It was only a few months ago that the Greek Australian community witnessed Victoria’s first Greek Orthodox Church, the Annunciation of our Lady (Evangelismos), engulfed in flames, causing millions of dollars in damages.
As a result, the majority of the church interior and facilities was severely damaged, the flames also destroying priceless icons and tapestries dating back to the 1800s.
Since the incident in May, the Greek Orthodox Community of Melbourne and Victoria (GOCMV) formed the Evangelismos Restoration Sub Committee, which has been working tirelessly to prepare plans and issue the necessary permits to commence the anticipated restoration, which have faced delays due to the building’s heritage status but are now being finalised.
“We’ve been working behind the scenes for over six months now, with a sub-committee comprising architects, engineers, assessors and a variety of other people, who have got the appropriate expertise to develop a plan not only for the restoration but for the upgrade now of Evangelismos,” GOCMV president, Bill Papastergiadis told Neos Kosmos.
Along with the restoration of the church as a place of reflection and worship and the repair and replacement of furniture and objects, the GOCMV is also taking the opportunity to expand and improve existing facilities for both the clergy and parishioner’s needs.
These additions include facilities for confession, office spaces, and a breakout area for churchgoers, which Mr Papastergiadis says will be well-designed and blended to suit with the original structure of the building. Working on the project are Constantine and Panayiota Moschoyiannis from Morea Architects, along with architect and heritage specialist Arthur Andronas and engineer Peter Paras.
While insurance is covering the bulk of the total cost, Mr Papastergiadis is calling on the community to support the project and “to ensure that it is lovingly restored and upgraded for future needs”.
The church’s fundraising committee is being chaired by assistant professor of Orthopaedic Surgery Dr Marinis Pirpiris, who assures that all contributions will be deposited into an account solely devoted to the restoration.
“All money raised from the fundraiser will be used for a purpose that will strengthen the church and our cultural presence in Melbourne,” Dr Pirpiris said.
“The Annunciation is one of the ornaments of the community; a landmark building that represents many of the best elements of a strong community − a constant expression of understanding, tolerance, participation and worship in Victoria.”
The second-oldest Greek Orthodox church in Australia, the Annunciation of our Lady (Evangelismos) was founded by the GOCMV 116 years ago and is considered a cornerstone of multicultural society, holding significance not only for the Greek but wider Australian community.
“As chairman I would like to invite everyone to support the Greek community to restore the church back to its former glory,” Dr Pirpiris urged. “Please offer generously and assist the community to restore and renovate this important historical, religious and cultural monument of Victoria.”
Those interested in donating funds towards the restoration can do so by calling the GOCMV on (03) 9662 2722 or via email firstname.lastname@example.org