These items are presented in reverse chronological order.
In mid-September, Mr. Goutsev began work on the Platytera ceiling icon, also known as the “Virgin of the Sign”. This icon will be 10’ diameter (6” smaller than the Pantorator) and will be placed directly above the altar table. There will be an Angel on each side in the form of a silhouette icon. Please refer to Fr. Leo’s letter, below, for an explanation of the theological significance of this icon.
Mr. Goutsev is pleased to report, via the internet with the assistance of digital photography, that the Pantocrator icon is now complete. The icon is 10’ 6” diameter and the ceiling in his studio is 8’. How was he able, then, to photograph the icon in an upright position? Easy. He used PhotoShop.
The image of Christ is identified with the Greek letters: IC XC, Isus Christos, Jesus Christ. The title of the image, Pantocrator, is not directly translatable into English, according to Greek scholars. However, it is typically translated as "All-powerful" or "All-ruling".
Having completed the text on the outside border, Mr. Goutsev has temporarily placed the 10’ 6” canvas on a plywood board. In this manner, he can now work on the icon from the upright position. An upper half and lower half view is offered of the icon. The Greek inscription, “Pantocrator”, typically remains so in Greek instead of translating to English or Slavonic.
Now it starts to get interesting. Artwork is all about proportion. We are applying a 10’ 6” diameter canvas icon to a ceiling that is 24’ above the floor. One must be able to visualize the letters of the text without squinting or using binoculars. Mr. Goutsev used several techniques to accomplish this.
The letters are 11 cm in height, or slightly greater than four inches. Each letter is oriented toward the dead center of the icon (see the first and second images). They are not painted square to the band. The background is made with three nuances of blue, from a very dark blue to light blue. When the icon is mounted on the ceiling, it will give the border a specific bulk and the letters will appear that they are risen from the border (see the image on the far right).
The interior of our temple is painted pearl white. Mr. Goutsev will add a little raw umber pigment to white paint to match this.
The border will have a cross at the six o’clock position. The text begins to the right of this cross and continues in a counter clockwise direction. This way the text is emanating from Christ and facing the outside of the icon. In churches that have a broader iconographic representation (ours will not), one can see that this text is directed to God’s creation.
The last photo is taken from an upside down perspective. It is the view that one will see entering the temple and gazing toward the ceiling.
On August 24th, Mr . Goutsev began to prepare the border of the Pantocrator for the selected text. It is compilation from the Gospel of Saint John 11:25-26: I am the resurrection and the life he that believeth in me shall he live and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. These texts are written without punctuation.
He begins by calculating the linear circumference of the blue circle and counts the letters and spaces to fit into this space and then spaces the letters accordingly. See the attached ancient Pantocrator icon for comparison.
On August 22, 2007, Mr. George Goutsev, Master Iconographer, began to compose the Pantocrator icon in his studio in Sofia, Bulgaria. This icon will be placed in the center of the temple on the ceiling. It is 10’ 6” diameter. A canvas this size was located on the Internet from Russel & Chapple in London, England, and shipped to Sofia. Mr. Goutsev began by cutting a 10’ 6” square of canvas. He then fashioned a radius on a wheel and attached a paint brush to circumscribe the outer border in brick red. Next an inner border in blue will be painted. A text from the scriptures will painted in pearl white on this blue border. When this is completed, the canvas will be cut in circular form and temporarily mounted on plywood and the painting of the icon will begin.
If you click on to enlarge the photo on the right side, one will see a flat, metal container holding the brick red paint. This is a Danish sardine can which is very popular in Bulgaria. It can also serve double duty as an ash tray.
More photos will be posted as they become available.
Saint Anthony Orthodox Church
103 Carolina Street at South Presa
Very Rev. Leo Poore, Rector
San Antonio, Texas 78210
June 29, 2007
Saints Peter & Paul
Dear Brothers & Sisters in Christ,
It has been more than six months since our hand carved iconostas arrived from Bulgaria and four months since its dedication. The Historic Giles Church is now adorned with a proper Orthodox icon screen executed in the traditional Byzantine style. We give thanks to God for the work of his servants, the artists, Peter Nedkov and George Goutsev of Sofia, the distinguished donors who offered the necessary material support, and the volunteer workers who assisted in the installation. Any uncertainty or trepidation that anyone may have had about the necessity or appropriateness of this endeavor no longer exists.
It is necessary for our spiritual lives and our salvation that we continue to glorify God with the beautification of His holy temple where we are called to come on a regular basis to attend the divine services, confess our sins and receive the Holy Sacraments, and to perform good works within and outside of our parish community.
The present state of restoration of our temple directs our attention to the icon screen and the clergy. It is most proper, however, that the architectural structure of our temple be a reflection of the totality of God’s creation in a union of heaven and earth – a reflection of the Kingdom of God. For this reason, it is proper to adorn the interior of our temples, sometimes in their entirety.
However, our situation is unique because of its character as the Historic Giles Church. Our temple possesses a style and architectural detail that no other building in the world has. For this, any further adornment must respect the integrity of the Giles Church design elements. These elements include the barrel ceiling, the eye brow arches above the tall windows, the wide trim boards and chair rail, and original location and style of the light fixtures. Is it possible to do respect these design elements while maintaining the canonical order of a properly appointed Orthodox Church?
After much study and consideration, our iconographer, Mr. George Goutsev, has proposed a “next phase” of iconography to consider. The attention is directed to the ceiling above the icon screen, just forward of the screen and just behind it. Near the center of the nave would be a 10’ 6” diameter canvas icon of ChristPancrator (the Ruler or All-Powerful). This is one of the most widely used images in all of Orthodoxy.
Above the altar resides the Platytera Ton Ouranon (More Spacious than the Heavens) icon at 10’ diameter. The Virgin is enthroned in an attitude of supplication with Christ in the bull’s eye center of her lap. She provides the link between heaven and earth. Her icon “unites” the Christ Pantocrator ceiling icon with those of us standing on the ground. The Platytera is surrounded by an Angel on each side. The hymn to honor this image of the Theotokos is the Megalinarion sung during Great Lent:
All of creation rejoices in thee, O Full of Grace,
the assembly of angels and the race of men.
O sanctified temple and spiritual paradise,
the glory of virgins,
from whom God was incarnate and became a child,
our God before the ages.
He made thy body into a throne,
and thy womb He made more spacious than the heavens.
All of creation rejoices in thee,
O Full of Grace. Glory to thee!
This set of ceiling icons would provide a proper, next step beautification of our temple to place it in a more proper and fuller theological context. Anonymous donors have stated an intention to sponsor the ceiling icons of Christ Pantocrator and Platytera with Angels. This offer of such a generous gift has been accepted by the Parish Council and I, as your parish priest, bless this action. If there are any concerns regarding the reception of this gift, please contact me as soon as possible. Otherwise, I will permit this offering to stand on behalf of the parish. It is estimated that this work could be completed and shipped by the end of this calendar year. We would like to have installation completed in time for Great Lent 2008. An artist’s rendition of the work will be available on the bulletin board in the Fellowship Hall and on our website @ www.OrthodoxSanAntonio.org.
Giving glory to God for all things, I remain,
Yours in Christ,
Very Rev. Leo Poore