St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, Portsmouth NH

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References / Symbolism

The icons in an Orthodox Church are much more than beautiful decorations. They are, in part, pictorial lessons in our faith, depicting both its most significant events and its holy people. Icons are depicted as symbolic representations of the Holy family, Saints, angels and other key figures that shaped the Church through two millennia. Above all, the icons are an aid to worship. In the Orthodox Church, we pray not to the icon itself, but rather to the person for whom the icon represents.

As you enter the Church, you will see the Icon Screen, called the "Iconostasis" straight ahead of you, in front of the east wall. Behind the Iconostasis is the Altar. The raised area with the marble floor in front of the Iconostasis is called the "Solea". The doors centering the Iconostasis are called the "Royal Doors."

Icons behind the Iconostasis

The Virgin Mary with Christ Child (Platytera) largest icon, painted behind the Altar. (Original icon by iconographer Styllios Maris.) The Ascension (shown on the ceiling over the Altar).

Icons above the Iconostasis

Angels in small circular icons which were in the original St Nicholas church in Portsmouth, NH, The Last Supper and The Virgin Mary the Protector (on the ceiling above the iconostasis).

The Iconostasis

(From left to right) Archangel Michael (on deacon door), St Nicholas, the Patron Saint of the church, and the Theotokos with the Infant Jesus. Then on the right side of the Royal Doors are Our Lord Jesus Christ, St John the Baptist and the Archangel Gabriel (on the deacon door).

Icons on the Solea Walls

Left Side

Right Side

  • The Transfiguration (Metamorphosis) (Top)
  • The Baptism of Christ by St John the Baptist
  • St Peter (Left of Iconostasis)
  • St Paul (Right of Iconostasis)
  • The Hospitality of Abraham
  • North Wall (Left to right)
  • St Nicholas
  • St Basil
  • St Andrew
  • Circular Medallion Icons above
  • St Athanasios
  • St Nectarios
  • South Wall (Left to right)
  • St Sophia and daughters
  • St Nectarios
  • St Haralambos
  • Circular Medallion Icons above
  • St George
  • St Basil

Front Wall in front of the Solea (Icons by Shirley Kontaglou)

  • The Crucifixion (left)
  • The Resurrection (right)

Icons in the Nave (Icons by George Papastamatiou)

  • St Christina
  • St Eleutherios
  • St George
  • St Demetrios
  • St Philip
  • Sts Kosmas & Damianos
  • St Stephen
  • Circular Medallion Icons above
  • St Metelios
  • St Eugenia
  • St Lazarus
  • St Phanourious
  • St Katherine
  • Sts Constantine & Helen
  • St Barbara
  • St John the Baptist
  • St Paraskevi
  • St Kyriaki
  • St Anna
  • Circular Medallion Icons above
  • St Markella
  • St Anthony
  • St Dorothea
  • St Stylianos

Over entrance, beneath Choir Loft (Left to right facing entrance)

St Iannis, St Melitini, St Nikolas, St Katharini, St Georgios

In The Rotunda Dome

Christ the Pantokrator (The Lord of Creation) (Center top) Surrounded by the prophets from the Old Testament, (clockwise from the east closest to the altar); Aaron, Daniel, Gideon, David, Isaiah, Habakkuk, Moses, Ezekiel, Elias, Solomon, Jeremiah and Zechariahs.

Symbolic depictions

Saints who are depicted holding a cross are martyrs of the Church. Those with a book are Church scholars. If an icon depicts a person with a specific object, he or she is the patron Saint of that object. For example, St Paraskevi, the patron Saint of the blind, is depicted holding a paten with eyes. Icons have several commonalities.

First, the sensory organs including eyes, nose and ears, the fingers and feet are lengthened to connote a larger than human sense of spirituality. The expression on the face is always somber and reflects the subject's humility.

The Saints are generally adorned with robes to attribute their dignity. Finally halos are typically shown around the heads of the figures. Often, icons are painted in multiple colors and with gold backgrounds.

Most of the icons in this St Nicholas Greek Church have gold halos and backgrounds made of thin square sheets of gold foil.