Thursday, April 12, 2012

Alexander at St. Achilleos Church, Kozani


by P. Gioultsi

The atmosphere in the church of Saint Achilleios in the village of Pentalofos, Kozani is solemn. Inside the church which is all-around painted with frescoes and still resists the passing of time though it was built in 1740, one can ascertain the reason for this church being a benchmark of Hellenism for centuries. There is depicted in the narthex a very familiar figure to all Greeks that has no relation however to the Saints of Orthodoxy. It is Alexander the Great, who was included in the rich murals that adorn the interior of the church by the Chionadites (from the village of Chionades, Konitsa) painters. Thus they expressed their respect to a person who paved the way for the Christian gospel, through the spread of Greek language and culture.

"The mural theme is the hell, the fiery river and the Second Advent. There are shown prelates, martyrs, prophets and apostles, and then Jewish kings and tyrants, as the Persians, Darius, Cyrus and Porus, who are depicted holding swords in their hands. Right next to them is the figure of Alexander the Great, who defeated the Persian kings. He holds in his hands royal scepter and wears a crown in his head. "It is remarkable that these kings are mentioned in the Old Testament, some even by prophets", points to ANA(Athenian News Agency) - MPA (Macedonian News Agency) the painter Argyris Pafilis.

The four kings prophesied by Daniel the Prophet, among whom is Alexander the Great. Saint Achilleos Church in Kozani built in 1740.

"Such depictions do not create doctrinal issues, as these figures appear in the narthex of the church and without halo. The example of the church on the lake of Ioannina is characteristic. There are painted figures of ancient Greek philosophers like Socrates and Plato, on the grounds that each one of them with his work served the purpose of the church in the years that followed", explains to ANA - MPA Bishop Paul of Sisanion and Siatista.

As he characteristically pointed out, the church was never afraid of such depictions, since it attributes to such figures an important role in the plan of Divine Providence. "The Economy of God prepared the salvation of the world through a crowd of people, who typically appear to be unrelated to the church, but are essentially within the plans of God", he adds.

Realizing the historical significance of the temple, the Kozani Prefecture signed a contract of 215,000 euros for its restoration, since the signs of passing time had already begun to appear. The murals were being destroyed, water flew through the roof inside the temple and caused high humidity.

"Important enhancement and fixture works that were required have been carried out, giving first priority to maintain its aesthetic value", says the project architect, Dimitra Kopsacheili and states that the work was completed under the supervision of the 17th Byzantine Antiquities Service of Kozani and the Technical Department of the Prefecture of Kozani.

Speaking about the history of the church,she notes that there is a wall plaque in the eastern side stating that it was built in 1740 and internally decorated in 1774, with frescoes by Chionadites painters. Noteworthy are the wooden temple, the shrines, the bishop's throne and the painted pulpit.

Ms. Kopsacheili does not fail to mention the great love of people for the church, to the point that when they saw it collapsing, offered themselves to assist in the restoration work. "The love, respect and reverence of the inhabitants of the vicinity of Pentalofos for the church is indeed touching”.

There is held a service every year on the feast day of St. Achilleus. ”There was a big surprise for us in the Divine Liturgy of the last year", says bishop Paul and explains: "When I arrived at the church for the service, I found an antimension of 1912, a piece of cloth with a representation of the Pieta which is used in the Holly Services even outside the church. All these years, the antimension was in that specific place and its discovery was the best reward for all the assembled".

Source: ANA-MPA

Translated by: Kapetan Doukas


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