Sunday, 12 February 2012

New Icon of St Nicholas, Father of Beit Jala

This icon of St Nicholas was a gift to the parish, commemorating the loving care of the Saint over 1,700 yrs. Unusually it narrates not just the events of St Nicholas' life and stay in the Holy Land, but also some of the miracles attributed to him up to the present day. The central panel at the bottom show the apparition of St Nicholas over the church in 1967, during the war between Israel and Jordan. According to many testimonies, including clergy of both the Orthodox and Latin churches, St Nicholas appeared during the bombardment of the town by Israeli soldiers, catching the shells being fired at the town and deflecting them into the fields. Miraculously not one person was killed, and the only injury was a stone which flew up and caught a person's ankle.

The saint is dressed as an Orthodox bishop, and holding the church in his left hand while blessing with his right. The inscription, in Arabic, says 'St Nicholas, Father of Beit Jala'. 

Before and After

Perhaps the best way to see the work is to compare these photos, which show before and after.



 St John the Evangelist with Eagle:

 St Mark the Evangelist with his Lion:

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Before the restoration...

The damage was extensive! Here you can see some of the damage that the building has sustained over the years, caused by earth tremors, being blasted by artillery shells, the ravages of the climate and just normal wear and tear. There had also been attempts at restoration and repair previously, but really this just added to the problems to be addressed.

These three photos show the interior of the dome with various saints. Below you can see the pendatives with the four evangelists.

Arab Orthodox Church of St Nicholas, Beit Jala

The cave of St Nicholas. Beneath the rub is a mosaic of the Imperial Byzantine Eagle, only ever used under Imperial sanction and indicating that this was a major ecclesiastical site during the Byzantine era.
The Orthodox Church of St Nicholas is situated just outside of Bethlehem in the small town of Beit Jala.  It is built above the site of St Nicholas’ 3rd century hermitage, a cave,  when he spent some time in Bethlehem; the current church dates from 1925.

Built completely by local people, the interior of the dome was painted in oil by local iconographers from Bethlehem who were highly influenced by the Alleppo School of Syria. This iconographic school produced a style of iconography unique to the Arab Christians of Palestine, Lebanon and Syria, resembling late Russian iconography but with certain stylistic differences. Originating with the Melchite Eastern Catholics in Syria from the early 18th century in the 19th century there was a major centre in Jerusalem by which time its style was found throughout the eastern rite churches, those in communion with the Pope and eastern Orthodox. 

Beit Jala, near Bethlehem. The Orthodox church of St Nicholas can be seen in the centre of the picture, identified by the silver dome. Beit Jala is one of the last Christian majority towns in the Holy Land.
 These wall paintings had been significantly damaged by water, re-plastering and previous attempts at restoration. This demanded a considerable amount of new painting in this style as well as restoration. I also re-gilded and restored the icons of the iconostasis, and executed two new commissions in the church, one of thePlatytera , Our Lady of the Sign, on the ceiling of the apse. The other is of St Sabba. I also wrote a new, large icon of St Nicholas narrating some of the many miracles attributed to the saint in the town.

This work was carried out under the auspices of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem.