by Enrica Campagnaro e Francesco Carnio 4A (scientifico)
On Tuesday 3rd March 2015 Mr Flilippo Toso, our young Religion teacher took our class to the church of Saint George of the Greeks lo learn about Greek Orthodox Christianity. The ancient Church is situated in the sestiere (neighborhood) of Castello, near the church of San Zaccaria, in Venice. St George’s depends on the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. The building, in late-Renaissance style, which was designed by Sante Lombardo, was begun in 1539 and completed in 1561 under the supervision of Giannantonio Chiona. St George is a domed basilca.
The interior is richly decorated. In front of the pulpit you can see an early work by architect Baldassare Longhena. The iconostasis is characterized by marble decorations and paintings depicting various saints. The decoration of the iconostasis was completed by an anonymous Byzantine Christ Pantocrator, dating back to the late fourteenth century.
During the visit we had the opportunity to listen to the Orthodox priest in the church. He tried to highlight the differences between Orthodox Church and Roman Catholicism through insights regarding the Orthodox doctrine. It was very helpful in answering our questions and satisfying our curiosity. Then we entered the Museum of Icons. The ancient Byzantine icons are rich in symbolic and spiritual meaning. We could appreciate them thanks to our Art History teacher, Ms Mariarosa Mazza. The outing was very interesting and I was glad that I participated.
Inside the church we met an Orthodox priest who showed how to perform the Orthodox Sign of the Cross, which is different from the Catholic way and highly symbolical. The tips of the thumb, the index finger and the middle finger are brought together, and the ring finger and the pinky are pressed against the palm. The first three fingers are symbol of the Trinity while the last two fingers represent the two natures of Jesus (divine and human). The hand touches the forehead (In the name of the Father), the heart (and of the Son), the shoulders (and of the Holy Spirit) and finally the chest (Amen). Unlike Roman Catholics, Orthodox Christians touch the right shoulder before the left.
We also visited the museum of Icons. It contains a lot of Byzantine and Post-Byzantine Icons of great historical and artistic value. The believers, by looking at the Icons, acquire the same truth of faith that they could acquire by reading the Bible. The language of Icons consists in symbols such as the colour code and the place.