Tuesday, 25 September 2007

Byzantine Roots - Piraeus

Piraeus, the ancient port of Athens, is now a city in its own right, just a short train ride from the main city. Ancient remains are few, medieval relics even more rare, but I did come across the most beautiful neo-Byzantine Church of the Holy Trinity, which bore more than a passing resemblance to our Cathedral.

The familiar lace-work capitals adorned the pillars at the entrance.
s Inside the architecture was pure Byzantine, the arches and galleries recalling those we know so well at Westminster. Only here no bare brick, but every surface covered with decoration - fresco, rather than mosaic. However, the effect is irresistible, and a heady reminder of what we hope one day to achieve.
s The volumes and forms hauntingly echoed those of our own Cathedral. It is often said by experts when considering the decoration of Westminster Cathedral that a full decorative scheme would confuse and hide the architectural forms. I certainly did not find so in this church.
s The decoration followed a strict hierarchy, just as we plan to do in our Cathedral, moving form the Old Testament to the New. Throughout the worksmanship was of the highest quality.

Above all soars the magnificent dome, decorated with the Christ Pantokrator and images of the ranks of angels and saints: truly this vast space seems suspended from heaven.
I wonder if we shall ever see the domes of Westminster decorated so magnificently and completely!

As ever, the apse bore the image of the Theotokos, the Mother of God, representing humanity redeemed through the sacrifice of her Son.


Anonymous said...

So beautiful, thanks for the posting.

Anonymous said...

Would fresco paintings be a (cheaper?) alternative to mosaics at Westminster Cathedral?

Andrew Teather said...

Indeed, very beautiful, but reflect that if the Cathedrals 'empty' spaces are all to be adorned, then you may as well take out a very long lease on the scaffolding that you will need for the repairs. Maybe you could project images onto the domes, using them as a giant indoor canvas for religious work, changing with the liturgical seasons? Or advertising hoardings for Gordons Gin?

Unknown said...

That really is astounding. I've often been in our Cathedral and thought that there was actually something to be said for the incomplete decoration; that in evenings the place seems like a vast open air cathedral, due to the darkness of the upper part. But something like in these pictures would be glorious.

Anonymous said...

fantastic photos - a must to visit..!

Anonymous said...

this is a bit over the top for my taste.
i like the domes (with maybe a little less gold) but the icons all the way up the pillars are too much, just too busy.
thats not to say that it isnt good for inspiration, but i cant see it working in westminster cathedral.
personally, i'd like to a marble cathedral floor throuhout... maybe one day when the rest has been completed

Anonymous said...

Andrew teather,
I think it is easier to raise money for beautiful things than it is to raise money for the mediocre. It is our Fathers House. Okay it may take time but why would Catholics want their main Cathedral not to be a sight to behold. If you love the Trinity and the Church would you not offer the very best that you could. I know some people will grumble that it should be spent on the poor. However, spiritual poverty is far worse than material poverty and we should wage war against it even more zealously. We do it as God does it, through love, beauty and truth. Let the strangers to Christ enter and see this reality. The Trinty, the incarnation, the crucifixion and ressurection, the apostolic succession, the communion of the living and the dead, all things that we as Catholics profess to be true when we state our creed. The Church becomes a solid physical Gospel proclamation of our Faith. As regards the canvas projections, well I think because they reflect image onto substance I do not think this medium is in keeping with our Faith. It is a solid Faith based in the reality of the actual incarnation, death an ressurection of Jesus Christ. Our architecture and art should reflect it- i.e. be solid and real. Of course there is little harm in using the projection during renovations as a temporary measure, I would very much object to Gordons Gin advertising. Vodka, now that would be much more suitable, all the joy, none of the hangover :-)