Iconographer George Filippakis has created all of the art of St. Anthony’s. Of the many styles of Byzantine art, a very light and delicate one from the 13th century was selected, one which applies softer colors and produces figures of sensitivity and gracefulness. This is a style clearly less harsh than some. At times the style nearly becomes modern with its bold lines and sweeping brush strokes. It is however, very authentic and true byzantine iconography.
On the inside of the dome above the nave is the icon of Pantocrator depicting Christ as the ruler of the world, and additional icons which include the Holy Mother of Christ attended by two angels and the prophets of the Old Testament. The pattern of the Pantocrator is taken from the 13th century church of Perivleptos, in Mystras, Greece. On the drum-like structure of the dome and below the icon of Pantocrator there are several panels of icons which depict the life of Christ. These scenes are completed with the Crucifixion and Ascension painted on large panels and located on the forward walls of the nave. A traditional requirement of all Greek Orthodox churches is that the life of Christ be depicted in the iconography of the church. Included in the “drum” are also four panels which show the figures of the four Evangelists, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, thus satisfying another church tradition in iconography and decoration.
The second most dominant icon in the church’s iconography is that of the Platytera, showing the Holy Mother of Christ with the Christ Child on her lap as she sits enthroned in the heavens and attended by angels. The Platytera dominates the apse above the sanctuary. Framing the Platytera are icons of several Church Fathers of the ancient Church known as Hierarchs, or Bishops.
The worshiper in the nave faces ten full scale icon figures which decorate the Iconostasion, the screen separating the nave from the sanctuary. These are the icons of Christ, of the Virgin Mary, St. John the Baptist, St. Anthony (the Patron Saint of our Church), Archangels Gabriel and Michael and other Saints. On the side walls, the worshiper sees the figures of more saints, female on the left and males on the right side. Before him, on the face of the Holy Table, just inside the Holy Gate of the Iconostasion, he sees a mosaic of the Last Supper where the figure of Christ is surrounded by his apostles on that solemn and sacred occasion. On the front wall outside the Church and on either side of the entrance to St. Anthony’s, there are two enormous figures, Christ and St. Anthony, which are executed in mosaic and flank the large Byzantine style cross which graces the front of the church.
Various smaller icons and crosses in the narthex and inside the Iconostatsion, complete the array of art forms that typified Byzantium. Works in metal, icons in pounded silver over oils and small mosaics are some such examples.
It is during the Divine Liturgy on any Sunday morning that the total and full impact of decoration and ritual, art and liturgical experience, is felt by the worshiper. It is at that time that the worship service, led by the Priest and chanted to music having its origins in the earliest times of the Christian Church, brings together these vibrant and exciting art forms. The Byzantine music, which is traditionally monophonic, is enhanced through polyphonic arrangements for mixed choirs, adopted and used by the Greek Orthodox Church in America. Experienced together, the architecture, the icons of paint, tile and metal, and the byzantine music of the Church keep us linked to the ancient Church and, especially, to that colorful time of development of the Church, the Byzantine era, with its rich and venerable legacy for our Greek Orthodox Church and faith today.
George N. Gianopulos
Building Committee Chairman
(excerpt from the 1984 Consecration Album)