Nektarios was born in Selymbria (Silivri) in Thrace on the Sea of Marmara. We passed through Thrace, an affluent area of villas and rich farmland on the way to Istanbul on a previous travel. The city was inside the Byzantine Anastasian Wall, a strategic point at the end of the Via Egnatia Roman road to Constantinople. A stone from his home from Selymbria is on display. During the 1922 population exchange of Treaty of Laussane, Greeks no longer live in Eastern Thrace. That too is a memory cherished by families.

St. Nektarios tomb

The saint had ties with the island of Chios in his youth. Anastasios Kephalas who became St. Nektarios, went to Chios in 1866 at 20 years old. He became a language teacher through the assistance of Istanbul Greek banker Andreas Syngros. The monastic movement was alive and vibrant during 18th century Ottoman Turkish Chios. Ten years later in 1876, he became a monk at the age of 30 in the Monastery of Nea Moni, assuming the name Lazarus. He developed strong bonds of spiritual friendship with his mentor Elder Pahoumios.  The monk became a deacon three years later with the name of Nectarios.1

Through the years, I would write to Mother Superior Paraskevi, a former educator, excellent administrator, and religious leader at the Monastery of Sts. Constantine and Helen in Kambos, Chios. The Reverend Mother has helped to create a breathtaking monastery. She mentioned Tseme the moment I saw her several years ago in late May. “Pahoumios, the monk who founded our monastery during the early 1900’s, was constantly being interrogated by Turkish authorities over the imposing walls he was building,” she said. “This was pre-1912, before the liberation of Chios. The Turks in control did not trust Pakoumios, who was an austere, religious monk. They believed he was building an edifice to reclaim Tseme for Greece. Through constant mistreatment and harassment by Turkish authorities, the devoted monk developed cancer and died. He was a mentor of St. Nektarios.”2

At Elder Pahoumios death in 1905, St. Nektarios said “a friend and leader in the monastic movement has passed away.” During the last year of his life, St. Nektarios helped him receive medical treatment at the Evangelismos Hospital in Athens. The nuns of St. Nektarios monastery were asked by the Saint to pray for Elder Pahoumios. The monk gave St. Nektarios the following advice for the nuns: “Tell the nuns not to tire themselves with excessive penances. They tire the souls and prevent spiritual peace. They should do as many penances as the monks, that number 121 repentances.” Autographed books of St. Nektarios to Elder Pahoumios are in the library of  the Holy Fathers Monastery, Chios, founded by Elder Pahoumios. Antonios Harokopos devoted a chapter on Elder Pahoumios molding the character of St. Nektarios in his book “O Gerontas Pahoumios, Founder of Holy Fathers Monastery of Chios, 1839-1905.”3

This was the youth of St. Nektarios in Chios during the Turkish occupation. Has life changed so much in 2020? St. Nektarios describes his life quest by saying : “We have within us deeply rooted weaknesses, passions, and defects. This cannot all be cut out with one sharp motion, but patience, persistence, care, and attention. The path leading to perfection is long.”3

Special appreciation to Mother Superior Paraskevi, religious leader at the Monastery of Sts. Constantine and Helen in Kambos, Chios, Kostoula, our excursion leader and Maria of Kapogiannis Travel, Tripoli, Greece.

References:

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nectarios_of_Aegina
  2. https://greekamericanexperience.wordpress.com/2020/02/27/ninety-years-after-the-first-expulsion-of-greeks-from-tseme/

3        Antonis Harokopos. “O Gerontas Pahoumios, Founder of Holy Fathers Monastery of Chios, 1839-1905, Athens, 1903, pp.119-127.

Links:

https://www.thebyzantinelegacy.com/selymbriahttps://www.johnsanidopoulos.com/2014/11/an-icon-commissioned-by-st-nektarios.html

Greek Chef Follows Her Dream in Preserving Peloponnesian Dishes

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Anastasia Lagga on tour of Dalmatian coast

“I don’t want Greek recipes lost,” explained Mrs. Anastasia Lagga, Professional Chef/Author and TV Host. “I hosted a Greek cuisine TV Show never considering financial payment. I followed my dream.” Mrs. Lagga is known in Greece as the well known chef from Arcadia in the mountains of the Peloponnese.

Anastasia Lagga was born and lives in Tripoli. She is a retired municipal employee and the mother of four children and many grandchildren. Her passion and love are cooking all Greek dishes. She has published two books with the titles “The Housewife’s Recipes”. The first book dealt with confectionery recipes in 2003. In 2004 a second book in this series has Greek main dish, appetizers, and soup cooking recipes. Her recipes have been published in newspapers, magazines and the internet featuring the rich cuisine of the Peloponnese. Her culinary skills have helped in the regional development of Arcadia.

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“My husband, Nick, created my Facebook page,” she explained. “All the Facebook information and photographs are the result of his professional efforts. I gave five to six years of professional cooking and sweets lessons. I had classes of 15 students, creating full course meals.”

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Nick and Anastasia Lagga

She has given interviews on shows of both local radio stations (Municipal Radio of Tripoli 91.5 FM & Radio Station of the Metropolis of Argolida) and other Pan-Hellenic broadcasts (Piraeus Church 91.2 FM 89 of Greece & Radio Station). The chef oversaw the “Cooking – Confectionery Team” of K.A.P.I. Municipality of Tripoli for a period of 4 years.photo6

The Mediterranean diet is a key to a long life. Scientists have been connecting Greece’s cuisine to better health and a long life. Researchers are making discoveries about the Mediterranean diet’s ability to boost good bacteria to its association with lower inflammation and less insulin resistance. The Mediterranean diet was awarded the number one spot in U.S. News & World Reports 2019 healthiest rankings. Fruits, vegetables, fish, legumes, olive oil, wine, whole grains have antioxidants that decreases cardiovascular disease, decreases cancers and degenerative diseases.1

Chef Lagga shared with all on her Facebook page following recipes. “Peppers are plentiful in various varieties,” she said. “I suggest the following recipe for a delicious pepper pie. With health and good mood to enjoy nice recipes! Good luck and good appetite !!!”

 

Pepper Pie

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Materials (for three rolls):

12 crust sheets

5 cups grated feta cheese

1 cup grated cream cheese

3 lightly beaten eggs

1 green pepper cut into small pieces

1 yellow pepper cut into small pieces

1 red pepper cut into small pieces

1 orange pepper cut into small pieces

white pepper, a little nutmeg

Cup of oil

Cup buttermilk

 

Implementation:

 

  1. Beat eggs, pepper, nutmeg, add cheese, peppers, mix and divide into three parts.
  2. Butter the four sheets and at the beginning of the sheets, pour one part of the filling all over the width, wrap it in a roll and put it in a buttered pan.
  3. Continue and make the other two rolls, butter all three rolls, carve them lightly into oblique pieces.
  4. Bake them in a preheated oven at 180o C for about 30΄ – 40΄. – feeling nice in Somewhere in Tripoli.

I would like to share with you the recipe with which I participated in the festival “Gastronomy Days 2015 – Peloponnese Honored Gastronomic Destination 2015” held at the Benaki Museum!

 

Arcadian Yogurt Pie

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Ingredients for the preparation of the recipe:

  1. 250 grams (8.8 ounces)of butter
  2. 500 grams (17.6 ounces) of sugar
  3. 8 eggs
  4. 50 gr.(dash .1 ounce) cognac
  5. 2 teaspoons full of cream
  6. 1 teaspoon full of baking soda
  7. 2 vanillas
  8. lemon zest
  9. 400 gr.(14.1 ounces) yoghurt
  10. 650 grams (22.9 ounces) of hard flour (No1)

 

Ingredients for the syrup:

  1. 500 grams (17.6 ounces) of sugar
  2. 500 grams (17.6 ounces) of water
  3. a slice of lemon

 

  1. Beat the butter well.
  2. Then beat the meringue whites, add the sugar and yolks, beat well, combine with the butter, and continue beating.
  3. Then add the vanilla, lemon zest and yogurt.
  4. When you add the yogurt, do not just beat the mixture, and immediately add the flour.
  5. Finally, add the brandy after dissolving the cream and soda and mix lightly.
  6. Butter the pan, pour the mixture.
  7. Bake in a preheated oven at 180o C (350 F.)for about 45 minutes.
  8. When it comes out of the oven, leave it to cool.
  9. Make the syrup. Boil water, sugar, and lemon zest until lightly set and add to the dessert.

 

References:

  1. Rockwood, Kate. (2019, May) The World’s Healthiest Diet. HEALTH, pp. 62-63.

 

Links:

Facebook: Anastasia Lagga.

http://anastasialagga.blogspot.gr

anast_lagga@yahoo.gr   – email

 

Photos:

Photo 1- “The Housewife’s Recipes” book cover.

Photo 2- Nick and Anastasia Lagga on a tour of the Dalmatian coast summer of 2019.

Photo3 – Pepper pie.

Photo 4 – Arcadian Yogurt Pie

Memories of Greece: Agia Marina, Aegina

Memories of Greece: Agia Marina, AeginaBy Catherine Tsounis Aegina is an easy island to the Athens mainland to go. A sandy beach is what tourists dream of. Before the 2020 pandemic, I went to the Agia Marina beach of Aegina with a middle class Greek tourist Kapogiannis excursion from Tripoli, Arcadia. We traveled through forest with pine trees.

We passed by the temple of Aphaia. A Doric temple located on the pine tree Mesagro hill, has excellent views of the Saronic Gulf and northeastern island.The sandy Agia Marina beach is shallow. Everyone should have water sneakers for Greek beaches. We walked out into sea near the sail boats. Being in the calming sea was relaxing.

Temple of Alphaia

A great view that remains as a vivid memory. The excursions members were friendly and helpful along with leader Kostoula of Kapogiannis Travel. Greece and the Sea is an American remembrance.