Tuesday, May 4, 2010


One day, as I was driving down a street I had driven along many times before, the light from the late afternoon glinted off a church cross and I noticed a certain glow from the front. So, of course, I had to go around the block and take some pictures.

I was vaguely aware of this church, but I really hadn't paid much attention to it until I saw the sun glinting off the mosaic.

I wrote down the name.
St Nicholas Serbian Eastern Orthodox Church.

A little research and I have been excitedly awaiting an opportunity to see inside.

That chance came this past weekend with Doors Open (where public buildings, and often many churches, open their doors for a free look and wander and a bit of history sharing).

An icon altar. An elaborate wall of icons separates the nave from the sanctuary.

The church walls and ceiling have been richly painted with frescoes.
These include images of biblical stories, the great feasts of the church and the lives of Christ, the Virgin Mary and the saints. Many, many saints.

All of this work was painstakingly painted, layer upon layer, by one man. It took him over three years to complete. Services were still held during this period, and the young woman I talked to spoke of the shock and awe each week as the previously unadorned white walled church was transformed.

No pews were moved out of the way, as the congregants stand for the entire service, which lasts from 90 minutes to 2 hours. And is all in Serbian - not the modern day Serbian, either. There is also no organ and all singing is a capella (and sometimes, in English).
I'd be almost tempted to return ... but my Serbian is non existent. And I'm not great at standing. And I know, I'd end up dizzy from looking up at that ceiling.


  1. I love your new header.

    The church is beautiful.

  2. Gail: thanks.
    these photos do not do it justice.

  3. Two hours of standing for a serbian service... I'm thinking it wouldn't work for me.

  4. Jazz: me neither. though church pews aren't exactly comfortable.

  5. It is absolutely breathtaking. imagine the patience to paint that all in 3 years. I would not be able to go without being able to sit down. loved your post today, take care.

  6. Wow!!! Three years is actually not that much if you see alal the work this artist did -and it's a typical iconic style of the Middle ages -incredible!
    Do you know the name of the painter?

    Love the beautiful white blooms in your header!

  7. What a cool place you found! I love the pictures. Isn't it fun to find out about whole big things that you really didn't know existed? Wow. They stand the whole time. I wonder if anyone ever faints, or if they teach you right off the bat not to stand with your knees locked?

  8. That is a beautiful, beautiful church! I would love to see it. We saw some lovely Orthodox churches in Greece, many years ago now, but this Serbian one beats them all!

    Yes, services in all Orthodox churches are standing only, except most have chairs for the very elderly and disabled. Though the old ladies in Greece were the ones who stood right through the services!!

    I couldn't stand, either, but our local Orothdox church (which is actually held in the Parish Room of my own CofE church) do have plenty of chairs for weak English people!!

  9. Cinnar: I couldn't believe it only took 3 years. And I like that the murals are huge so you can see them properly nomatter where you are standing.

  10. Jeannette: his namee is Fr Theodore Jurewicz (a priest from Erie, Penn) and it was finished about 5 years ago. The colours are so brilliant and there is a certain consistency in the painting that shows it was by one hand.

  11. Geewits: I know, I had no idea it would be so beautiful inside. Apparently the Sunday School is taught by 'real' teachers (as opposed to volunteers) and they learn Serbian in class, so mayby they also learn the necessary skills of observing the rituals without fainting.

  12. Gilly: they have benches along the side and I noticed a few elaborate seating (for bishops?). I meant to ask if people wandered around during the service, or just stayed put.

  13. Wowzers! So beautiful!! Thanks for sharing!

  14. gorgeous find!!! i've always wanted to go in one of them because the outside work is just so beautiful.

  15. Holy crappola! I don't know how you'd focus on the service with all that to look at. As for the standing, I don' imagine it's all that much more uncomfortable than most church pews are to sit on.

  16. What beautiful frescoes. I love the art of the Eastern Orthodox Church - so graceful!

  17. SueAnn: this really needed to be shared

    Char: very few churches disappoint but this literally had my jaw hanging open the whole time I was there.

  18. XUP: I know! I mentioned that to the young woman who was there to act as a hostess and she admitted that during some of the 'heavier' bits of the service where the language became a bit difficult to follow, her eyes and mind just wandered...

    Louise: I have never seen their art in real life and the colours in this church were so rich and vibrant.

  19. Greek Orthodox churches are pretty spectacular.

  20. Beautiful...these frescos remind me of some I've seen in Italy...Love the warm gold...

    Great shots...it must have been low light in there...

  21. SAW: yes and very different from the 'meetinghouse' tradition I grew up with!

    Oliag: it was a little low light - and those chandeliers got in the way! I learned from this church excursion that the pictures which came out best were those directed from the dark to the windows.

  22. Eastern European Churches are very colourful.
    Would this Church belong to the Orhtodox faith?

  23. The church is richly decorated with beautiful pictures and artifacts. Truly magnificent.
    Well done for noticing the glinting icon in the first place.

    Don't think I could stand for 2 hours anymore though.

    Nuts in May

  24. This post is bringing back memories of my Medieval art history class from university!

    Hats off to the very talented artist!:)

  25. Outstandingly beautiful decorations in frescoes and mosaics. Thanks for sharing, Violet Sky! :)

  26. The church and your photos are stunning! Thanks so much for sharing them with us.

  27. I'm getting dizzy just thinking about all that neck craning! Absolutely beautiful frescoes! I wish there would be an Open Door day around here. There are a few houses I've been dying to see inside!

  28. Friko: yes it was Orthodox

    MaggieMay: but at least you'd have something to look at for distraction - I'd probably bring one of those seated walkers or a wheelchair and roll around the room and making a nuisance of myself.

    Pauline: one thing I particularly lik with these paintings is the richness of the colours. and he is one talented and patient artist.

    mary: you are welcome.

    Joanna: it is a rare sight for many of us.

    Susan: then you'd have to be in the balcony ... closer to the ceiling and singing.
    my city is having its first Door Open this june, so maybe...?


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