Monday, August 29, 2005

Lego Church

In the winter, in the north, it is easy enough to get bored. However, with the neighbors' Lego bin, I found myself putting together pieces of an Orthodox Byzantine church. I decided to go as far as I could, and stole all the base pieces and set to work. After a few months of letting it sit around the apartment, I took pictures (thanks to Jenny). After a few weeks of letting the pictures linger around in the digital ether, I uploaded, sorted, and labelled.

All pictures are copyright by Magda Andronache, and I would appreciate it if you let me know before you use them.

Here is an overview of the church:
An Orthodox church is built to face east, so the top part is east, the right is south, the left is north, and the bottom is south. (Pretend this is in the shape of the cross. The altar area kept growing and I only had so many base pieces.) The east (top) portion is the altar area, separated from the nave by the top (horizontal white line) of the iconostasis. The nave is the big middle part, and the narthex is the entryway at the west (bottom). (Outside has a coffee area and a three-legged monkey, naturally.)

The first thing I do when I go to church is venerate the icons.
These are located in the narthex (entryway), and usually have candles around them in boxes of sand. I think I got carried away because it was fun to make lots of candles around my "icon." Um. Pay no attention to the picture of a radar screen. I had a limited selection. Pretend it's an icon of the creation.

Now let's start to go around the church in a clockwise circle.
This is a kouvouklion. During Holy Week, it represents the tomb of Christ. The epitaphion (an icon depicting the Body of Christ after it was removed from the Cross) is laid in the kouvouklion and venerated as it stands in the center of the church, covered completely in flowers. At the Chapel of the Holy Cross, it resides in this corner the rest of the year and serves as a reliquary.

This is the chanter's stand on the north side of the church. At the Chapel of the Holy Cross, Fr. Seraphim chants here. The little chanter's stand (yellow and black) can turn so that many books may be easily accessible. The red ambo is used as a lectionary and pulpit ('ambo' means 'both'). The Gospel is read from here by a deacon or a priest. Here the deacon wears a pirate's cap to denote hair, not a kalimavki (deacon's hat); nobody wears a hat while reading the Gospel.

***N.B. Peterbird says that after this year, only monks in the Greek Archdiocese will wear the kalimavki. It is a relatively recent invention, and comes from Turkey. Monks' kalimavki have no brim, while deacons' kalimavki do have a brim.

This giant chandelier is in the middle of the church. The Chapel of the Holy Cross does not have one, though St. Vasilios in Peabody does. At Pascha, all the chandeliers and lamps are spun when the Light of Christ spreads from candle to candle and heart to heart through the church. I used the chandelier as a consolation for not being able to have an icon of the Pantokrator, i.e., Christ as "Ruler of All," for my little church.

Here is the north half of the iconostasis or "icon-screen." On this side are the saint of the church (St. Michael the Archangel) and the Theotokos (St. Mary, the Mother of God). The doors on the left are called the "angelic doors" because they usually have icons of the angels on them (St. Michael on the left and St. Gabriel on the right) or the "deacon's doors" because the deacon goes through them all the time. The doors in the middle of the iconostasis (on the right in this picture) are called the royal doors. We'll talk about those soon.

For the inside of the altar, I had to ask a lot of questions, as I am female and therefore do not go into the altar. On the north side of the church, there is a table called the "prothesis" or preparation table. The priest prepares the prosphoro here, cutting the Lamb away, and making many prayers. Sometimes the chanters need to sing more slowly in order to give the priest enough time to finish the prayers. On this prothesis, there are extra chalices, and a spear in the drawer. If there are very many priests, during the Great Entrance, one of them usually carries the spear. In the right part of the picture is my best attempt at a censer.

Here we see two altar boys holding funny things; the funny things are supposed to be gilded fans with depictions of cherubim, called "ripida." The altar table is only allowed to have certain things on it. On the altar table there is a red piece to be the Communion cloth. The Orthodox Church believes in infant baptism, because there is so much we do not know and cannot understand. When babies are involved, it's best to have a cloth, and since we believe that the Holy Gifts are truly the Body and Blood of Christ, if anything falls, we must be digilently careful in how we clean. This is one reason why the Holy Cross chapel has tile floors. If there were carpeting, and some of the Gifts spilled onto it, that piece of carpet would be cut out and burnt to ensure that it would remain undesecrated. Next on the altar table is the chalice, next to the tabernacle. The lump on the right is supposed to be the Gospel book. The giant cross looming behind the altar table is supposed to be joined by the icon of the Theotokos "Wider than the Heavens" (Platitera ton Ouranon), but I was running out of Legos. In the top right corner of the picture is a candle for the altar boys to hold later.

Here are more candles and ripida for the altar boys. There are also chairs for the altar boys, but these are empty because this is an Orthodox church.

Coming out of the altar, we can turn around and look at the south deacon's door and the other half of the iconostasis. From left to right we can see the royal doors, the icon of Christ, the icon of St. John the Forerunner, and the south deacon's door. (St. John the Forerunner, or Baptist, is sometimes depicted with wings because he is called also the "Angel of the Desert.")

Here is the chanter's stand on the south side of the church; this is the main chanter's stand, so if only one is used, it is this one. We can also see the giant red (in this case) bishop's throne. There are many people crowded around the chanter's stand, even babies, because it is fun to chant (even if you don't do it well, or have any idea of what you're doing), and the people who do know what they're doing will help you out.

Here are the deacon's doors again. At Holy Cross, Tom is a deacon, and Harry is his little boy. Harry follows Tom around the church quite a lot, watching to see what his daddy is doing. In this picture, Tom (the deacon) is reading a list of petitions right after the priest (inside, facing us) has blessed him.

Thank you for patiently visiting my little Orthodox Lego church. Post your comments below. Feel free to make fun, as long as you pray for me.

If you would like to see a tidier-looking Orthodox Lego Church, this site will also tell you how to serve a hierarchical Divine Liturgy.


Blogger Laura said...

Wow...that's pretty amazing!

Your kids are gonna love playing with you!

Tue Aug 30, 06:57:00 AM CDT  
Blogger Philippa said...

Magda, this is absolutely brilliant! These pictures would be so helpful to use during a Church School class to explain the what and why of the Temple. And wouldn't it be cool to build one in Church School as a project!! Amazing. Truly amazing!

Tue Aug 30, 08:21:00 AM CDT  
Blogger Mimi said...

This is incredible, Magda! Like Philippa, I can definitely see the Church School applications, and like Laura, the mom ones!

I'm going to send this to my kids!

Tue Aug 30, 11:56:00 AM CDT  
Blogger Ian said...

Absolutely wondrous! Well done.

Tue Aug 30, 08:30:00 PM CDT  
Anonymous Phyllis Meshel Onest said...

Hi! I'm Phyllis Meshel Onest, M.Div,Holy Cross 1977 and DRE for the Met. of Pittsburgh. THIS IS GREAT!!! I would like to share this with others on my website with your permission and full credit. What a wonderful project. My daughter Maria [now24] has tons of Legos. Didn't think of using them this way

Thu Sep 01, 12:14:00 PM CDT  

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