In late 2017 our Parish Council resolved to undertake two major improvements to our parish centre in West Gosford: the construction of a mezzanine floor and choir loft, and the design and installation of a new iconostasis. Work on the mezzanine floor was commenced in mid-2018 and completed in mid-2019. On the recomendation of the parish rector, Moscow-based iconographer Maria Burganova-Yaltanskaya was then commissioned to design a new iconostasis. Information about Maria and examples of her work can be viewed here and here.
A typical iconostasis has certain fixed elements:
- The lower row has the Holy Doors, icons of Christ and the Mother of God, and the “local icons”. The local icons are those of the patron saint of the church or chapel and of others important to the parish or community;
- The deacon’s doors usually have icons of angels or of deacon-saints;
- The second row has icons of the twelve Great Feasts of the Orthodox Church, the main events in the life of Christ and of the Mother of God, and an icon of the Last Supper above the Holy Doors;
- Further rows generally have icons of apostles, prophets, bishop-saints and martyrs;
- Above the icon of the Last Supper is an icon of Christ on His throne, with the Mother of God and John the Baptist on either side;
- At the top is a cross.
The final design, accepted by the Parish Council in August 2020, can be viewed here. It follows the basic principles set out above. The main variations are:
- One of the deacon’s doors has an image of Melchizedek of Salem, an Old Testament priest-king who is seen as a foreshadowing of Christ. His depiction on one of the doors is quite common within the Russian tradition;
- Our third and final row has a combination of bishop-saints, royal saints and martyrs as we do not have room for different rows for each kind of saint.
The "local icons" in the design are of Saint Panteleimon, the patron saint of our parish, and of Saint Ksenia of Saint Petersburg, the patron saint of our parish Ladies' Auxiliary. Seven of the saints in the top row are well-known and widely venerated: Saints Tatiana, Sophia, Helen, Olga, Vladimir, Sergius and Alexander Nevsky. The three lesser-known saints are Saint Gennady of Novgorod and the Martyrs Leonid and Raisa. Each of them is linked in a number of ways to important people in the life and history of our parish, and to the family of a major benefactor.
In January 2021 we signed an agreement concerning the manufacture of the iconostasis in Moscow. The work was to be undertaken in four stages:
- Stage 1: Preparation of the icon boards and purchase of the timber and other materials – by the end of May 2021;
- Stage 2: Completion of the interior supporting structure, partial completion of the icons, and preparation of a detailed plan for the woodcarvers – by the end of August 2021;
- Stage 3: Substantial completion of the icons and the wooden elements; project review to ensure compliance prior to the final stage – by the end of January 2022;
- Stage 4: Completion of the icons and the wood carving; varnishing of the icons and wooden elements; trial assembly completed; packing for transportation completed – by the end of March 2022.
Our hope was that the iconostasis would be completed and packed for shipping by the end of March 2022, arriving in Australia for assembly and installation and be ready for blessing by the feast-day of Saint Panteleimon, 9 August 2022. The February 2022 escalation of the Russo-Ukrainian War and its effects have delayed completion of this project.
Stage One of the manufacture of the iconostasis was completed by 12 May 2021. As the photographs below show, the work has progressed beyond what was expected, with significant work on the interior supporting structure having also been completed.
Stage Two of the manufacture of the iconostasis was completed by 30 September 2021. As the photographs below show, the work has again progressed beyond what was expected, with significant work on the wood carving having been completed.
Stage Three of the manufacture of the iconostasis was completed by 10 December 2021. As the photographs below show, the icons and the wooden elements have been substantially completed, with some minor changes made to the design.
Stage Four of the manufacture of the iconostasis was substantially completed by 21 August 2022. As the photographs below show, the icons and wooden elements have all been completed.
As of 17 May 2023, the shipping container holding the elements of our iconostasis is in Klaipeda, Lithuania, awaiting departure on 25 May 2023. We expect it to arrive in Australia on or around 24 July 2023. There will be insufficient time to install it before our patronal feast-day of Saint Panteleimon on 9 August, but we hope to have it in place and ready for blessing by early September 2023.