Churches steeped in NSW heritage
John-Paul Hussey looks at how two Greek Orthodox churches made the heritage list
It doesn't really matter whether you believe in God or not, many can appreciate the scale of creativity that has come out of 2000 years of the Christian history.
These days, modern art is mostly secular-based and can be found within the white-washed walls of our galleries. When the Church was alive and still relevant to large sections of society, our galleries were the churches and the churches were often magnificent architectural pieces in themselves. Churches also serve as key locations for community gatherings and therefore their legacy can't be ignored.
Now, for Councillor John Procopiadis of Randwick, NSW, who claims to be neither passionately devout nor indeed an expert in church architectural history, he does know a cause worth fighting for. The church in question is the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church of NSW, originally built in 1899 and the very first Greek Orthodox Church built in Australia and the southern hemisphere. "I received in my paperwork, that I get every Friday from Council, a state heritage icon project nomination form and I filled it in and I named the item, 'The Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church'. That was on the 14 of May 2004," Procopiadis said.
"With all the to-ing and fro-ing and the change of staff at the NSW's heritage office, eventually on 29th of May in 2010 the then Minister for Planning and Heritage, Tony Kelly MP signed off on it," explained Procopiadis. "And on that date Tony Kelly, on the grounds of The Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church, made the presentation to the President of the Greek Orthodox Community of NSW."
This date, 29 May, is deeply significant to the history of Orthodoxy, being the date when the Byzantium Empire in Constantinople fell to the Turks in 1453. Since then it has become the date on which all Holy Trinity churches are founded. May 29 has also become the date that represents the courageous extension of Hellenism and Orthodoxy around the world. The Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church is seen as aesthetically distinctive, being originally built in the Byzantine style and constructed to hold up to 400 patrons. In 1931, the facade of the church was replaced with a two-storey inter-war Romanesque construction of face brick with rendered dressings, buttresses and a gable roof.
As a result of these alterations, the entrance is now framed by two brick towers and is headed by an arched leadlight window above a triple arched entrance. The original facade is, however, still discernible upon entering the foyer. The interior of the church is decorated with representations and symbols of iconography. There are also a number of original artefacts still in use, including the alter, the main chandelier and a selection of hanging lamps and two candle stands inscribed with the date of donation (1899).
Now that it has a heritage listing, this church is safe from falling into the hands of property developers "who may turn it into a fish and chip shop or a restaurant as some churches have been," said Procopiadis. "This is very important because the church is still very active. It has services and looks after many baptisms, weddings and funerals." But Procopiadis' heritage work hasn't stopped. He now has his eyes set on another worthy project - The Church of Holy Wisdom, in Paddington, Sydney. "It is the first Greek Orthodox Cathedral in the southern hemisphere," he said. "I'm in the process of filling in all the heritage nomination forms and because of my previous experience, this process will be much quicker than the heritage listing of the Holy Trinity."
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