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Extended solea and wall in Greek Churches?


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#1 Reader Luke

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Posted 30 August 2013 - 09:47 PM

Having experienced some of Orthodoxy in Greece. I've wondered for a while, and haven't been able to find an answer, as to the origin of some of the furniture found in Greek churches that can't be found elsewhere in Orthodox Churches.

 

One of the pecularities is how the Greek solea seems to extend at least 10ft (or more) farther out from the iconostasis than elsewhere. Also, this extended solea may be 1 step (or 2) up from the main floor level, with 1 or 2 final steps next to the Royal Doors.

 

The traditional aspects kept seem to be the two kliros wings to the north and south on top of this extended solea, the Bishop's throne to the south, and the tall ambon to the north.

 

However, the one other peculiarity I found in the Greek churches is that on the western end of the solea, where it steps down toward the people, there is a low, waist-high wall with icons on it, much like altar rails in Western Churches. This wall has a central opening (sometimes with doors) that is used during entrances and through which people exit after receiving communion or holy bread, and through which people can walk to approach the Bishop's throne to receive a blessing during the service.

 

Now, when I asked some Orthodox in Greece, they said that the many stasidia/kareklas (chairs) and modern stanchions help keep people organized so processions can occur. I also thought that low wall kind of is similar, keeping people (and especially wandering children) off the solea and away from the choirs.

 

But I thought there must be a historical and practical explanation for this in Greek Churches. Does anyone happen to know why it is that Greek Churches seem to be the only ones with this extended solea and the low wall separating the solea from the center of the nave?

 

According to Wikipedia, when the ambo was in the center of the church, the solea connected it directly to the bema near the iconostasis and a low wall surrounded the platform. This would seem to be the origin, but is there anything backing this up? Does anyone know anything about the origin of this?

 

_______________________

 

Also, I've found that many of the Greek Churches still had ciborium made to cover the altars (and Orthodox furniture stores there still make them), why and when did this start to disappear in Orthodox Churches? 


Edited by Devin B., 30 August 2013 - 09:50 PM.


#2 Kosta

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Posted 01 September 2013 - 04:15 AM

Dev,

Do you have a photo? I believe the extended solea mimic the grand churches of Constantinople. If I understand what your describing, the altar rails are new . Recent installations just like the stalls/ chairs , probably early 90's. I dont know what purpose they serve.

Although I did see a disturbed mentally ill man attempt to make his way to the ambo, the gate was enough to stop him as he only tried to reach towards the priest without entering it, he was 'shooed' away. Good thing thats all it took, he was a real big guy. So perhaps it is just there to keep out wandering children or even wandering adults

#3 Alice

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Posted 01 September 2013 - 07:36 PM

I am trying to think about the first time I spent a year in Greece, in 1980 when I got married. There were generally no altar rails in the churches I can remember at that time, nor were there chairs. Indeed today, you find rows of stasidia chairs and altar rails in many churches in the Athens area. I will agree with the person who told you that it keeps order. You cannot imagine how little order there was before that...at weddings and christenings, everyone crowded so close to the priest and the recipients of the Mystery that it was really uncomfortable. I got married there, and I remember how strange the crowding 'tradition' was. In the same church today at a wedding, there is order and space for the mystery to occur more comfortably.



#4 Reader Luke

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Posted 01 September 2013 - 09:15 PM

I knew that the chairs weren't there back in the early 1900s. I've seen a lot of photos (from some of my architectural books and from old photos from Greece) from that time and they don't have the chairs. I didn't look to see if they had the rails.

 

Now, from what I have been able to find, it isn't an "altar rail" in the Western sense. What I've read so far says that because the ambo/bema used to be in the center below the dome in Orthodox Churches instead of off to the side, the rails ran from the solea to the ambo sectioning the solea & ambo off from the rest of the nave, so you had this low wall, then the iconostasis beyond. However, I don't know if this is the case as it was only one source I read that from.

 

Here is a picture I took while in Greece and it shows the low wall at the edge of the solea and the ambo off to the left (rather than the center under the dome):

http://www.panoramio.../photo/52385005



#5 Reader Luke

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Posted 01 September 2013 - 11:05 PM

I knew that the chairs weren't there back in the early 1900s. I've seen a lot of photos (from some of my architectural books and from old photos from Greece) from that time and they don't have the chairs. I didn't look to see if they had the rails.

 

Now, from what I have been able to find, it isn't an "altar rail" in the Western sense. What I've read so far says that because the ambo/bema used to be in the center below the dome in Orthodox Churches instead of off to the side, the rails ran from the solea to the ambo sectioning the solea & ambo off from the rest of the nave, so you had this low wall, then the iconostasis beyond. However, I don't know if this is the case as it was only one source I read that from.

 

Here is a picture I took while in Greece and it shows the low wall at the edge of the solea and the ambo off to the left (rather than the center under the dome):

http://www.panoramio.../photo/52385005

 

It should also be noted that I've seen old photos of that church, and one old B&W photo has no low wall, but one in 1965 looks like it has it.

 

Here are a few other photos I've taken of Greek churches with the walls. Interestingly, Hagia Sophia in Thessaloniki has a metal fence looking thing there instead of a wall.

 

St. Gregory Palamas in Thessaloniki:

http://www.panoramio.../photo/95596178

 

Panagia Dexia in Thessaloniki:

http://www.panoramio.../photo/95596192

 

St. Demetrios in Thessaloniki:

http://www.panoramio.../photo/95596203



#6 Kosta

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Posted 02 September 2013 - 01:34 AM

Last time I was in Greece in 2006, I dont remember these lower walls. Its the gates that I remember. Obviously the seats we all know are new, infact when my younger brother was baptised in Greece back in 1983 and I was only 9 , its one of the few things I remember. Thats because I really wanted to sit and all there was were a few benches built around the columns where the elderly would rest.

The crowding problem Is serious during the holidays. All the people who show up once a year to recieve also want to be the first to leave after communion. They would rush up where even fights would break out. On the down side of eliminating disorderly conduct is you no longer have baptisms or weddings where the family encircle the font or crowd the couple during the dance of Isaiah.
There is somethibg cool having the laity up close gathered under the dome

#7 Reader Luke

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Posted 02 September 2013 - 01:43 AM

Last time I was in Greece in 2006, I dont remember these lower walls. Its the gates that I remember. Obviously the seats we all know are new, infact when my younger brother was baptised in Greece back in 1983 and I was only 9 , its one of the few things I remember. Thats because I really wanted to sit and all there was were a few benches built around the columns where the elderly would rest.

The crowding problem Is serious during the holidays. All the people who show up once a year to recieve also want to be the first to leave after communion. They would rush up where even fights would break out. On the down side of eliminating disorderly conduct is you no longer have baptisms or weddings where the family encircle the font or crowd the couple during the dance of Isaiah.
There is somethibg cool having the laity up close gathered under the dome

 

I enjoyed Holy Week & Pascha, but it was crowded in that church, and they hemmed us in like cattle with those stanchions whenever they had to do a procession. They had to have a guy walk ahead of the procession moving people, or would appoint several people to close the stanchions on the people so they couldn't walk in front of the procession.






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