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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A View of February 2018 Moscow

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“I want to see the Byzantine civilization of the Moscow Kremlin,” I said to our scholarly tour guide. Our tour of the Dormition (Assumption) and Annunciation Cathedrals in Moscow’s Kremlin (Fortress) began. I was going back in time when Old Russia had strong ties with Byzantium, a multi-national, Greek civilization Empire that lasted over a 20180123_15245920180123_163254 (1).jpgthousand years.20180123_163528

All photos were sent from Moscow by my friend, guide/scholar Irina Chetina.

Links:

https://photos.app.goo.gl/FPFO3IMekssqb1y22- photos

 

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A Legend in Greek American Education: Principal Athena Tsokou Kromidas

 

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Principal Athena Tsokou Kromidas at the Fortieth Anniversary Luncheon of the Greek Teachers Association “Prometheus”.

A professional woman visited us at the Greek Teachers Association “Prometheus” in the mid 1980’s. Her smile and kindness impressed us. Athena Kromidas, principal, educator, professor worked at William Spyropoulos School and created a legend. She helped generations of students. Principal Kromidas is retiring on February 1, 2018. She will be missed by all.

I have been writing about Principal Kromidas’ career in writings and photographs. I will cover some of the major events that I attended in this article. since 1985. Over six hundred persons attended a William Spyropoulos School PTA Testimonial in her honor at Terrace on the Park catering establishment in Flushing Meadow Park. The students of William Spyropoulos School created a unique handmade tapestry.

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Principal Kromidas at the Fortieth Anniversary Luncheon of the Greek Teachers Association “Prometheus”.

This evening we gather to honor the one individual who is able to bring the best out of all of us at St. Nicholas William Spyropoulos School,” said Rev. Paul Palesty. “She is not only a professional administrator, but a second mother to our children.” Mrs. Kromidas is a dedicated, caring educator that stands out in one’s memory. She is always present to help a child or parent. When a parent has a problem, he/she knows that Mrs. Kromidas will go out of her way to try and help. This unique person is known for working hard and aiding community causes anonymously.

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William Spyropoulos Garaduation May 5, 2005.

Her education background includes: Bachelor of Arts degree in Classical Philosophy with honors from the University of Athens; Master of Art’s in Bilingual Education with a scholarship from St. John’s University; and a Professional Diploma in School Administration and supervision from C.W. Post University. The educator has served as an adjunct instructor at St. John’s University in Greek Language and Literature Program. She has aided the Greek Consulate in their education program. Unselfish, dedicated educators such as Mrs. Kromidas are the backbone of the parochial system of New York. She has cemented close ties with the members of the northeastern Queens community in public education and politics.
The dynamic educator played an active role in helping St. Nicholas Church forge a close relationship with the 111th police precinct. Her work helped to make the neighborhood safer and contributed to the appointment of a crossing guard at 196th Street and Northern Blvd. in Flushing. She played a key role in the reestablishment of a Modern Greek program at Benjamin Cardozo High School.

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She helped organize the 100-year centennial of Chios freedom, on November 11, 1912.

A prolific writer and poetess, her works have been published internationally in newspapers and periodicals. Mrs. Kromidas has participated in radio, television, panel discussions, Greek Orthodox Archdiocesan Board of Education, Greek Teachers Association “Prometheus”, Greek Regents Committee and international lectures. In January ‘1993, she was selected as ‘Educator of the year” by the National Herald newspaper. Congressman Gary Ackerman in 1996 inscribed the Greek-American educator’s accomplishments in the “Congressional Records”, which represents the History of the United States of America.
The same year, she received a citation from the State Assembly of New York by Assemblyman Mark Weprin. On November 21, 1998, Athena Tsokou Kromidas was honored as “Educator of the Year” by the Panchiaki “Korais” Society. His Eminence, Archbishop Iakovos, of the Greek Orthodox Church of North and South America, honored her with the “Medal of the Three Hierarchs”. His Eminence, Archbishop Iakovos, said in a letter that Mrs. Tsokou-Kromidas has had “an exemplary service to her church. You have honored it with your loyalty, integrity, piety and true dedication. And now as you complete your years of personal and family devotion to the Church and Her institutions as a member of the Archdiocesan Council of Education, I would like you to know that I will continue to depend on your assistance whenever and wherever needed.”
In May 1996, the “Chios Mesta Association of America”, that represents the village of her birth, honored her for her unique contribution to the Chios, Greece and the Greek-American community. “Panchiakos Syllogos Korais” honored her for excellence in Education in 1998. Political leaders presented her with citations for her unique role as a political activist at the January 2001 Greek Afternoon School Testimonial in her honor.1

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Mrs. Tsokou Kromidas at November 2006 William Spyropoulos Fashion show with Mrs. Maureen Papalas (left to right) and educator Mrs. Grace Fragias.

Mrs. Kromidas comes from a northeastern Aegean island that gained its freedom in 1912. She helped organize the 100-year centennial of Chios freedom. “It was one hundred years ago, on November 11, 1912, that the island committed to seek its liberation from the Ottoman Empire and be united with Greece,” said Athena Kromidas, Educator/Scholar/Principal of William Spyropoulos School of St. Nicholas Church in Flushing, New York. “A series of events titled ‘The Centennial Celebration’, taking place throughout the year of 2012 have been organized to honor the centennial anniversaries of the liberation of Chios and the founding of the Panchiaki Korais Society….We have a very ambitious program for the say with speakers of the highest esteem who will be presenting topics on political and financial developments in Greece, intellectual developments as well as the flourishing of maritime in Chios, key scientific milestones and Hellenic presence in America. Our goal today is to have you leave this symposium with a wealth of knowledge and a deeper appreciation of our Greek Heritage.” And that they did. Abundant refreshments exhibited the Chian traditional hospitality that comes from their Ionian descent of ancient times.2

Mrs. Kromidas has aided me in my education, as well as journalism career. In 2000, Nicholas, Annette and Nicole Fridas, the late Constantine Parthenis and Principal Kromidas inspired Panchiaki Korais to establish Modern Greek scholarships at the University I taught. They encouraged the youth on the university level, while I taught until 2010.

Mrs. Athena Tsokou Kromidas has been honored numerous times in her career. Mrs. Kromidas was honored for her lifelong dedication to the preservation of the Greek language and customs at the Fortieth Anniversary Luncheon of the Greek Teachers Association “Prometheus” that was held at Terrace on the Park, in Flushing. She was honored as President from 1986- 1988 by Prometheus President Prof. Demosthenes Triantafillou.

She is a legend – loyal and steadfast. Recognizing her education work were His Eminence, Archbishop Demetrios of America, Mr. Stephen Cherpelis, Archon Dikaiophylax of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, Dr. Theodosis Pelegrinis, Deputy Minister of Education, Research and Religious Affairs of Greece with staff member George Krikis, Mr. Vasilis Philippou Consul-General of the Republic of Cyprus, Dr. Thalia Chatziagiannoglou, Head of the Office for Educational Affairs of the New York Consulate General of Greece and prominent persons from the education and business communities. She received honors from Michael Giannaris, NY State Senator of District 12, Greek Teachers Association “Prometheus” and the Department of Education of Greece.

. “I would not be here today if it were not for the opportunity I was given to offer my services in educating our Greek community,” Principal Kromidas said upon receiving her award. “I owe this award to my family, to my colleagues and to the parents and students of St. Nicholas School and the entire Greek community in Flushing. It is an honor to serve the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Parish, a community which I love and respect—for more than 32 years.” The Chian Federation presented its 34th Annual Homeric Award in 2013 to Principal Athena Tsokou-Kromidas. She has a weekly radio program on Cosmos FM.

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Principal Tsokou Kromidas with educators at the Fortieth Anniversary Luncheon of the Greek Teachers Association “Prometheus”.

Our daughter, Despina, stayed at William Spyropoulos School in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s because she liked being with Principal Chris Arlis, Principal Athena Tsokou Kromidas and staff. They knew how to bring out the best in our child. Dr. Despina Siolas owes her success has an MD./Ph.D. to her formative years under the leadership of Principals Arlis and Kromidas. She has been 100 percent loyal to me when it counted. Mrs. Athena Tsokou Kromidas will not fade away on retirement. This brilliant, artistic person will begin a new, creative path in her life. “I am indebted to my father for living, but to my teacher for living well,” Alexander the Great.

 

References:

  1. http://www.greeknewsonline.com/athena-kromidas-honored-by-parents-and-youth-of-william-spyropoulos-school/
  2. http://www.qgazette.com/news/2012-10-17/Front_Page/A_Unique_Centennial_Symposium_of_Panchiaki_Korais_.html
  3. http://www.hellenictimes.org/14022/180296/a/unique-education-mentor-honored and

https://hellenicnews.com/sold-crowd-attend-greek-teachers-association-prometheus-40th-anniversary-luncheon/  http://usa.greekreporter.com/2016/03/12/unique-greek-american-education-mentor-honored/

  1. https://hellenicnews.com/sold-crowd-attend-greek-teachers-association-prometheus-40th-anniversary-luncheon/

 

 

How Does the Average Greek-American View the Renaming of FYROM as Macedonia in 2018?

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Alexander the Great statue, Thessaloniki harbor, Greece.

 

The February 4, 2018 Athens rally opposing the SYRIZA government’s policy of allowing FYROM (the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia) call itself Macedonia is causing a rewriting of history in Greece. Mr. Dimitris Fillipidis on February 13th Hellas FM broadcast reported Thessaloniki Mayor Yiannis Boutaris wants to rename the city’s airport, currently named Macedonia Airport. Official news outlets claim 140,000 persons attended the Athens rally. Journalist Fillipidis, who was there, said it was one and a half million persons. The Mytilenian Society of America in Astoria awarded Mr. Fillipidis and Vikentios Malamatenios awards for courage and heroism in mobilizing Greek and Greek-American opposition to the renaming of FYROM to Macedonia by the current SYRIZA Greek government’s consent on Sunday, February 11th.

“I do not spare anyone chestnuts,” Filippidis quoting a Greek saying in his broadcast on February 12th. “The only weapon is the protest of the people against the established government. The Greek government is promoting disunity, looking out for their interests and not the interests of the people. FYROM can not get a national identity by claiming other nation’s heritage, namely the GREEKS. I lived an unbelievable existence during the Athens rally…The government must respect the Greek first. I am for a Greek patriotism. Greece first and let anyone call me a fascist. Two million went out in the streets February 4th peacefully. The people will not allow the selling of our national spirit. Turkish military boats are cruising illegally in the Greek Aegea. The Greek government says nothing. They want the rest of Cyprus, the Aegean islands, Epirus and Macedonia. One day we will awaken and see that they have taken Kavala and Thessaloniki. Greece is being threatened and the Greek government is not protecting national security.” Mr. Fillipidis sounds like the 2016 United States elections with the slogan “America First”. His bravery is commendable. Malamatenios, Fillipidis and Hellas FM have stated they “will not be bought by money. We follow the road of patriotism and love for our country.” REMARKABLE. March18, 2018 a rally is scheduled at 2 p.m. in front of the United Nations to protest the naming of FYROM to Macedonia.

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Pavlos Melas, Macedonian Struggle martyr, Vrellis Museum, Epirus, Greece.

A Greek American cleric explained “Alexander the Great was Greek because: he spoke Greek; his teachers were the greatest thinkers of the Greek world, namely Aristotle; he worshipped the Greek Gods and read the Odyssey; he participated in the Olympic games that was only open to Greeks and Macedonia spoke only Greek, not the Slavic language.”

“This is my story,” said Zoe Garbounis Katsoulakis. “This is the voice of a Macedonian-Salonikia woman from New York.  With the re-emerged issue on the name of our neighboring state of Scopia, we need to remember the bloody history in the area in World War II, and the horrible stories, both showing the significant importance of the subject, I assume for all Greeks, but certainly for Macedonians in the entire north Greece and their survival. My family, on my father’s side, were residing in the old Greek city Stenimachos, part of Bulgaria around 1912-13.

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Turkish Police searching school for Greek freedom fighter During the Macedonian Struggle (1900’s), Museum of the Macedonian Struggle, Thessaloniki, Greece.

My grandparents, along with other Stenimachos citizens, pursued their exodos to settle in Drama Greece, a city near the Bulgarian boarder, when   Bulgaria gave to Greek nationals the Ultimatum of either denouncing their Greek nationality or move out. The refugees created a community in the City of Drama which they named after their birth city of Stenimachos.

On September 27,1941, Bulgarians claimed “Greek Revolt” in Drama, as an excuse to pursue their expansionist plan. On September 28,1941, Bulgarian troops, accompanied by local Bulgarophone inhabitants attacked Drama and the town of Doxato killing thousands of civilians.

The brutal event is known as “Doxato Massacre”, where Bulgarians ordered the people to concentrate in the Square and executed them en masse in front of horrified women and children. In the Drama alone more than Three Thousand civilians were killed during the first few days of the massacre, ” with rivers of blood running in the city streets”. The Bulgarian atrocities spread to Serres, Sidirocastron, Zihni, and Tzoumayia.

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A Macedonian Struggle freedom fighter hiding in classroom, Museum of the Macedonian Struggle, Thessaloniki, Greece.

According to Amperiadis (1998), the killings in this massacre were reported to 23,000-48,000. The losses reported by the World Criminals Service were underestimated. Foreign embassies estimated 30,000 Dead, 50,000 exiles in Bulgaria and 100,000 were sent to forced labor camps. The exiled Greek government in Egypt estimated 50,000 were victims during entire Bulgarian occupation.

My grandfather’s brother was among the thousands of victims of this massacre. He was brutally attacked and killed at his home in Stenimachos Drama. Bulgarian solders had a list of all Drama residents who proudly left from Bulgaria and executed them in cold blood.

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A Macedonian Struggle freedom fighter hiding in classroom, Museum of the Macedonian Struggle, Thessaloniki, Greece.

Stories like mine are the flag of today’s protestors who gather to raise their voice to be heard, frightened of a past which could be mirrored sometime in the future. It’s well known that history repeats itself.

The word “Macedonia “is very dangerous, it resurfaces people’s nationalistic dreams and as such should not be part of any name proposed as acceptable for Scopa.

Identity seekers, do not forfeit their dreams but continuously try to build on them.

A strong message needs to be voiced from all Hellenism Around the World to all Politicians of Greece: “DO NOT PLAY DANGEROUS GAMES.WE WILL ALWAYS REMEMBER THE BLOODY STREETS OF DOXATO AND DRAMA” There is a definite split between the established government policy and the will of the Greek people. Journalist Fillipidis said “the people have awaken.”

Following Byzantine Footsteps: San Marco Basilica and Byzantium

 

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“History is written by the victors.” –  Winston Churchill
“This is a Catholic Church. But it is unlike any Catholic church you will see again. In reality. It is a Greek Orthodox Church. The iconostasis (altar) is Greek Orthodox. San Marco Basilica is a Greek Orthodox Church. The Venetians knew the Eastern World. The Basilica is modeled after a Greek Orthodox Church of Constantinople (Istanbul),” explained our guide Mose Viero on a life changing visit, October 15, 2017. We were speechless. Our astonished faces showed by Mose’s lack of political correctness. HE SAID THE TRUTH. When a tourist goes to Venice, take a tour with Mose. Your outlook on Byzantine civilization will never be the same again.

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View from San Marco’s Basilica.

“San Marco Basilica was begun in 828 to house the remains of St. Mark brought from Alexandria, Mose explained. St. Mark replaced St. Theodore as the patron saint of Venice. The winged lion became the official symbol of the Venetian Republic. San Marco Basilica, built beside the Doge’s (Duke’s)Palace was his chapel. The plan is a Greek cross, and the building is surmounted by five domes. The design is distinctly Byzantine, and it is likely that both Byzantine and Italian architects and craftsmen were employed in the construction and decoration. Over the centuries, additions of sculpture, mosaics, and ceremonial objects have increased the church’s richness.1 I was intrigued with the fact that the Basilica was a reproduction of a Constantinople Church. When I returned to New York, I researched this fact.

“The Holy Apostles was one of the earliest foundations of Constantinople. According to Eusebius of Caesarea, the first structure—a mausoleum destined to house Constantine’s own mortal remains—was completed by the time of the emperor’s death in 337. As the same source records, it was originally conceived as twelve cenotaphs or markers raised in memory of the Apostles surrounding the emperor’s sarcophagus, an arrangement reminiscent not only of the Tomb of Christ set within the Anastasis Rotunda in Jerusalem, but also, according to a now lost Coptic source by a certain Chaeremon, possibly a member of the Museum in Alexandria in ca. 80 AD, of the setting of Alexander the Great’s burial.”2

Who would think Alexander the Great’s burial was similar! The Dumbarton Oaks Collection at Harvard is known in the world for its scholarship. San Marco’s Basilica is an inheritor of this remarkable legacy.

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San Marco Basilica

            Interest in the architectural complex continued into the middle Byzantine period (ninth–twelfth centuries), when it found reflections in the literary space of visually evocative rhetorical descriptions (ekphraseis), which describe the forms of the church and elaborate on the symbolic meanings associated with it. It is by way of these texts, notably the tenth-century poem of Constantine the Rhodian and the early thirteenth-century description of Nicholas Mesarites, that the image of the Holy Apostles has resisted oblivion, despite its destruction during the second half of the fifteenth century, when it was replaced by the Fatih Camii, a mosque dedicated to the conqueror of the Byzantine capital, the Ottoman sultan Mehmed II.

Across the centuries, the Holy Apostles remained influential, both as an architectural paradigm and an ideological referent. Morphologically related to it is the ninth-century church of St. Andrew at Peristera (near Thessalonike) and the tenth- or eleventh-century Ala Kilise in Cappadocia. Both reflect the Constantinopolitan prototype in their cruciform plan topped by five domes.

l of Cefalù, envisaged by Roger II (r. 1130–1154) to serve both as a church for the newly founded Moreover, the splendid forms of the church of the Holy Apostles found echoes in sumptuous architectural copies, such as the basilica of San Marco in Venice, an example of multilayered appropriation and reinterpretation of the Constantinopolitan model both at the level of architectural typology and symbolic meaning. An apostolic shrine, housing the remains of St. Mark, the building also reflected Venice’s growing political and commercial competition with the Byzantine capital. A further but less thoroughly investigated example of appropriation is the twelfth-century cathedraarchbishopric and as a dynastic mausoleum. Here, the church of the Holy Apostles became a powerful symbol in the definition of the ecclesiastical identity of the Norman reign of Sicily…

This selective list of examples demonstrates how the church of the Holy Apostles became a powerful symbol, persisting across space and time, and serving the purposes of different historical and institutional contexts.3

                        In  “View of the mosaic decoration of the Sanctuary, Cathedral of Cefalù, Sicily”,  the decoration of the apse’s decoration reproduces the iconographic layout of the central dome of the Holy Apostles, as reconstructed by three scholars. In the apsidal conch is the bust of the Christ Pantokrator and, below him, his heavenly court, composed of the Virgin, the Archangel, and the Apostles.”I saw Cefalu with Prof. Gaetano Cipolla and Dr. Florence Russo in an “Arba Sicula 2008 tour”. My San Marco Basilica and Cefalu tours showed me replicas of the mausoleum of Byzantine emperors, the Holy Apostles Cathedral of Constantinople, destroyed by the Fourth Crusade in 1204.

When visiting St. Mark’s Basilica, he/she must view it in its historical time period, not our own. “The Byzantines never, ever, ever, ever, ever called themselves Byzantines. They called themselves Romans up to the end in the 15th century. If you go to Istanbul today, the Patriarchate is in a neighborhood called the ‘Romans’, the Rum. It is a made up name by German historians of 19th century who applied this term to differentiate the Christian Roman Empire with the Pagan Roman Empire,” explained Late Roman historian George Demacopoulos.5

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Cefalu

 

“The empire was not known as Byzantine,” said Byzantinologos Professor Rev. Nicolas Madaro. “It was the Roman Empire. There was only one Roman Emperor acknowledged in the West. He was not called the Byzantine Emperor. In 1439, John Palaeologus came to Florence. He was respected as the ‘Emperor of the Romans’. The Doge (Duke) of Venice was part of the Roman Empire. Venice’s support of the Angeli Emperor and his non-payment led to the Fall of Constantinople in 1204 to Venice and the 4th Crusade. When the Turks conquered Constantinople in 1453, there was nothing left. The 1204 Fourth Crusade took all the treasures. The Crusades weakened Constantinople. The City might have still been around if the Crusades did not weaken her. Byzantium, the term was created by the West. The persons considered themselves Romans.”

Look at the truth. The world needed a strong Byzantium. Without Byzantium, the world was worse off. In 2017, I have a different view of this period. We are lucky to be able to see Byzantium’s glory at San Marco’s Basilica. Byzantine, Roman, Muslim, ancient treasures and Christian churches are being destroyed by war, in the former area of the Byzantine Empireia. The modern tourist is able to see a replica of the Holy Apostles Church,  the Imperial Polyándreion (imperial cemetery), by visiting St. Mark’s Cathedral. “Since we cannot change reality, let us change the eyes which see reality,” Nikos Kazantzakis.

 

References:

  1. https://www.britannica.com/topic/San-Marco-Basilica
  2. https://www.doaks.org/resources/online-exhibits/holy-apostles/the-holy-apostles
  3. https://www.doaks.org/resources/online-exhibits/holy-apostles/the-holy-apos              4.  https://www.doaks.org/resources/online-exhibits/holy-apostles/the-holy-apostles/cefalu

5.      http://podbay.fm/show/1061453162/e/1501081620?autostart=1 – Was Byzantine Christianity the Normative Orthodox experience?: Part 1

Links:

https://www.facebook.com/mose.viero- St. Mark’s Cathedral guide

https://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/everydaytheology/was_byzantine_christianity_the_normative_orthodox_experience_part_2 – Was Byzantine Christianity the Normative Orthodox experience?: Part 2

http://mikestravelguide.com/things-to-do-in-venice-visit-the-basilica-and-museum-of-st-mark/basilica-san-marco-interior-from-upper-level-venice-italy/

http://www.moseviero.it/ – guide Mose Viero’s website, email info@moseviero.it, tel. 349 7412372 and facebook

https://photos.app.goo.gl/Cis1wkXBXiOGZCfp1 photos

Remembering the Souls of Our Loved Ones

IMG_1187“In a world where so little is remembered it is of supreme comfort that the Church pauses these many Soul Saturdays and says: “Remember.”1 Father Ignatios Achlioptas of the Transfiguration of Christ Greek Orthodox Church, Mattituck, NY performed a moving All Souls Day memorial service on the First Saturday, February 10th, 2017. Moving photos and news of the church began the pre-lenten season.

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From Ancient Greece, Immortality lay in the continued remembrance of the dead by the living. From depictions on white-ground lekythoi, we know that the women of Classical Athens made regular visits to the grave with offerings that included small cakes and libations. 2

References

  1. https://blogs.ancientfaith.com/glory2godforallthings/2009/10/23/soul-saturday-and-forty-days/
  2. https://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/dbag/hd_dbag.htm

On the Road in Greece: The El Greco Hotel and Vergina Sun, in the Heart of Heraklion, Crete

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The bus #2 stop to Knossos Palace was next to the hotel.

 

How does a traveler avoid taxi and tour group expenses? Pick a hotel the locals stay at in the heart of a city. I followed the example of English tourists, taking buses in Heraklion Crete. I went to a young professional, Maria of Kapogiannis Tours in Tripoli, Greece. She arranged a budget stay for me in Crete at the El Greco Hotel. It is in the heart of Heraklion close to all attractions. I accidentally missed my flight to Crete. Maria and Kostoula arranged a new flight, contacting the hotel that I would be late.

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religious shrine on way to Knossos

The custodial, cafeteria and reception staff gave me great advice on traveling around Heraklion. Everything on their website is accurate.1 Basically, the staff became my family, helping me in all my travelling. The hotel guests were international and local. A pleasant breakfast was served. This cost me only 35 euros. The air conditioning and television channels were great. I watched the “Final Farewell”, a national funeral of former Prime Minister of Greece Constantine Mitstotakis, with a Cretan folk costume procession. The local Cretan staff kept the rooms were very clean. I saved at least 250 to 400 euros on transportation to sites and airport by using public transportation. Situated in the center of the city, it is the best way to visit Heraklion sites. Everything is located around the hotel. I was able to get rice and grilled chicken at restaurant sites. I walked to the Archaeological Museum, Saint Markus ‘basilica, and the Venetian Port with Castle.

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Aristea modeling Grecian dress at Vergina Sun.

My major economical saving was going to the archaeological site of Knossos. The bus #2 stop to Knossos Palace was next to the hotel. I spent only 1.25 euros each way compared to a $56 travel tour. I was not interested in seeing the ocean. I wanted to go sightseeing on my own in safety. Traveling on the Knossos bus showed me.

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Gold and silver jewelry, Vergina Sun, Heraklion, Crete.

At the bus stop in Knossos, I came across a gracious souvenir owner and his staff. The Vergina Sun Souvenir store completed my sightseeing Knossos tour. The warmth, hospitality at Vergina Sun opposite the bus stop was unbelievable. A lovely Cretan lady, Aristea, with charm and personality, showed me various souvenirs. She displayed off the shoulder Grecian dresses, gold and silver jewelry of the Phaistos disk and Minoan designs. I bought a royal blue dress. The owner, John Voulgarakis, “Let’s have a lemon raki that I make in my home.” said John. Its amazing how great you feel after a few Cretan drinks! John said “I am giving you a small bottle of raki as a souvenir.” Unfotunately, it was confiscated at Heraklion airport.

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John Voulgarakis and Aristea ar Vergina Sun.

Aristea walked me to the bus stop. She made sure I was safely aboard. Greece is famous as the cradle of modern civilization and country with numerous historical sites and beautiful nature. But, the very first thing you are greeted with once you cross the Greek border is Greek hospitality. The foundations of the Greek hospitality are as old as the legacies of an ancient Greek civilization, and it is equally good as the “old wine”. Such a commendable trait is common to all Greeks, and the traveler is welcomed with a warm smile and kindness worthy of a good old friend regardless of the town or region in Greece.3

That is an advantage in travelling on local transportation. A tourist gets to pick sites that are not tourist traps. The warmth at Vergina Sun made up for the coldness of the staff at the Knossos Archaeological site. Stop by. You will feel happy, especially after a few alcoholic drinks.

Reference:

  1. https://www.elgrecohotel.gr/en/
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kandilakia
  3. http://kriopigibeach.gr/traditional-greek-hospitality/

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the Road in Italy: Exchange Currency

 

Where can you exchange dollars to euros in Italy? Don’t go to the bank. They will refuse. The Currency Exchange Offices charge exorbitant fees. A family member was persistent in finding an alternative. In Aquileia, a bank refused to exchange dollars. They said, “go to a post office.” Ravenna had a post office close to our Bed and breakfast. We received $.80 per dollar. The travel books on Italy and few internet sites give this information. A tourist must discover this information through trial and error.IMG_8112

In Florence, we entered the main post office at Via Pellicceria 3, located in an impressive palace with gothic arches. A gracious teller converted our dollars with a smile. We went back several times during our 4 days stay. The Post Office is located in the Piazza Della Repubblica. one of the main squares in Florence and marks the center of the city since Roman times. The Colonna Della Dovizia or also known as the Column of Abundance marks the point where the Cardus and decumanus maxima met and where the Roman forum stood. The present column dates to 1431 but the statue on top is a copy and the original is visible at the bank Cassa di Risparmio in via dell’Oriuolo.1photo2

I reverted to using a free fee credit card from Chase Bank. I went to Italy with several credit cards and no debit cards. Why? In Sicily, ten years ago, the ATM card machine did not give a fellow tourist his change of fifty euros. The machine was rigged, we later discovered. The moral of the story: only go to the post office for currency exchange or use credit cards.

References

  1. https://www.visitflorence.com/florence-monuments/piazza-della-repubblica.html

Links:

https://www.yelp.com/biz/poste-italiane-firenze-38 – Main Post Office, Via Pellicceria 350123 Florence, Phone number+39 055 2736481

 

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Piazza Della Repubblica.

Moscow During January 2018

20180122_105551 (1)We went to Russia to discover our Byzantine roots, destroyed in Anatolia and the Middle East. Irina aided us in our quest to discover “the Orthodoxy of the North”. These are photos of Moscow January 2018.

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Russians had a 10-day New Year break, starting December 30 that year and ending the day Bolshoi. Bolshoi.after the Russian Orthodox Christmas Day on January 8 the following year.2 “All previous week we had been celebrating Christmas,” explained Irina. “A wonderful time when all people were united by the big holiday and one could feel that special exciting mood all around Russia. Festive decorations in the streets and parks, open stages for concerts and outdoor shows, and of course, numerous Christmas markets with souvenirs and dishes of different national cuisines. The festival “travelling to Christmas” started in December and finished on January 15. The culmination of the holidays happened on January,7 when the Russian Orthodox church celebrates Christmas.”

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On The Road in Italy: Florence Leather Coats

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Florence is a major leather center. When I bought a leather coat in Izmir, Turkey years ago, the owner said “the leather is from Italy.” In late fall 2017, I planned to shop for leather at the source: Italy. We downloaded names of the top leather  stores in Florence recommended by tripadvisor. Short coats were the popular. A top rated vendor had suede and mink coats that he was promoting.IMG_1540

I wanted an ankle length leather coat that was not black or red. Nothing! I would not settle for less. After I decided my leather shopping was over, I glanced at a store window at Via Borgo La Noce 8R. I saw long flowing leather coats with gold and beige collars at Pelletteria LaNoce establishment operated by Marco Diluccia. I tried on both coats. Marco advised “get the gold collar coat with cuffs. It stays newer. It will not show the dirt.IMG_8501

An exciting afternoon of coat shopping unfolded. “Have a cappuccino and let’s talk,” he said. “I lived in the US for five years. I married my wife, a college graduate and returned home to Florence. We have the template for long coats, that other businessmen do not have. My grandfather had the templates. We are the third generation continuing the business. The business continues from our Mothers.”IMG_8503

Marco has a great public relations personality. This is what makes travelling fun. Talking and mingling with the locals. Not going to the tourist traps of group excursions made this trip “the way to go”.. “We do not recommend cheap coats.. Quality! We have outdoor stalls in the square to attract customers. If they want to see more coats, we invite them to our store.” A businessman entered with his wife. He tried on two coats and bought. The leather coats are high quality in different colors. “I Have a cousin who sells leather bags. We are cousins from our mothers.” Great to hear cousins work together, even if it is on the Mother’s side.

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Florence and its region have held a reputation for quality leather production for hundreds of years. However, prior to the Industrial Revolution, preparing animal hides to make leather was considered particularly unsavory work. In medieval Florence, many of the tanneries, or conciatori, were located along the Arno in order to facilitate washing away the mess and unpleasant smells that characterized the trade.

By the 1300s, some 1,500 shoemakers were already working in the city. About a third of these settled in the Oltrarno district. Cobblers made shoes for local consumption, but also participated in a lively export trade, forming the roots of the Tuscan international leather fashion industry that still thrives today.

In addition to apparel, leather specialists were also an integral part of the book trade. They produced parchment sheets made from cured sheepskins. Leather covers were crafted to protect the books and provide a luxurious and beautiful exterior. Leather workers also pioneered techniques for armor and ceremonial dress, and worked with saddle and tack makers to create horse regalia for festivals and everyday use.

In the early twentieth century, the Florentine leather industry was propelled to new heights. A Florentine named Guccio Gucci, son of a leather artisan, turned his back on the family business as a young man. Working in a series of menial jobs at the Savoy Hotel in London, he carried stylish pieces of luggage for wealthy visitors. Gucci returned home to Florence in 1921 and refocused his family on designing fine leather luggage and accessories for a wealthy international clientele. He soon brought the leather goods of his native city to international fame as one of the most recognized names in the fashion world.1 Enjoy leather shopping in Florence.

References:

  1. http://www.italymagazine.com/featured-story/complete-guide-shopping-leather-florence

 

Links:

https://www.facebook.com/pelletterialanoce/

Photos

Photo1-  Pelletteria LaNoce

Photo 2- Marco with a bright red jacket..

Photo 3 – Writer with her ankle length leather coat, she was looking for from 2003 visit to Turkey.