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

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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/

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On the Road in Greece: Pavlos Vrellis Greek History Museum

 

The middle class in Greece is being destroyed by open borders, and the European Union’s support of a culture in opposition to the Greek language, civilization and Greek Orthodoxy. In 2017, the way the political scene is going, the only country that is maintaining Byzantine civilization and Orthodoxy will be the 80 million Russians supported by their state.

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The Ioannina-Athens national road

There are middle class Greeks from Greece’s borders who are fighting to keep Hellenism and Western civilization brilliant. The Pavlo Vrellis Wax Museum is a testament of a dedicated Epirotan who loved his country. Pavlo Vrellis, a genius, created wax figures in a traditional Greek setting. His work probably makes his museum the only one in the world created with excellence professionalism by one person:  sculptor Pavlos Vrellis. His soul and DNA touched every aspect of the wax figures and influenced the architecture. A third party did not create the figures from Greek history events. It was all his work.

 

I could visit the Pavlos Vrellis Wax Museum, because of Kapogiannis Travel Agency in Tripolis, Arcadia, managed by Kostula and Maria Kapogiannis and associates. He museum visit was part of a three-day tour of Lefkada and Tripoli. All for 160 euros with two days hotel single room. I was willing to pay 100 euros for a museum visit from Metsovo. Fortunately for my budget, the Pavlos Vrellis Museum was part of the itinerary.

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A WWII soldier writing a letter from the Albanian front

We arrived in a late spring day. Cool, but crowded with tourist buses from Athens. Large passenger Pullmans were everywhere. Long lines of tourists of all ages extended out in the courtyard. Children were amazed seeing Greek history come alive. Its location is south of the city of Ioannina, Epirus in Bizani municipality on the Ioannina-Athens national road. Mr. Vrellis bought about 4 acres. The buildings are replicas of an Epirotan, 18th century fortress style. The museum hall is circular with connecting levels in mountains, caves, houses, churches and alleys. The units are pre-1821 history, Greek War of Independence (1821-1830) and themes from World War II. 1 The amazing fact is that Mr. Vrellis was not rich. He began his life work in 1983 as a 60-year-old pensioner headmaster. He worked as a sculptor, architect, painter, costume designer. He worked alone. Mr. Vrellis wanted the visitor to live the events.2

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Mountainous Operational places in Surgeon’s Quarters

                The wax figures of the Epirotan Benefactors, who created and still have an influence on the Greek state, is shown. They were ordinary men, not exceptionally handsome or tall. You can see persons like them walking through the streets of Epirus. They wanted freedom and a national identity. Their spirit lives on in the 2017 working class and pensioner of Greece. The previous day I had seen the Museum of Ali Pasha in Ioannina. A Vrellis museum exhibit showed a Turkish elite soldier holding the head of Ali Pasha.photo6 (2)

I asked the young generation what were their favorite exhibits. They said: “The oath taken by the three members of the Association of Friends (Filiki Eteria) 1814; “The blowing up in Kouggi, inside ‘Agia Paraskevi church by the priest Samouil (1803); The Klephts and Armatoloi (fighters); Theodore Kolokotronis; A WWII soldier writing a letter from the Albanian front; Mountainous Operational places in Surgeon’s Quarters; Artist’s workshop and Artist.

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The oath taken by the three members of the Association of Friends (Filiki Eteria) 1814;

I asked someone what was the Kouggi blowing up in 1803? Every Greek child is told from young the women and children danced on top of the mountain of Zaloggou and jumped to their deaths, rather than facing enslavement. 2017 ISIS is a continuation of this mindset. There were other heroes: the monk Samouil and the severely wounded were left behind to give the gunpowder to the Turkish troops. Samouil gave it and then lit a candle blowing up everyone. I personally have no respect for the memory of Ali Pasha who was glamorized as a hero the previous day in Ioannina by a tour guide. Good business, but fake facts. This museum is a treasure of accurate historical facts.

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Artist’s workshop

References:

  1. Wikipedia Pavlos Vrellis Greek Museum
  2. “Museum of Greek History, Pavlos P. Vrellis”, http://www.vrellis.gr

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2017 Transfiguration Church Mattituck, NY: Change and Innovation

 

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The Transfiguration icon by Theophanes the Greek being created for St. Nicholas Church in the World Trade Center .

Progress never happens by chance. People bravely come together to push for innovation to inspire change. “Assigned to our parish is Father Ignatios Achlioptas,” said Mrs. Irene Markotsis, President of the Parish Council of the Transfiguration of Christ Greek Orthodox Church of Mattituck, New York in a letter to the community. “Father is a graduate of Hellenic College and Holy Cross School of theology. He was ordained in 1995. He will begin his service to our community as of August 1st. We welcome him and look forward to working with him for the good of our parish.”

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The late Rev. Dionisios Marketos.

On August 5th and 6th, the Transfiguration of Christ Church on Breakwater Road in Mattituck, Long Island, in the heartland of agricultural New York, had a unique Vespers and Feast Day service. The Vespers on August 5th evening, drew tight-knit Greek-American families from Astoria, Flushing through Orient Point, Long Island. Over two hundred persons attended. Archimandrite Ignatios Achlioptas was joined by priests of Long Island parishes to perform the Vespers services. They included: Archimandrite Gerasimos Makris, the former Dean of Students of the Greek Orthodox Theological School in Boston, Massachusetts and presbyter of Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Church, Brooklyn, NY; Rev. John Lardas, Archangel Michael  Church, Port Washington; Rev. Sarantis Loulakis, St. Markella Church, Wantaugh; Rev. Constanine Lazarakis, Kimisis tis Theotokou Church, Southampton and Rev. Jerasimos Ballas, Sts. Anargyroi, Taxiarchis & Gerasimos Church, Greenport.

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Vespers on August 5th evening.

The August 6th Feast Day service was performed by His Eminence, Archbishop Demetrios of America and to a packed church with standing room. Over two hundred persons attended the luncheon that followed. Archon Dikaiophylax Mr. Stephen Cherpelis and Archon Mr. Renos Georgiou and Mrs. Maryann Georgiou attended. The first groundbreaking of the church took place in the fall of 1969 with Very Rev. John Poulos of St. Demetrios Church in Astoria and members of his community who had summer homes in Mattituck.

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Parish Council President Irene Markotsis and family with Archimandrite Ignatios Achlioptas (third from left), parish priest.

A vibrant Greek-American community has grown around the church. His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios of America has said in past visits to the community’s Feast Day on August 6th “that few churches have the iconography of the Transfiguration Church of Mattituck, N.Y.” The altar was hand carved by Konstantinos Pilarinos and donated by the Late Peter Phillips. The platytera (ceiling icons) in the altar sanctuary was drawn by the late Rev. Spilios of Brooklyn. Theodore Fillipakis created the iconography in the Cretan style. The iconography reflects the Byzantine civilization and way of life that is being perpetuated in churches across the United States.

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Archon Dikaiophylax Mr. Stephen Cherpelis (3rd from left), Archon Mr. Renos Georgiou(2nd from left) and Mrs. Maryann Georgiou at August 6th Feast Day service.

A Greek Dinner-Dance evening under the stars was held, Saturday evening, July 24th. Over 200 persons attended to hear “Power Station” band. The successful social replaced the annual festival.

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Mrs. Peter Phillips, Benefactor

Rev. Oikonomos Dionisios Marketos, who served at the Transfiguration Church from 2003-2007, passed away on November 20, 2016. He is survived by Presvitera Anastasia, children Anna, Stefanos and Chrisoula and family. Father Dionisios was an immigrant from the town of Montesatata, Cephalonia. He was influenced by the late Rev. John Poulos and late Rev. Michael Karloutsos. He worked closely with Rev. Alexander Karloutsos of Kimisis Tis Theotokou Greek Orthodox Church of the Hamptons when he was presbyter of the Transfiguration of Christ Church of Mattituck, New York. His accomplishments were amazing.

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parish

Rev. Constantine Makrinos of the Transfiguration of Christ Greek Orthodox Church of Mattituck, NY. was reassigned on August 1, 2017 to St. George Church in New Britain, Connecticut. “We all join in wishing Father Constantine success in his new parish,” said Parish Council President Mrs. Irene Markotsis in a community letter.

A priest of over 30 years, Rev. Makrinos’ spiritual journey has led him from Detroit, Mich., to Newark, N.J., to Ocean City, Md. Rev. Constantine Makrinos was bestowed the honor of Protopresbyter (Very Reverend) by His Eminence on August 6th, 2010. This is the highest rank for a married priest in the Greek Orthodox Church. The honor is bestowed upon a Greek Orthodox clergyman after twenty-five years of service. Very Rev. Makrinos is from Kardamyla, Chios. “It was a great honor to receive this title from His Eminence’s hands,” he said. “I prayed to receive this honor from his hands He is the son of a Greek immigrant who worked as a coal miner in the hills of West Virginia. Rev. Makrinos completed eight years of service to the Transfiguration Church on July 15, 2017.

Greek Americans who were part of the church have achieved success. Penny Lichas Bedell is the newest customer service representative of Burt’s Reliable in Southold. Carmen Markakis St. George is a judge in the NYS Court of Claims. Bill Stamatis writes a column on “Fishing on the North Fork” in the magazine GO NORTH FORK: The Guide. Maria Kontoveros Gennaro is part of Production at the Suffolk Times. My former St. John’s University Dean, Salvatore Spizziri, informed me on facebook his “nameday is on August 6th.” Salvatore is a Latin name for savior. Under his administration he was the savior of the Greek language and culture. A 4 foot tall Byzantine icon hung in his office. Meeting Dean Spizziri and seeing this icon convinced my daughter and myself that this university was for our family, at that time period in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s.

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The August 6th Feast Day service was performed by His Eminence, Archbishop Demetrios of America (center) and Archimandrite Ignatios Achlioptas (right).

Recently, on the internet, I saw a replica of the Transfiguration icon by Theophanes the Greek being created for St. Nicholas Church in the World Trade Center. A masterpiece of Russian art, Theophanes the Great icon in the Tretyakov Gallery of Moscow is copied in the iconography of 2017. The Feast Day is a highlight of the summer on the East End of Long Island.

Albums: https://goo.gl/photos/FtHHdkLVSsSsZv4m7- August 5, 2017 Vespers.

https://goo.gl/photos/LQWyvKHYXko1CRxN6 – August 6th Feast Day services

 

 

 

 

On the Road in Greece: The Remarkable History of the Alfeios River

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Alfeios river is at the site of ancient Olympia where the Olympic games were held. Photo by Despina Siolas, MD/Ph.D.

A river that flows through Greece and emerges in Syracuse, Sicily, shaped western civilization. I followed the path of the Alfeios river in two trips through the Peloponnese and Sicily. Today, it does not appear vibrant in June. Weather changes since ancient times have reduced its height. Alfeios river is at the site of ancient Olympia where the Olympic games were held. If there was no Alfeios river, there would not have been an Olympia with its games. 2017 Games would not be called the Olympic Games. The ancients believed of a connection between the fountain of Arethousa, Syracuse and the Alfeios river. They explained it in the myth of Arethousa and Alpheus

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The Alfeios River is the longest in the Peloponnese, rising near Dhavia in central Arcadia

During an Arba Sicula (Sicilian Dawn) Society tour, Greek Mythology became alive in the myth of Arethousa and Alpheus. The legend of the Arethousa fountain has its roots in the Peloponnese. It was first told by Ibycus in the 6th century B.C. Later, it was retold by Pindar, Strabo, Virgil and other ancient writers. Arethousa was a nymph of Artemis, the Goddess of the Hunt. She was the daughter of Nereus and Doris. The name translated into English means swift water. One day during the hunt, Arethousa bathed in the river Alpheus. The river God fell instantly in love with her. He assumed human form to pursue her. Arethousa fled under the ocean to the isle of Ortigia (ancient Syracuse). Artemis transformed her into a stream as a means of protection. Alpheus followed and changed himself into a river, uniting with her.

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The Alfeios flows along Olympia

In ancient times, it was believed that the waters of the Alfeios River flowed beneath the sea from Greece and reappeared in the fresh water spring of Arethousa in the harbor of Syracuse. In reality, the Alfeios River is the longest in the Peloponnese, rising near Dhavia in central Arcadia. Leaving the plain of Megalópolis in a rugged gorge, above which it is known as the Elísson, the Alfeios turns abruptly northwest. It flows along Olympia and empties into the Ionian Sea. Olympia, a Unesco site, is located at a point where the Alfeios and Cladeus rivers meet. Wooded hills and farmland are in the surroundings. The ancient highway linking Patras and Kalamata runs along the Alfeios for most of its length east of Olympia.1

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Water spring of Arethousa in the harbor of Syracuse, that ancients believed was connected with the Alfeios river.
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Writer qt Arethousa Spring, Syracuse, Sicily

The head of Arethousa, surrounded by darting dolphins was the symbol of Syracuse. This image was imprinted on its coinage. The myth highlights the religious link between Syracuse and its mother city, Corinth of the Peloponnese. The present-day fountain is surrounded by papyrus and green vegetation. The Peloponnesian immigration from about 750 to 500 B.C. began the first mass exodus from Greece. Syracuse was one of the first prosperous colonies. According to Salvatore Furnari in his landmark book, Myths, Legends and Customs in Greek and Roman Sicily, “a legend or myth often hides a mysterious meaning, not appreciated by those who only read superficially.” Greek mythology shaped their history. The Alfeios river shaped the destinies of two civilizations alive today in Greece and Sicily, Italy.

Reference:

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alpheus_(deity)

Links:

https://www.britannica.com/place/Olympia-ancient-site-Greece

http://www.livescience.com/26654-olympia.html

http://proftsounis.shutterfly.com/action/pictures?a=67b0de21b344e5c6e4ef – photos of Fountain of Arethousa

http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/17258/Alpheus-River#tab=active~checked%2Citems~checked&title=Alpheus%20River%20–%20Britannica%20Online%20Encyclopedia – River of Alpheus

 

Photos:

Photo 1 – Alfeios river is at the site of ancient Olympia where the Olympic games were held. Photo by Despina Siolas, MD/Ph.D.

Photo2 –  The Alfeios River is the longest in the Peloponnese, rising near Dhavia in central Arcadia

Photo3 – The Alfeios flows along Olympia

Photo4- Water spring of Arethousa in the harbor of Syracuse, that ancients believed was connected with the Alfeios river.

The Legacy of Rev. Constantine Makrinos of the Transfiguration Church Mattituck, NY

 

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Photo memories by Tom Galanis, D&G OMEGA.

Summer residents of Queens and Nassau counties enjoyed the services of Rev. Constantine Makrinos of the Transfiguration of Christ Greek Orthodox Church of Mattituck, NY.  His fluency in Greek is exceptional for a Greek-American priest. He was reassigned on August 1, 2017 to t. George Church in New Britain, Connecticut. “We all join in wishing Father Constantine success in his new parish,” said Parish Council President Mrs. Irene Markotsis in a community letter.

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Photo memories by Tom Galanis, D&G OMEGA.

A priest of over 30 years, Rev. Makrinos’ spiritual journey has led him from Detroit, Mich., to Newark, N.J., to Ocean City, Md. Rev. Constantine Makrinos was bestowed the honor of Protopresbyter (Very Reverend) by His Eminence on August 6th, 2010. This is the highest rank for a married priest in the Greek Orthodox Church.

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Photo memories by Tom Galanis, D&G OMEGA.

The honor is bestowed upon a Greek Orthodox clergyman after twenty-five years of service. Very Rev. Makrinos is from Kardamyla, Chios. “It was a great honor to receive this title from His Eminence’s hands,” he “I prayed to receive this honor from his hands. On August 6th, 2014, I completed twenty-nine years of my ministry, performing all church services and sacraments. “We welcome young people,” said Rev. Makrinos. “Since I have been here, I have been trying to bring youth in church and on the parish council board. August 6, 2015 service, by C. Tsounis I try to add English in my service when I see younger people in church. I hold a Masters of Divinity in Theology from Holy Cross Hellenic College in Brookline, Massachusetts. St. Theona, St. Iakovos the Monk and St. Anastasia are our relics. They were given to our church in 1976 when Archbishop Iakovos consecrated the Transfiguration of Christ Church.”1

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Photo memories by Tom Galanis, D&G OMEGA.

He is the son of a Greek immigrant who worked as a coal miner in the hills of West Virginia. Rev. Makrinos completed eight years of service to the Transfiguration Church on July 15, 2017. The Libraries of the Town of Southold presented a series of community conversations in honor of the Town’s 375th Anniversary on Sunday, June 28th, 2015 at the Mattituck-Laurel Library meeting room a Sunday Story Hour on the Transfiguration of Christ Greek Orthodox Church was held with Very Rev. Constantine Makrinos.

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Photo memories by Tom Galanis, D&G OMEGA.

He was interviewed in analytic, sharp questions of who, what, when, where, and why. This Sunday Story Hour took place because of his energetic drive. He inspired all by saying ‘we will do it together.’ For three months, he announced the event at Sunday services. The Sunday Story Hour, inspired nieces and nephews of deceased members to come. He completed thirty years of his ministry in August 4th, 2015. Very Rev. Constantine Makrinos is to be congratulated in making this event happen.2

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August 6, 2015 service, by C. Tsounis

On Saturday, August 20th, 2016, a traditional Greek wedding procession through Mattituck’s neighborhood streets led to the ceremony performed by Rev. Constantine Makrinos at the Transfiguration of Christ Greek Orthodox Church on Breakwater Road. This is the first time such a wedding procession has been celebrated in the rural hamlet of Mattituck, located on the East End of Long Island.3

Photo memories by Tom Galanis, D&G OMEGA.

 

References:

  1. http://www.qgazette.com/news/2014-08-13/Features/Unity_In_Faith_At_Transfiguration_Church_In_Mattit.html, http://usa.greekreporter.com/tag/rev-constantine-makrinos/http://www.qgazette.com/news/2015-07-15/Front_Page/Sunday_Story_Conversation_The_Greek_Americans_of_M.html, https://hellenicnews.com/all-star-greek-festival/
  2. http://www.greeknewsonline.com/a-traditional-greek-wedding-at-the-church-of-the-transfiguration-in-mattituck/

 

 

 

On the Road in Greece: Stemnitsa Afternoon

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Stemnitsa

 

A taxi or car is the easiest way to tour Stemnitsa, a traditional village in Arcadia, Peloponnese. A late spring day with greenery made this a comfortable excursion. Urban Greeks are rediscovering their roots in village life. Tour buses frequent the town. We had lunch at the café Gerousia, with traditional taverna atmosphere. The Greek feta salad, with country bread and a frappe with grilled chicken was fresh, prepared on the spot. My favorite pastime is having a Greek iced coffee frappe with a view of the Manalo mountains of Arcadia.

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fountain

Wandering the streets, we saw an old fashion water fountain and traditional village homes on our way to the Silversmith School. Stemnitsa is part of the municipality of Gortynia in Arcadia. Theodore Colocations, the 1821 Greek Revolution George Washington used the town as a protective shelter. The town is southwest of the Manalo mountains, that is treeless. The local viewpoint is that the Turks cut the trees down in the 1821 Revolution.

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Jewelry.

The Silver & Gold Smithery School staff was pleasant, showing us their exhibits. It was founded in 1976 by Lambis Katsoulis, an accomplished silversmith, awarded for his work by the Academy of Athens. Stemnitsa was a famous metallurgical and silversmith centre since the post-Byzantine period and produced worthy craftsmen up to the recent past.

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jewelry

The School is public and free of fees. It teaches students from all over Greece. It consists of a two-year training course in handmade or productive jewelry. The Silver & Gold Smithery School of Stemnitsa continues the area’s rich tradition but it is also mainly orientated in combining traditional techniques with contemporary design aesthetes-tics. In the past few years, the School is constantly raising its educational standards: by collaborating with exceptional craftsmen and professionals in a seminar basis, by organizing the specialized seminars “Silversmiths’ Spring Gathering” and by participating in numerous exhibitions. During the past years, it has received various distinctions in Greek and International competitions.1

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Gerousia café

Silver filigree silver necklaces, bracelets, precious stones, gold filigree pins and crosses, belt and rings were in exhibits. Shops were closed in the afternoon. I have a pair of costume, gold tone earnings from 2013 that have not tarnished. Unfortunately, only persons who are affluent can afford fine crafted jewelry. More persons prefer the mass-produced items from China. One Taxi cab driver felt the students were wasting their time, or looking for a boyfriend. The economy is changing the Greek outlook on education. On the other hand, learning a trade is better than being unemployed.  The Silver & Gold Smithery School of Stemnitsa is free. Enjoy a relaxing afternoon in Stemnitsa.

 

References:

  1. http://www.ajewelmadeingreece.gr/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=11:sxoli-argyroxrysoxoias-stemnitsas&lang=en

 

Links:

http://www.tripadvisor.com/Tourism-g1168691-Stemnitsa_Arkadia_Region_Peloponnese-Vacations.htmlgerousia taverna

https://photos.app.goo.gl/kZXIx4Ji0Y7zxLyG3 – album

Photos:

Photo1 – Greek feta salad, with country bread

Photo2 – Stemnista

Photo 3 – an old fashion water fountain

Photo 4 – Jewelry.

Photo 5 – Jewelry.

Photo 8 – Gerousia café

Photo 9 – Frappe, Gerousia Cafe

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

111th Police Precinct Community Night Out Enjoyed Community Success

 

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111th Police Precinct Community Night Out Enjoyed Community Success

Clear skies made the early evening of August 1st a success for the 111th precinct of the NYPD. The event was held in Douglaston Shopping Center, located at the corner of Douglaston Parkway and Horace Harding Expressway, New York. The community joined together with NYC political leaders to show appreciation. Beverages, hot dogs, hamburgers and novelties by businesses were given out. Police lines and barricades were set up and held by NYPD forces. The purpose was to secure the area for safe entertainment for the community, providing maximum security.

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Police line.

The 111th Police Precinct encompasses St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, the largest Greek community outside of Athens. St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church in Flushing, New York is expanding. Persons are drawn to the Northeastern Queens Church, because of its location in one of the best residential areas of a major city in the United States. The excellent quality of life can be compared to suburban areas. The 111th Police Precinct has made this possible.

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Mrs. Irene Cheung, community activist , with Assemblyman Edward C. Braunstein.

 

 

On the Road in Greece: A Stay in Metsovo

 

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View of Metsovo from balcony of my room at Asteri Metsovo Hotel.

“We cannot get hotels in Ioannina for our entire group,” said Kostoula Kapogiannis, group leader of the Kapogiannis Tours three-day excursion to Lefkada and Epirus. “We will be spending two nights in Metsovo June 3rd and 4th. Traveling through inland Epirus in late spring is totally different from the islands and the Peloponnese. Greenery, rich farmlands with the Pindos mountains in the background was breathtaking. The abundant forests, misty mountain passes, rivers and gorges unfolded an unforgettable experience.

Metsovo has stone houses with grey slate roofs. My room had a balcony with an incredible view of the Pindos mountains. The city was immaculate, devoid of all graffiti. It looked like Swiss alps skiing center. Epirotes are known for their pites, strudel leave pies with different fillings.

“Epirus means continent in Greek. Ancient Epirus was once a huge country that stretched from modern day Albania (an area the Greeks still call northern Epirus and one in which Greek is still spoken by large communities) bordered by the Ionian Sea to the west, the islands of Lefkada to the south and Corfu to the north…Epirus remained a part of the Ottoman empire until it became part of Greece in 1913. “We are all Epirotes,” explained Billy Litos, who is from Agia Saranta in Northern Epirus, Albania. “We spoke Greek in our homes and Albanian in the work place. Our syllogos (society) is ‘Anagenesis’ in Astoria.” The Society of Epirotes “Anagenesis” and the Ladies’ Auxiliary “Souliotisses,” is located at the Epirotan Cultural Center at 2514 Broadway (between. 29th St. & Crescent St.) in Astoria, New York.photo (6).jpg

We stayed at Asteri Metsovo. I had a balcony, single room overlooking the Pindos mountains. photo (8)Early dawn from the balcony gave me an incredible impression. Ouranea and Aristotelis are the owners. They were working long hours, with humility and a smile.

Metsovo is 3,300 feet above sea level. It is below the 6,069 foot Katara pass, that is the highest in Greece. Villages are fading away. Metsovo is designated a traditional settlement by the Greek National Tourism Organization. It is a prosperous, self-sufficient community with a growing population. The citizens are descendants of nomadic Vlach shepherds. They were Greeks trained by the Romans to guard the Egnatia Highway connecting Constantinople and the Adriatic Sea. Metsovo became an important financial center.  The city joined Greece in 1912. Important Greek families, such as Averoff and Tositsas became benefactors of Greece.1

We ate both evenings at “To Koutouki Tour Nikola”. Koutouki means “little box”. The best steak I had in Greece was here. Immaculate, with table cloths, the service was excellent, free of preservatives. In a rainstorm, they delivered meals to our hotel. Their work ethic and hospitality is legendary.  On our last day, we visited Agia Paraskevi Metropolis and Tositsa’s Museum.

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Guns, Tositsa Museum.

 

The Tositsa family lived in Metsovo in a traditional way. The mansion was built in 1661 and renovated in 1954. No plumbing or bathrooms.  Fine carved woodwork, bright rugs and linens, and hand carved Vlach furniture decorated the interior.photo3 I noticed one item: GUNS. They were everywhere on the walls. Tositsa was a tough, no- nonsense family, with courage to protect their own. photo (4)One can help but admire persons with toughness in an age of political correctness. Cretan icons from the 1650’s were hanging, from the Cretan School.photo5 Guns and icons were part of life.  We were the first group present at 9 a.m. A guide was Thothoros an educator, who gave life to his narration.

Who were the Great benefactors? Epirus for the Greeks represented the “epitome” of a hardy, often inhospitable land that was unsuited for cultivation. Hard labor was needed to yield a livelihood. It was “eýandros”, the land of hardy, good men.2 Epirus produced a significant percentage of immigrants who amassed large fortunes. They gifted their wealth to the Greek nation either to fund the armed struggle against the Ottomans or to provide valuable structure for the creation of a new State. Epirotan Benefactors rebuilt Greece.photo (7)

These Benefactors included the following persons: Evangelos Zappas rebuilt the Panathenean Stadium and the Zappeion mansion; Asikis, who also served as foreign minister and prime minister of Romania, built a women’s college on Panepistimiou, the “Arsenio”; Tositsas built the Athens Polytechnic, scene of the famous uprising and the Eye Hospital; George Stavros founded and directed the National Bank of Greece; the Azoimides brothers built the Athens Numismatic Museum; Evangels Averoff, donated moneys towards the refurbishment of the Panathenaea Stadium, built the Metropolitan Cathedral of Athens, the military academy, a jail, horticultural schools in Larissa, the Athens Odeon and most famously, the warship Georgios Averoff, which saw service during the First World War, created schools, hospitals and churches for the Greek community of Alexandria, Egypt and Baron Sines built the Athens Astronomical Observatory. Their financial funding was astronomical. Most of these institutions are in operation today, because of the interest accumulated from the original cash deposit.3

During much of the eighteenth and first half of the nineteenth centuries, Hellenism served in the Balkans as an ecumenical cultural ideal, very much like the role it played in the eastern Mediterranean of the Hellenistic period and of late antiquity. Although not supported by military might as was the case in Alexander’s time, it attained enormous prestige. Indeed, Greek culture along with Orthodoxy and the Ottoman administration served as the three unifying forces in the Balkans. Hellenism expanded throughout the region because Greeks had dominated the four areas— religion, economy, administration, and intellectual life—that constituted the shared substratum of Balkan life (Tsourkas 1967: 212). Ethnic Greeks occupied positions of enormous prestige and influence in the Ottoman administration and served for decades as governors of Walachia and Moldavia. Greek had become the language of commerce and Hellenism the secular culture of the Balkans (Camariano-Cioran 1974: 15, 311). The economic and political power of the Greeks enabled them to have more contacts with Westerners than their neighbors, which explains in part their earlier attempts at modernization.4

“The ravages of World War II and the civil war, along with poor communications, non-sustainability of traditional livelihoods, and punitive government neglect, spurred massive emigration to North America, Germany and Australia. By the 1970’s, many Epirot villages were in an advanced state of physical and social decline. Numerous houses were left to decay while others sheltered a dwindled population of the economically in active elderly.”5photo (9)

“But matters have slowly changed. The government has acted to integrate the region into the national economy, with frequent flights to Ioannina and good roads, the Via Egnatia expressway and its tunnels through the Pindos. Emigration has slowed down. Village life with traditional architecture and methods now viewed less as stumbling blocks to economic prosperity and more as cultural heritage to be preserved.6

This trip was a success because of Mrs. Kostula Kapogiannis. Her narration of Epirus was historically accurate. She tried to help me negotiate a reasonable price for an evening delivery of dinner at Asteri Metsovo. When I needed assistance with my suitcase, she said “don’t worry! I will take care of it. Don’t spend money.” She personally took the suitcase from my room herself. Enjoy Greece with local residents who are gracious and hospitable.

 

 

References:

  1. Fodor’ Travel, “Greece” (Random House: New York, 2015). pp. 347-349.
  2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epirus).
  3. (http://diatribe-column.blogspot.com/2009/01/benefactors.html
  4. https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Greeks
  5. Insight Guides, “Greece” (APA publications, February 2017). p. 195.
  6. Insight Guides, p. 195.

 

 

Links:

https://www.facebook.com/Kapogiannistravel  – Kapogiannis Tours

http://www.asterimetsovo.com/ – Asteri Metsovo hotel

 

Photos:

 

Photo 2 – Guns, Tositsa Museum.

Photo 5- Living room, Tositsa Museum

Photo 6 – Asteri Metsovo Hotel.

Photo 7 – Epirus

Photo 8 – Epirotan pita.

Photo 9 – Rich farm fields of Epirus.

On the Road in Greece: Patriotism in Tripoli’s Procession

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Military in church state parade, May 22, 2017, Tripoli, Greece

The United States of America is a secular government. The Founding Fathers incorporated a distinct separation of church and state in the constitution. They came to America to escape the religious wars of Europe and a better way of life. On May 22nd, we witnessed a Church/State procession in the provincial city of Tripolis, Greece.  The memory of the saints “Neomartyri Dimitrios and Paul” is remembered in an elaborate procession of education, military and non-profit organizations with bands. Politicians were prominently seen greeting all. Dr. Alexios Vardouniotis family explained the parade. Their friend, Kosta Vlassis of the Nea Democratia party, greeted us while he was marching.

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Community marching

The parade began from the central Areos Square, where the courthouse stands, through the streets of the city to the Church of the “Neomartyr Paul”. On May 21st, the church was consecrated.

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Icon of New Martyrs Dimitrios and Paul of Tripoli, Greece

We saw platoons of soldiers with arms next to the clergy marching with relics.  I witnessed a similar military presence at the Moscow’s Kremlin churches. The concept of the military and church united to protect the state is amazing.

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Community marching

Who were the Greek new martyrs under Ottoman rule? The Tripoli “Neomartyri Dimitrios and Paul” were a class of idealistic men who sacrificed their lives for their faith during this turbulent era, primarily during the 18th and 19th centuries.

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Greek flag

The Russo-Turkish wars between 1760-1796 and Greek revolt for independence provided additional grounds and pretensions for persecution of Greek Christians, during the decline of the Ottoman Empire. Most of the new-martyrs came from the lower classes and the provinces. Their blood inspired and continues to inspire Tripoli today.1

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Compulsory draft of all men exists in Greece

2017 Greece is threatened by the expansionist countries of the north and east. Germany and EU western countries are not the primary contributors to NATO. Believe it or not, Greece is the primary contributor of 2.38% after the United states at 3.61%, based on the 2016 figures.2 Greece gives to this military alliance, realizing her vulnerability in a two-front war. Compulsory draft of all men exists in Greece. They are given a marine training, taught to live off the land when supply lines vanish.

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Kosta Vlassis of Nea Democratia party.
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Church

The Greek nation, that has a military history of valor and self-sacrifice to the state, from the time of the “300” over 2,000 years ago, is to be commended for their commitment to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).  Patriotism and Nationalism is expressed by a small nation under siege. They are being devastated by the cutting of pensions the citizens contributed for thirty years, interest on ill-advised personal and government loans and an immigration of refugees and persons fleeing failing states. Young and old joined together to be proud of a national identity identified by language, culture and religion.

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Dr. Alexios Vardouniotis family with Dr. John G. Siolas (third from left).

References:

  1. http://www.johnsanidopoulos.com/2010/06/greek-new-martyrs-under-ottoman-rule.html
  2. http://www.businessinsider.com/nato-share-breakdown-country-2017-2

Links:

https://goo.gl/photos/9yZ8kkMh3HAQBsan6 – Album

https://www.drt915.gr/giortazoun-i-poliouchi-tripolis-agii-neomartires-dimitrios-ke-pavlos/ May 22nd festivities

https://hellenicnews.com/agios-vasilios-of-tripoli-cathedral-of-the-greek-revolution-pioneers-by-catherine-tsounis/

http://full-of-grace-and-truth.blogspot.com/2010/04/st-demetrios-new-martyr-of-peloponnesus.html