New Iconostasis - Part I.

October 23-27, 2006 - October seems to be the month for major renovations at SS. Peter and Paul Orthodox Church in South River, New Jersey. You will recall that a refurbished chandelier was installed two years ago, also in October. Whereas the reinstallation of the chandelier was accomplished in one day, installation of the new Iconostasis for our parish took the better part of an entire week. This photoreport is in two parts - this first part describes the preparation of the old Iconostasis to receive the new icons and introduces the viewer to the Russian-born, California native, Mr. Dmitry Shkolnik - the iconographer for the new Iconostasis in our Church. Part two shows the actual installation of the new icons and takes the viewer on an icon-by-icon tour of the new structure.

Above - quite an unusual sight to see - an Iconostasis without icons. Workers had removed the old icons in anticipation of placement of the new icons. Below left, the Candle Desk area had become temporary storage as it was necessary to move many items away from the Iconostasis to facilitate installation of the new icons. Below right, candle stands were grouped in front of the iconography on the back wall of our Church. Those icons were also written by Dmitry Shkolnik. More about Mr. Shkolnik further on in this report.

The Altar table was covered to protect it from damage during the icon installation (above left) and valuable cloths were placed in large Tupperware-like containers to protect them from becoming soiled. Below left - a view of our Church from the Sanctuary - the other side of the Iconostasis. Below right - in short, the Sanctuary had temporarily been converted into a work site and only the Table of Oblation appeared to be undisturbed by the installation process.

As one would expect, scaffolding was installed on both sides of the Iconostasis. Above left, a view of the scaffolding which was installed in the Sanctuary. Above right, vertical support columns which could not be moved certainly made installation of new icons in these areas more difficult.

In the two photos above left and the photo below left, the former icons had been respectfully laid aside in anticipation of the new iconography (above right and below right).

Above, the schematic layout for the new Iconostasis is shown above - each new icon had a specific destination. Below left, iconographer Dmitry Shkolnik flew in from California to be with us in South River for the entire week. The new icons accompanied Mr. Shkolnik on a flight from San Francisco to Newark. Mr. Shkolnik is shown below left adding the finishing touches in the Church Hall to the icon of the Nativity. Below right, a semicircular icon of the Dormition lies horizontally for a few minutes more before taking its upright position in the new Iconostasis on a permanent basis.

Above left - not only was Rev. David Garretson, Rector of SS. Peter and Paul Orthodox Church in attendance for the project for the entire week, he pitched in a considerable amount of work, as we shall see. Below right, Mr. Shkolnik holds the new icon "The Harrowing of Hades" - the representational icon for PASCHA. In the background of this photo is the former icon for the Resurrection. Mr. Shkolnik is a graduate of Holy Trinity Seminary (ROCOR) in Jordanville, New York, having received a Bachelor of Theology degree there. He is married and the father of five children. Examples of his iconography are in many Orthodox Churches in the United States and, as well, throughout the world, including the new Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow.

Above right and below left - Mr. Shkolnik and his assistant - also named Dmitry - worked in the Church Hall, putting finishing touches on the icons, including hand-written lettering. Above left, completed icons lay upstairs in a Church Hall classroom. This provided your reporter a unique opportunity to photograph the icons close-up in a manner which will never be possible again. You will see the results of that photography in Part II. of this photoreport. Below right - some artistic doodling by Mr. Shkolnik.

Measuring and planning were occurring simultaneously in Church. Above right, parishioners Nell and Leo Radionoff stopped by to observe the work. Below left - the two Dmitrys evaluate their handiwork. Below right and in the photos which follow, Mr. Shkolnik applies lettering to the icons with a paintbrush. All lettering is freestyle with no templates and Mr. Sholnik is amazingly good at writing with a paintbrush!

Above right, those icons which will occupy the lower tier in the new Iconostasis have been lined up in the Church Hall. Below - Mr. Shkolnik applies lettering to the Deisis icon (Jesus Christ, the Theotokos, and St. John the Baptist). It is the Deisis icon which will occupy the central position uppermost in the Iconostasis.

Above left - parishioner Robert Pisuk assists Fr. David in the cutting of wood strips which will help stabilize the new icons in the Iconostasis. No priestly vestments are required for this type of service to the Church! Below left - Mr. Shkolnik's assistant Dmitry sits on scaffolding in front of the Iconostasis while Fr. David's friend of more than 25 years, Ken Harris, sits on scaffolding in the Sanctuary. Mr. Harris - a very experienced constructor of stage settings in the Broadway theater - placed the wood strips which helped to secure the new icons. Together, they worked as a team.

Lower extremities dangle from the scaffolding as the work progresses (above left). Above right - electrical wiring behind the Iconostasis will also require attention before the project can be called complete.

Above - Fr. David evaluates the progress of the project as the work continues.

Above left - The Golgotha is temporarily situated before the partially completed Iconostasis.

Above and below - some additional views of the work as it progresses.

Please refer to Part II. of this photoreport for continuation of a review of the installation process, but more importantly, for an icon-by-icon tour of the new Iconostasis.

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