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Easter celebrations 2012

Church Interior

The hart of every Greek village is the church and Ouranoupolis is no exception. However, the church in the centre of the village is worth a visit for a number or reasons. Although it was built in 1939, new by Greek standards, many of its features were donated by the monasteries of Mount Athos and date from many centuries ago. The gold gilded temple, the candelabra, many of the the icons, the tapestries, the brass baptism fountain and most of the seating are older than the church building itself. The result is an interior projecting the mysticism and reverence of Mount Athos but one that women are able to visit.

The church is dedicated to the saints Constantine and his mother St Helen. They are celebrated on the 21st of May with a service followed by a grand feast which is attended by everybody in the village. The long serving village priest is father Theodosious who has worked tiressly to preserve and improve his church.

At the narthex of the church there is an area where the faithful can light a candle. The cost of the candle is left to everyone's discretion. Some give more, some less but all the money collected are spent on the upkeep of the church.

The murals that adorn every inch of the church are very much resent but follow the Byzantine tradition. Egg tempera, rich porphyry, gold and traditional designs. The representations show stories from the gospel. The birth, life, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Over the altar of the church features the representation of Jesus Christ as Pantocrator surrounded by angels in full flight, a striking composition. The sanctuary is illustrated with the sacrifice of Abraham. The Iconostasis or templon was donated by the monasteries of Mount Athos and it is certainly very old. The same applies to all the full sized icons which adorn the Iconostasis and a number of smaller icons. The gold gilding of the Iconostasis contrasting with the old icons worn with age, crowned with the heads of winged angels and crosses is an imposing sight.

The gold gilded Beautiful Gates guarding the entrance to the sanctuary, the candles in front of every icon, the carvings and the vestments contribute to a spiritual ambience that can only be found in churches on Mount Athos.

Mural of Jesus Christ Pantokrator
Our Church in Ouranoupolis When the villagers arrived as refugees from Asia Minor initially they used the little church at the top of the tower for their services. However, they felt that the village needed a bigger church in the centre of the village. They worked together, gathered materials, borrowed icons and religious artefacts from Mount Athos and a new church with an impressive bell tower was built.

Some of the few belongings the refugees were able to bring with them were their icons. Icons from their homes but also from the churches they had abandoned. Some of them were considered to be miraculous. They took up residence in the new church, reminders of their lost homelands and are available to visitors to pay their respects.

Every morning at 7 am the church bell rings calling the faithful to Orthros. It rings again at 7 in the evening for the evening vespers. There is a service every Sunday between 7 am and 10:30 am and the same during the week when one of the main saints celebrates. The church bell is heard everywhere in the village. When it rings all faithful are most welcome.

The women of the village decorate the Epitaphios with tiny dry and fresh flowers and 70,000 beads of many colours, which are painstakingly pined to cover every surface, forming intricate scrolls and flowery patterns.

Every year they use a different design. The intricate designs reflect the local carpet weaving tradition and also borrow motifs from the treasures of Mount Athos. The final design is decided early in the year, the flowers and the beads are ordered and some of the preparatory work is carried out. Then the fixing of the thousands of flowers takes place the week before Easter.

The Epitaphios is assembled in the nave of the church on Thursday night before Easter. It represents the tomb of Jesus and a tapestry showing his body is laid out in it and decorated with even more flowers. It is a magnificent sight and many visitors come to see and admire the intricate work. The faithful visit the Epitaphios to pay their respects and light a candle. It is only available during the Easter week.

Murals of Ioakim and St George

On the right side o the church, where the men stand there are the full size murals of St Ioakim and St George. Next to St George stands another warrior saint, St. Demetrious. On the opposite wall, where the women usually stand, the figures of four female martyrs impose on the wall, St Akylina, St. Eirini, and St. Foteini and on the other side of the elaborately adorned window stands St. Anne. Dotted around the church one can see many smaller icons, some new but many evidently very old. Two old tapestries worked in gold and silver thread show the body of Jesus Christ taken down from the cross.

Over the central nave one can see an extensive composition depicting the birth, baptism, life, suffering, and finally the resurrection of Jesus Christ (below). The resurrection shows Jesus lifting to the heavens the sinful humans while an angel is pointing to an empty tomb to the approaching Virgin Mary. It is worth noting the detailed and elaborate designs on the vestments and the strong vivid colours.

Murals of the resurrection of Jesus Christ

Mandilion St George and St Demetrios The gold gilded Beautiful Gates The doubting Thomas Old Icon Murals - Life of Jesus Christ Tapestry representing the death of Jesus Christ St Akylina, St. Eirini, and St. Foteini The Narthex

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