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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 02 December 2017
DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 2 DECEMBER 2017 23 ITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 2 DECEMBER 2017 23 St. St. Johns, Carlton. St. Athanasius, Springvale. of a flying saucer sits jauntily atop a roller coaster of arches and half-arches of a complexity rivalled only by the architectural imaginings of a Dr Seuss book. One is in constant anticipation of a Lorax springing out from behind one of the columns and if the Grinch was ever to steal Christmas, surely it would be from here. The overall effect upon the viewer is one of awe derived from an appreciation of the church building’s immensity, complexity, and most importantly, overall harmony. Saint John’s church in Carlton also sports a dome. It is squat, comfortable, and, unlike the Coburg dome, unselfconscious. The highly adorned exterior brickwork recalls, but does not copy, the decorative stonework of the late Roman and early Byzantine eras, while the metalwork in vibrant blues, yel- lows, red, and grays reminds one of the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem. The disconcerting blue trapezoidal porch and eaves are a novel interpretation of the traditional barrel vault. This hybrid masterpiece has something of the Gothic about its aesthetics. Instead of feeling enveloped by the heavens, one feels a vertical connection of ascent to them, granting a completely different ecclesiastical experience. This marriage of received and inherited architectural emotions and aesthetics renders Saint John’s a truly significant edifice. Saint Andrew’s in Sunshine is a remarkable building in that it reminds one immediately of a Roman basilica, the first type of Christian church, crossed with a martyr’s shrine of the type one generally sees in the Holy Land. Constructed of the light brown brick common to homes in the surrounding area, it has a great gate for entry to its side, just like the basilicas of Constantine, and is a prodigious reinterpretation of the fundamentals of church architecture. With regards to their ability to interpret and adapt received religious architectural tradition, all of the abovementioned churches have their precedent in the first Greek Orthodox Church ever to be built in our city, the Annunciation. This church, constructed by Longstaff in 1901 to a design by noted contemporary architects Inskip and Butler, plays on motifs drawn from French and German medieval sources in order to situate the church within the context of turn of the century Melburnian urban architecture, without rendering its form unintelligible to parishioners used to the architectural traditions of their homeland. It is this unique ability to enshrine the essence of Orthodoxy from the outset while also appealing to its parishioners’ desire to acculturate within the context of broader Australian society that has perhaps rendered the Annunciation church the most beloved and revered in Melbourne. Its interior, prior to its partial destruction by fire last year, was endearing though unastonishing, permeated as it was by the dark, close aesthetic of the neo-Baroque, so common to Greek churches of the nineteenth century. Its successful restoration will, no doubt, recall that style, for it forms an intrinsic part of the history of the formation of our own Greek Australian design, with the restoration forming yet another layer in the edifice’s composite history. The manner in which the Greek community engaged in radical innovation of church architecture from its very genesis, in the Annunciation, has thus had profound influence in the interpretation and ideology of style, right up until the present day. One could say that a vernacular form of architecture specific to Australia has been articulated and if the work of architects like Angelo Candelapas who is currently completing an extraordinary 99-domed mosque in Punchbowl, Sydney, and who has designed All Saints Greek Orthodox Grammar primary school, is anything to go by, that tendency will most likely continue into the future. Given the above, it is regrettable that a proper cultural and comparative study of the churches of the Greeks in Melbourne, one that examines the innovations and ideologies Koimisis Theotokou, Altona. of adaptation, their cumulative effect upon the development of church architecture in Australia, how they respond to and interepret the Orthodox tradition and most importantly, what they say about the Greek of Melbourne themselves, has not been undertaken. Considering however, that church architecture is one of the few cultural elements in which the Greek community has displayed pronounced innovative tendencies, for the large part, divorced from the tastes and trends of the mother country, their evolution is well worth studying. Such a study, perhaps undertaken concurrently with the restoration of the Annunciation Church, will surely lead to an increased appreciation of the art behind some of our most utilised, but least aesthetically appreciated, community edifices.
25 November 2017
09 December 2017