Key to worship: St. George nears final phase of iconography

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St. George Orthodox Christian Church’s iconography is in good hands.

Those hands belong to George Kordis, who has been an iconographer for 45 years.

“Most of my life is dedicated to this,” Kordis said.

The Fishers Greek Orthodox church received a visit from Kordis and his team of iconographers from Greece March 11 to finish the final phase of painting icons, paintings of Jesus and other holy figures, at the church. Unfortunately, before the final phase could be completed, the team was forced to return to Greece March 25 to avoid becoming stranded in the U.S. due to the coronavirus pandemic. They will return when the travel situation returns to normal.

A Greek team of iconographers visited St. George Orthodox Christian Church to complete the fourth phase of the church’s iconography.

“The iconography is a very important part of our worship; it’s not just decoration,” St. George Pastor Nabil Hanna said. “Iconography has been an essential part of the Christian faith from the very, very beginning, so I always point to the evidence we have in the catacombs in Rome when Christians were worshipping underground when it was illegal to be Christian back in the first century. Those catacombs, they painted with iconography all the walls and ceilings.

“It’s the sense we have when we come into worship, we are joining in what is happening in heaven and as a witness of that fact, it’s surrounding us. It’s a theology in color.”

Hanna, known as Father Nabil by his congregation, said some of the first icons were painted by St. Luke, who was an artist and author of the Gospel and Acts of the Apostles.

From the very beginning, the iconography has been a staple throughout the Orthodox world.

“Whenever it’s feasible to the greatest extent possible, we have icons, because it’s a witness we are in the midst of the angels, the saints with Christ in the heavenly worship,” Hanna said. “We Christians understand that’s where we belong.”

Hanna said icons are referred to as “windows into heaven.”

“When I look out this window, I don’t think about the glass I’m looking beyond the surface,” Hanna said. “I’m not looking at the wall and the paint. My focus is on the subject behind it.”

Construction of St. George, previously located in Indianapolis, started at 10748 E. 116th St. in 2012 and moved in late 2013.

“Most churches in America use local iconographers,” Hanna said. “This group we became acquainted with and we became the first handful of churches that they did in America.”

Kordis painted the icons at Holy Trinity in Carmel before St. George.

“The reason we picked them is we saw their work. As we were deciding on which iconographers, we took field trips to see the work of the finalists,” Hanna said. “When we saw their work in Valley Forge, we were convinced. What makes them different from the vast number of iconographers, not only in America but around the world, is they paint directly on the wall the old-fashioned way. I would say 99 percent want to paint in their studio on canvas and then come affix to the wall and just do background. It’s easier for them and they don’t have to stretch their arm or stand on scaffolding. It might even be easier to do more detailed work, but it ends up looking more disjoined as separate scenes rather the flow of being surrounded by heaven.”

This was St. George’s fourth phase of iconography. The first phase was completed while the church was under construction, starting in the altar area and continuing to the top of the dome.

Kordis has a master of divinity degree from Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology and earned his Ph.D. in theology and Byzantine Aesthetics from the University of Athens.

“We keep the tradition and preserve as much as possible,” Kordis said. “Everything depends on the architecture of the church. There are standard themes but each church is different.”

George Kordis stands on scaffolding to reach parts of the wall. (Photos by Anna Skinner)

Longtime connection

Deacon Joseph Olas, a St. George pastoral assistant, has a special connection to St. George.

It’s the parish he grew up in as his father, Rev. Joseph Olas, was the pastor. 

His father was pastor for 13 years before retiring due to ill health in 1995. He died two years later. Hanna has been pastor since 1995.

“I can tell you right now my dad would be very happy with what is being done here,” Olas said.


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