Sunday, February 1, 2015

It's Divine Tradition

Detail of the dome
As you enter
The faith I was raised in, Serbian Orthodox, you probably call Greek Orthodox or Russian Orthodox; they were so designated because back in the 11th century the Eastern Orthodox Church decided to use instead of Latin the local language of the people. We like color, brocade, gold, silver, ikons, incense, candles, stained glass, and lots of faces looking in at us from the next world -- that's what ikons are, windows into the spiritual world -- and that's why their artists fast and pray and paint them only when divinely inspired, and never sign their names. For these reasons we don't do mosaics.

St. Sava Serbian Orthodox Church in Phoenix hired three traditional-style painters from Serbia who worked on the walls and domed ceilings for several weeks at a cost of $130,000 to turn the church into a spiritual experience, and add notes in Cyrillic (and English, where it fit) so you know which of the hundreds of saints you're looking at. The effect is both riotous and harmonious, and the figures, larger-than-life-sized, are detailed down to the toenails; marvelous to see. This is my parents' parish. The liturgy is in Serbian, but the most important prayers and the sermon are repeated in English, for a service lasting two hours, which I spent gazing and marveling at the artwork (see, in the picture at right, the rainbow ring surrounding Jesus). How they made all these scenes and portraits fit, and how they even started to design it, is just about incomprehensible.

No comments: