The Saint Photios Greek Orthodox Chapel
We were just on a bimble along St George Street, just steps from St. Augustine’s historic city gates. The St. Photios Greek Orthodox National Shrine can easily be missed, such a tiny frontage marks an institution of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, it is dedicated to the first colony of Greek people who came to America in 1768. Through the gate and into a small courtyard, the Shrine consists of exhibits depicting the life of early Greeks in America and the development of the Greek Orthodox Church in America, and the St. Photios Chapel. Which is just gorgeous.
The magnificent St Photios Chapel is unique in the Western Hemisphere. It is filled with exquisite Byzantine style frescoes of many apostles and saints of the Christian church. Adding vibrant luster to these extraordinary examples of the centuries old Byzantine art is an abundant use of 22 carat gold leaf on the highlights of the frescoes.
In the entrance to the chapel was a Reliquary, open to show the eighteen tiny silver containers each holding a small piece of bone of St Peter, Paul, Titus, Haralambos, Anthony the Great, Constantine, Ambrose, Athanasios the Great, Cyril of Jerusalem, Gregory, Basil the Great, Gregory of Nanzianzos, Helen, John,Nicholos, Cyril, Sabine and John. It was a gift from Archbishop Lakovos.
We admired the chapel, then sat and watched a DVD called, “Our Plymouth Rock,” which created timeline from the shores of ancient Greece to America. It tells the story of Greek immigrants finding themselves in a hostile and unknown land. Above us on the wall was the ‘Our Father’ in English and in Greek. Trooper took the opportunity to have a rest.
The St. Photios Greek Orthodox National Shrine is a living memorial to all Greek immigrants. It is a place where five hundred Greek settlers who in 1768 came to America with British entrepreneur, Dr. Andrew Turnbull are honoured. A land Greek Orthodox pioneers whose love of freedom and desire for a better life for themselves and their children brought them to this New World. These ancestors established the communities of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. Archbishop Demetrios celebrated the 25th anniversary of the Dedication of the Shrine in February 2007.
Avero House was built in 1740 and is listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. Research by the late Dr. Epaminondas Panagopoulos revealed that on the 26th of June 1768 British politician and entrepreneur Andrew Turnbull arrived in St. Augustine with plans to create the largest European agricultural settlement in the New World. He called his land grant New Smyrna after the birthplace of his Greek wife. Within the first eight years, nine hundred individuals perished due to the harshness of the land coupled with inhumane treatment. In 1777, three escaped by foot to St. Augustine where they pled their case to Governor Patrick Tonyn. He gave every survivor papers freeing them from their indentured servitude, 20 shillings and a place to stay at Avero House. This sanctuary housed nearly every one of them for at least one night. It became known as the Minorcan chapel as many continued to find fellowship and worship there over the years.
St Photios (later known as Photios the Great - Patriarch of Constantinople) was born around 820 AD to holy parents, who were confessors of the Faith. His parents were persecuted for defending icons against the iconoclasts and were exiled from Constantinople. His greatness was not only due to his defense of Orthodoxy against heretical papal practices, but also connected to his love and meekness. He vigorously opposed the addition of the filioque clause to the Nicene - Constantinopolitan Creed, and wrote On the Mystagogy of the Holy Spirit to preserve "the purity of our religion" and to hinder "those who chose to promote any other definition of dogma than the unanimous and common faith of the pious". This treatise became the pattern for all subsequent Byzantine anti-Latin polemics.
The filioque doctrine, espoused by Western Christians, has its source from Augustine of Hippo (359 - 432 AD). Augustine had a fertile imagination, who could not shake off the Platonic influence of his youth. The doctrine of a 'double procession of the Holy Spirit' was first adopted in the West at the Synod of Toledo (447 AD), which appears to have followed Augustine's teachings. This addition was forbidden by the Fourth Ecumenical Council (451 AD). Here is the origin of the problem that was to agitate the Church for a thousand years. Contentions that the filioque has Biblical foundations have yet to be demonstrated.
St. Photios was forced to become Patriarch of Constantinople; however he took his calling seriously and at once set to work as a man of God. One of his activities was to correct the error of pope Nicholas of Rome who enslaved the people of the West with threats of condemnation to hell for disobedience to the pope. Holy Photios wrote to Nicholas "Nothing is dearer that the Truth". In the same letter he noted "It is truly necessary that we observe all things, but above all, that which pertains to matters of Faith, in which but a small deviation represents a deadly sin".
As a Father of the Church, St. Photios was also known for his brilliance and for his missionary zeal. He blessed St Cyril in his work of developing an alphabet for the Slavonic people, and for the later work of St Cyril and his brother St Methodios as missionaries to the Slavonic people. St Photios has his feast day on the 6th of February.
Later we wandered along the front and found a little something for the boys to chat over before Bear and the famous trigger finger went into action
Then we met Jeff, who invited the boys to go for cannon training at the fort in the morning, guess who was excited all night and whose itchy finger was all of a fidget
On the way back to Beez we stood and admired these boys who had just finished a bit of plastering
Time for a rest and an early start for Bear and Steve in the morning
ALL IN ALL A BUSY DAY