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St.

Edmunds Episcopal Church


6105 South Michigan Avenue
Chicago, Illinois 60637
ICONS
Icons are flat pictures, usually painted in oil on wood, but also wrought in mosaic, ivory, and
other materials r to represent our Lord, the Blessed Virgin Mary, or another saint which are used
and venerated in the Greek Church. When an Orthodox kisses an icon or prostrates him/herself
before it he/she is not guilty of idolatry. The icon is not an idol but a symbol; the veneration
shown to images is directed, not towards stone, wood, and paint but towards the person depicted.
Because icons are only symbols, Orthodox do not worship them, but reverence or venerate them.
The likenesses are depicted in the traditional rather stiff Byzantine manner. For protection they
are frequently, especially in Russia covered with a metal shield on which the outlines of the
clothes are carved but which leave free the face and hands belonging to the painting underneath.
Since the 5th century they have played an essential part in the public as well as in the private
worship of the Greek Church, and they are accorded all the external marks of veneration such as
kisses, genuflection, incense, etc. As It is believed that through them the saints exercise their
beneficent powers, they preside at all important events of human life and are held to be effective
remedies against illness, to drive away devils, to procure both spiritual and temporal blessings,
and generally to be powerful channels of divine grace. In modern times perhaps the best known
icon is that of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour at Rome.
THE ICONS AND MURALS AT ST. EDMUNDS CHURCH
The icons at St. Edmunds Church were placed in the building when it was Sts. Constantine and
Helen Greek Orthodox Church which now is located in Palos Heights. Thanks to input from
three different experts we have obtained the following information concerning their monetary
value and significance as religious art.
One source of evaluation was provided in the Physical Plant Condition Survey of St. Edmunds
Church conducted in 1991 by Wiss, Janney, Elstner, Associates, Inc. and the Office of John
Vinci. The purpose of the survey was to perform historical research, inspect existing conditions,
and establish immediate and long-term repair priorities. The report states: The architectural
style of St. Edmunds is derived from early Christian and Mediterranean influences found in
Italy. Although the Church of St. Edmund is not of primary architectural significance, its general
form and character should be maintained. The communion rail and pulpit are features which
remain from the former Orthodox congregation. The pulpit contains icons of the evangelists and
is a significant feature of the sanctuary which should be retained. The paintings above the
doorways and those on the pulpit are handsome renditions of icon paintings. The wall murals and
ceiling murals do not seem to be of special significance and appear awkward without the borders.
These, after careful further investigation, could be removed without seriously affecting the
integrity of the interior.
Original chandeliers have been removed and existing light fixtures are not significant.
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St. Edmunds Murals and Icons as Examples of Greek Orthodox Religious Art
Mr. Telly Papanikoloav, a future priest in the Greek Orthodox Church, a Ph.D. candidate in
Theology at the University of Chicago, and the son of the pastor of the Greek Orthodox Church
of Sts. Constantine and Helen, provides us with the following information about St. Edmunds
murals and icons.
As an art form, the murals and icons dont conform strictly to the Byzantine style. In the l920s
and 1930s, the Greek immigrants, in an attempt to assimilate into the larger culture, combined
many features that grow out of the Italian Renaissance with the Byzantine art form. St. Edmunds
murals and icons, most of which were painted in the late 1930s, combine both Byzantine and
western art styles. In an attempt to reclaim and perpetuate their ethnic heritage, the Church
passed a Canon in the early 1970s that the religious art in all Greek churches must adhere strictly
to the Byzantine style.
Timothy Ware writing in The Orthodox Church, states: Religious art in Greece is undergoing a
most welcome transformation. The debased westernized style, universal at the beginning of the
present century, has largely been abandoned in favour of the older Byzantine tradition. A number
of churches at Athens and elsewhere have recently been decorated with a full scheme of icons
and frescoes, executed in strict conformity with the traditional rules. The leader of this artistic
renewal, Photius Kontoglou (1896-1965), was noted for his uncompromising advocacy of
Byzantine art. Typical of his outlook is his comment on the art of the Italian Renaissance: Those
who see in a secular way say that it progressed, but those who see in a religious way say that it
declined.'"
The Narthex
There arent any rubrics (guidelines) in the Greek Orthodox Church about which icons may be
placed in the narthex. The four evangelists appear over the doors in St. Edmunds narthex. Above
the secretarys office door is John. The Greek words, John the Evangelist, are written vertically
above his right shoulder. The eagle, which appears on his left side is his symbol. Each evangelist
has a symbol. Inscribed in Greek below his left arm are the words, The gift of Irene I. Diveris.
Over the doorway on the Epistle Side is Matthew. His symbol is an angel. It is taken from the
Book of Revelation. Above the doorway on the Gospel side is Mark. His symbol is a lion. Over
the office doorway on the north side of the narthex is Luke. His symbol is an ox. Above the
center door is Jesus praying. All of these paintings are a mixture of western and Byzantine style.
The Nave
Above the center doorway is an icon of Jesus Christ. The bold Greek letters appearing on both
sides of him are an abbreviation for Jesus Christ. The Greek letters surrounding his head mean,
He who is, taken from the Book of Exodus. This identifies the divinity of Christ. The Hallo is
Byzantine. The remaining features are western. A Greek icon of Christ would have him robed in
blue and red, symbolizing his two natures, human and divine. In the Byzantine style, Christ is
always depicted with a beard. Additionally, he is featured giving the blessing with his right hand
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and carrying a book in his left hand. All of these characteristics are missing in this rendition of an
icon.
The North Wall
The northwest corner mural depicts The Nativity. It in no way is a depiction of a Byzantine style
nativity scene. In that style, the Devil and Joseph appear in the lower left corner. Joseph is
always depicted half face, symbolizing his doubt about the Incarnation. On the upper left hand
corner, the shepherds are featured coming to see the baby Jesus. Two weeping women appear on
the right side washing the baby Jesus. Joseph and Mary are in a cave. None of these features
appear in this mural. This mural was given in 1939 by the Rujano family.

The northeast corner mural depicts The Crucifixion. It in no way is similar to the Byzantine
style. In that style, Christ is the only one hanging on the cross. There arent any thieves painted
on his right and left sides. In the Byzantine style, a skull lays under the cross, symbolizing the
Devil. Mary and John, the Beloved disciple, appear without the other disciples. This mural was
painted in 1939.

The South Wall


The southeast corner mural depicts The Resurrection. It is quite different from the Byzantine
style. The Byzantine style doesnt have such a realistic edge to it as does this painting. This
mural has three crosses on the left side and soldiers beneath Christ. Neither of these features
appear in the Byzantine style. It contains the gates of Hades, a skeleton and chains. This
symbolizes Christ shattering the gates of hell. Hes depicted pulling Adam and Eve out of hell.
This symbolizes the fact that he takes everyone from hell who has gone before him. The side of a
Byzantine resurrection scene features the Old Testament figures David and Solomon.

The southwest corner mural depicts Paul preaching in front of the Acropolis at Athens. This is
the scene taken from the Book of Acts when he refers to the unknown church. The mural was
painted in 1938 and his signed as the work of a priest.

The Ceiling
The ceiling mural above the west end of the center aisle is a depiction of the Assumption (going
to heaven) of the Virgin Mary. It is a classic western style depiction. It is very different from
the Byzantine style. In that style Mary is laying down. She is surrounded by the twelve apostles.
One hand is cut off. Jesus holds Marys soul. This scene comes from the Apocryphal Gospels.
These are books of the Bible used by the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches. In the Greek
Church, Mary is depicted as falling asleep at death. Belief in the Assumption of the Mother of
God is clearly and unambiguously affirmed in the hymns sung by the Greek Orthodox on August
15th, the Feast of the Dormition or 'Falling Asleep. But Orthodoxy, unlike Rome, has never
proclaimed the Assumption as a dogma. Although every Greek Church must have a painting
depicting Marys death, there is no rubric which says that it must be on the ceiling.

The other ceiling mural is an attempt to copy a style of Michael Angelo. It features Moses. No
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such mural would ever appear in the Byzantine style. The only ceiling mural required in the
Greek Orthodox Church is the mother and child painted on the ceiling of the apse.

The Pulpit
The icons, moving left to right, painted on the pulpit are Mark. John, Christ, Matthew and Luke.
The painting of Christ is true to the Byzantine style. He is robed in blue and red. He is giving the
blessing and carrying a book. The scroll being held by John contains the opening verse of that
Gospel. The dress in each of these icons is a mixture of western and Byzantine. The metal plate
inscribed in Greek reads, This One will be great and is called Son of the Most High". Gift of the
family of Theemas Kleros and Evan Kontogeorga.
The Painter
The painter was a priest named Zographo. We arent sure if this, in fact, was his name. Zographo
is also the word for "painter" in Greek.
The Altar Rail
The altar rail is copied after the one in St. Sophia's Church, Istanbul Turkey, the city formerly
known as Constantinople.