Architecture and Interior

Church Architecture and Interior

  1. The Holy Sanctuary
  2. The Archieratical Synthrone
  3. The Iconostasis
  4. The Soleas
  5. The Church and its Hagiography
  6. The Church and its Stainglass
  7. The Balcony
  8. The Narthex
  9. The Holy Vessels of the Church
  10. The Russian and Other Portable Icons of the Church
  11. The Gold-Threaded Needlework of the Church

The Holy Sanctuary

The Holy Sanctuary is the most sacred part of the church because the Divine Liturgy, the sanctification of the Holy Gifts, is performed within it and the Holy Bread is held within the Artoforion throughout the year, for emergencies. The fire of 1988 destroyed most of the Holy Sanctuary, except for the marble altar and the two protheses with the hagiography depicting the Lord’s Crucifixion and Burial, and the Holy Trinity. A new Platytera shown seated on a throne, (the Theotokos with her hands outstretched in prayer) was put in place, with gold leaves in the background, directly under a group of twelve saints on the Sanctuary’s arch, shown from left to right accordingly, Abraham the Forefather, Melchizedek the Righteous, Gregory Palamas, Spyridon of Trimythous, John Chrysostom, Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian, Athanasios of Alexandria, Cyril of Alexandria, James the Brother-of-God, Stephen the First Marytr, and Romanos the Musician. Above the Platytera, hagiography of the Lord’s Ascension is depicted, where He blesses His disciples while seated on a throne, held by two angels. The Resurrection and Pentecost are shown to the left of the Ascension, and the Transfiguration and Crucifixion are shown to the right. In 1997, the new holy vessels of the church were donated by members of the parish and special interior lights were placed for the purpose of accentuating the faces of the saints depicted and the different colors of their garments.

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The Archieratical Synthrone

he old white marble Episcopal throne that lied next to the chanter’s stand was placed behind the Holy Altar in 1997, after it was cleaned with a special solution. This throne has carvings of the ancient decoration of two imposing swans with their heads facing down. In 1998, wood carved parathrones containing six seats, with carvings of two-headed eagles and grapevines were placed to the left and right of the synthrone, composing what is called an archieratical synthrone in ecclesiastical terminology. The synthrone is a tradition found especially in the early Christian centuries. It was the spot from where the bishop would preach. Afterward, the placement of the iconostasis, which gradually grew higher as the years passed, became common to all churches to distinguish between the Holy Sanctuary and rest of the church, making the bishop no longer visible from behind the iconostasis, which is why the Episcopal throne was eventually moved outside of the Holy Sanctuary. The parish of transfiguration revived the ancient ecclesiastical tradition of the synthrone, and it was inaugurated by Archbishop Spyridon, formerly of America, during the ordination of our parish’s spiritual child, Rev. Presbyter Demetrios Moraitis, as a deacon.

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The Iconostasis

The iconostasis was crafted in Greece, by “Kavroulakis Woodcarving Company”, in 1988, when it was brought to replace the first wood carved iconostasis of the new church, which was ruined in the fire of 1988. The new iconostasis has a unique Byzantine style, traditionally carved by hand. The wood carved cross stands at its center, above the Beautiful Gate, supported by a decorated frame, in whose center there is a depiction of the holy shroud, to the right and left of which lies a grapevine and two peacocks, a symbol of beauty and wisdom. The frame also contains hagiography depicting the Last Supper, to the left and right of which stand the Theotokos crying, St. John the Theologian and the twelve apostles. Aside from the six large icons on the iconostasis, namely, Christ blessing, the Theotokos holding the baby Jesus, St. John the Forerunner, the Transfiguration of Christ, and Archangels Michael and Gabriel, two veneration-stands of the same size have been placed with icons of Sts. Katherine and Nicholas. These veneration-stands are a natural extension of the iconostasis on either side, maintaining the symmetry, harmony, and balance of the iconostasis, while at the same time bringing a feeling of awe and impressiveness to the work as a whole. Directly under the large icons on the iconostasis, there is carved scenery from nature, such as grapevines, peacocks drinking from a spring, snakes and two-headed eagles.

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The Soleas

The area which extends from the from the front of the iconostasis up until the first pews of the church is called the soleas. In the Byzantine era, there was a mosaic of a two-headed eagle on the central part of the floor of the soleas, and it was there that the coronation of the emperor would take place. A wooden platform was built in the Church of Transfiguration in 1998, covered with a purple carpet and surrounded by a wood carved gate with four doors, about as large as the doors of the Holy Sanctuary, so it could be used as a soleas. There are two bronze candelabra on the soleas, in front of the iconostasis, along with one icon veneration-stand. In addition, there is the new wood carved Episcopal throne, donated in 1998 by the community benefactors Nicholas and Martha Vassiliou, a three-seat chanter’s stand, the wood carved pulpit with icons of the Lord teaching and the four evangelists, and the baptismal fountain with carved scenes from Epiphany. In the near future, the carpet on the soleas will be replaced with marble, and a mosaic of a two-headed eagle will be placed at the center, in keeping with Byzantine ecclesiastical tradition

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The Church and its Hagiography

The Church of Transfiguration contains 36 rows of pews, with sitting room for 360 persons and standing room for 100. The lighting comes from a central gold-plated chandelier containing hagiography depicting the prophets and two smaller chandeliers, one by the church entrance and the other above the soleas. The arch of the church is divided into five sections. The central area depicts Christ Pantokrator (Almighty) inside a circular outline, held by four angels, with the four authors of the holy gospels standing at His side. The other four sections do not contain hagiography, but are separated from one another with Byzantine decor. To the left and right of the church, on either side of these sections, on the same level with the facade of the balcony, there are eight frescoes, four on each side, with scenes from the twelve major feasts of the year. Specifically, to the left of the Holy Sanctuary, there is iconography of the Annunciation, the Nativity, the Lord’s Presentation, and the Lord’s Baptism. To the right there is iconography of Thomas Touching the Lord, the Betrayal by Judas, the Lord’s Entrance into Jerusalem and the Resurrection of Lazarus.

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The Church and its Stainglass

Aside from the use of wood, canvas, precious metals and marble to illustrate divine, biblical, and ecclesiastical figures and occurrences, glass was also used, particularly in the West, and was also known by its French name, “vitro.” The Church of Transfiguration is adorned 22 stainglass windows, of an approximately average size and unique style. Aside from the decorative nature of the stainglass windows, they allow more natural light to enter into the church, something that would not occur if there had been a wall in their place. There are two rows of stainglass windows in the Church of Transfiguration, six on the top left section of the wall, six on the top right section of the wall, five on the lower left section of the wall, and five on the lower right section of the wall. Specifically, on the top left section of the wall there are stainglass windows of Sts. Eleftherios, Andrew, Constantine and Helen, George, Paul, and Irene. On the top right section of the wall there are stainglass windows of the Sts. Evmenios, Thomas, Cosmas and Damianos, Haralambos, Katherine, and Nectarios. On the lower left section of the wall are depicted Sts. Stylianos, John the Forerunner, Demetrios, Stephen, and Markella. On the lower right wall are Panagia Gorgoepikoos (Quick to Heed), and Sts. Anthony, Sophia, Athanasios, and Nicholas.

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The Balcony

This elevated area above the narthex and entrance into the main part of the church is called the balcony. In the Church of the Holy Wisdom (St. Sophia) in Constantinople, the empress and her entourage would follow holy services from the balcony. This area was also used for choirs. The facade of the balcony of the Church of Transfiguration suffered great damage in the fire of 1988. In the center, the old gold-trimmed epitaphios of the church was hung with evident signs of decay from the passing of the years. As of April 2001, the epitaphios was housed in the Museum of Greek Heritage, following the restoration performed on it. In August 1998, a few days following the feast of the Transfiguration, a group of pious parishioners, including the parish priest, took it upon themselves to restore the balcony. A Russian icon of “Christ blessing”, which used to adorn the first iconostasis that was destroyed in the fire of 1988, was placed at the center. Placed to the left and right of Christ was scenery of grapevines, snakes, and peacocks, as well as six old icons from the major feast days of the Church, namely, the Nativity, the Transfiguration, the Entrance into Jerusalem, the Crucifixion, the Removal from the Cross, and the Ascension. At the entrance to the balcony there is hagiography, of about normal size, depicting the Dormition of the Theotokos, to the left of which is St. John the Damaskene, and to the right of which stands St. Cosmas the poet. The two saints of the Church look upon the Theotokos, who is holding scrolls in her hands with excerpts from the hymns that they composed to her.

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The Narthex

The narthex is the first area we see when entering the church. During the first Christian centuries, according to Church guidelines, the catechumens and members of other faiths who were not allowed to enter into the main part of the church remained there. During the service of the Divine Liturgy, at the point where the priest says, “The doors, the doors, in wisdom let us attend,” they had to leave the church so they would not misunderstand what was taking place because of their ignorance in matters of liturgics and ecclesiastical practice. Later, candle-stands were placed in the narthex, where faithful could light their candle, venerate the icons on the icon-stands and thus, slowly enter into the main part of the church with an understanding of the sanctity of the area. There are two wood carved veneration-stands that were saved from the fire of 1988 and serve as memories of former glory, particularly for the older parishioners. There were two large bronze plates placed in the narthex that bear inscriptions of the names of the great benefactors and donors of the church. The walls that separate the narthex from the main part of the church were adorned in 1997 with four large icons, two of St. John the Forerunner and Archangel Gabriel, which were part of the iconostasis that was destroyed in 1988, and two of the Holy Trinity and the Annunciation of the Theotokos, which were part of the community’s first church.

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The Holy Vessels of the Church

A significant number of holy vessels were used in the 75 years of worship in the Church of Transfiguration. Today, only a few of those have been saved. Specifically, the silver hand-crafted holy vessels, of the first church of the community, are housed in the glass case in the Museum of Greek Heritage, and the remaining newer ones are held in the museum’s display case, for security purposes. In 1997, following the request of Fr. Cleopas to the members of the parish, new holy vessels were purchased to be used during worship services in the parish. The church has in its possession four sets of chalices and trays, forceps and lances, three blessing crosses, four censors, one set of bishops candles, three bread trays, four gospels, two small candleholders for blessings of the loaves, and one seven-candle lamp. In addition, there are three sets of hexapteriga and crosses for altar boys, eight candles for altar boys, two lamps for altar boys, four oil-lamps for the Holy Altar, two single candle-holders for the Holy Altar, and two candle-holders for the three candles of the Holy Altar.

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The Russian and Other Portable Icons of the Church

The portable icons of the Church of Transfiguration are purely Byzantine and were donated to the church during four periods. The first period (1926-30) includes the icons of St. George, the Transfiguration, Sts. John the Baptist and Panteleimon, the Baptism of the Lord, St. Athanasios, St. Barbara, the Prophet Elias, and the banner of the Resurrection. During the period of 1959-60, seven Russian icons were donated to the church, from works of the iconographers of the monastic community of the Josaphaians, of Mount Athos. The church had acquired these icons thanks to the ties of the ever-memorable Fr. Tselentakis with Mount Athos, where he had begun his life as a priest. These gold-encased icons are the following: the Entrance of the Theotokos into the Temple, the Annunciation of the Theotokos, the Raising of Lazarus, St. Nicholas, the Three Hierarchs, St. Spyridon, St. Eleftherios, Sts. Constantine and Helen, St. John the Ladder, St. Anthony, St. Maria the Egyptian, St. Paraskevi, and St. Barbara. Four more icons of a similar style and size were donated to the church during that same period: the Beheading of St. John the Forerunner, St. Andrew the Apostle, the Prophet Elias, and St. Panteleimon. Two year later, in 1962, the church received twelve more icons by the same iconographer. These are the icons of Christ the Bridegroom, the Synaxis of the Twelve Apostles, Sts. Peter and Paul, St. John the Theologian, All the Saints, St. Gregory Palamas, Sts. Cyril and Athanasios, St. Eleftherios, the Holy Forty Martyrs, St. Anne, St. Marina, and St. Xenia. In 1962, the icon of St. John Chrysostom was donated, “By the hand of M.K. St. George of Alamana.” The last period of donations of new icons to the church began from 1988 onward, that is, after the fire that struck the church. It was then that four smaller versions of the four icons on the iconostasis, Christ, the Theotokos, St. John the Forerunner, and the Tranfiguration of Christ, were likely offered for the purpose of building small veneration-stands in front of the iconostasis, something that never materialized. Also, from time to time, other icons of s simpler style were also donated by individuals or associations, such as the two icons of St. Markella.

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The Gold-Threaded Needlework of the Church

The love and dedication toward the Divine expressed itself in many ways over the centuries. One particular way was the development of ecclesiastical art, ecclesiastical architecture, hagiography, woodcarving, etc. The circumscription of the Triune God, the heavenly powers, and the chorus of angels of the Church was not limited only to the above areas, but was extended to the creation of holy veils and vestments, many of which are works of art and are housed in some of the largest museums in the world. This is due to the detail of the figures depicted, the high quality of the production of these gold-threaded pieces, the impressive arrangement of colors and scenes, and the liturgical purpose that they serve. Among the pieces exhibited in the Museum of Greek Heritage, the following gold-threaded needlework is found: the first four banners of the church with gold-threaded scenes and inscriptions, at the center of which stands the hagiography of the Transfiguration of Christ, a set of veils for the holy vessels, a small epitaphios from the first church, and the second Russian epitaphios of the church. Both epitaphios are of approximately average dimensions, with a gold-threaded depiction of the Lord’s burial, and the hagiography of the figures on purple velvet.

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