Celebrating Foundation Day 2017, Mercy International Centre, Baggot St Exhibition, Dublin


 On December 12th in 1831, Catherine McAuley, along with two other women, Mary Ann Doyle and Mary Elizabeth Harley took vows of life-long commitment as Sisters of Mercy. Thus began the Mercy Congregation.

This day then is special to us ‘Mercies’ and we celebrate it every year. Many people connected to our Mercy projects world-wide come to share the day with us.click here

For the last ten years on this day the Association of Iconographers Ireland has held an exhibition of icons in Baggot Street convent. The exhibition this year was much appreciated and those who came to view it spent much time asking questions about the sacred art of iconography. They were fascinated when they realised that the gold used was real gold and not imitation.

The symbolism present in every aspect of the icons brought an awareness of the spirituality present in this art. The sheer beauty of the icons drew them and they could not believe that so

many people on our little island are engaged in this sacred work. The day was indeed an affirmation of the spirituality present in the work that we in the Association are about.

Rosaleen Hogan

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Childrens Books

In Greece, Eva Vlavianos (click here) pointed out these two robust Children’s board books (see below) in the Philokalia Bookstore, 36 Voulis Str., Syntagma, Athens, Tel: +302103234411, email: philokalia@philokalia.gr

Children learn about the birth and life of Christ through looking at the beautifully reproduced frescoes by Tzortzis from the main church of Dionysiou Monastery, Mount Athos. Children also begin on a wonderful journey through the world of Byzantine Art, an art that is very close to children’s souls.

Philokalia are very easy to order from. I ordered these books while in Athens and got them sent to me in Ireland. The books are not only beautiful to look at but are lovely to read and are very good value,  costing €10 and €12. They are available in Greek, French and English and the reproductions are extremely good.  


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Gold in the National Gallery, London

The National Gallery, London had produced a number of very interesting short YouTube videos about gold used in paintings for the Christmas season. The first videos describe how gold is used in frames, fabric objects and the background of the paintings themselves.

Thanks to Richard Sinclair, iconographer and tutor with our Association for directing us to these videos. The videos can be viewed on YouTube or,  click here

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Patrick McMacken – “My Faith Journey”

Patrick McMacken, iconographer and tutor with our Association gave an interview recently to the Derry Diocesan Newspaper, The Net.The Net December 2017 cover pageThe full page spread makes for interesting reading and thanks to Patrick for sharing this with us.

If you would like to read Patrick’s interview, click on link below:

Article on Patrick McMacken

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The Feast Day of St Demetrios, Thessaloniki

Arrival in Thessaloniki and St Demetrios Feast day

I had been in Thessaloniki just once before with 8 members of our Association and I had always promised myself a return visit. We all had been very impressed with Thessaloniki on our visit in 2011.

The city has changed quite a bit in the last 6 years. It now seems more prosperous, with a proliferation of coffee shops and restaurants and certainly with an increased number of tourists. Thessaloniki doesn’t seem to get the same tourists as Athens. The tourists/pilgrims I saw were mainly from the Balkan Peninsula.

We had chosen this week to be in Thessaloniki as we wanted to celebrate the Feast of St Demetrios with the Thessalonians. We were staying just across the street from the Church of St Demetrios, a church I really love very much. In fact I visited it a few times every day on my 7 day sojourn in that city. The preparations for the feast day were as comprehensive as I had remembered with a number of people cleaning the church, tending to the flowers and their arrangements and of course keeping the silver casket which holds the relics of St Demetrios clean and sparkling. I don’t know what time this church closes but it was always after I retired to bed! It was thronged with pilgrims coming to pay their visit to the holy sites and smell the sweet scent that emanates from the casket of St Demetrios.

The church of St Demetrios has a rich history. Besides been twice destroyed by fire, it was plundered by the Sarakins in 904 and by the Normans in 1118 and then it was transformed into a mosque by the Turks. The rebuilding of the present church was completed in 1948 after the devastating fire of 1917, which destroyed two thirds of the city. Even though the current building is quite modern you still see something of the earlier churches on which this current one is built. In the crypt (the 5th century church) that runs beneath the sanctuary is the place where St Demetrios was imprisoned, martyred and was buried and is a place of pilgrimage.

There are many fine mosaics (from the 5th – 7th century) to be seen; St Demetrios with the priests, with angels, with the builders of the church, with a deacon, the Virgin with St Theodore, St Serghios and my favourite is St Georgios and the children. There are frescoes from the the 12th to the 15th century, In the small Chapel of St Efthimios on the right of the sanctuary, the walls are decorated with frescoes painted by Manuel Panselinos in 1303.

The modern icons, painted in tempera on wooden supports are very beautiful but mostly what impressed me was the faith-filled pilgrims – the old, the young, children, young lovers, priests, monks, nuns – who constantly streamed into the church to light their candles, venerate the icons, collect the holy water from the well, visit the ciborium, kiss the caskets of St Demetrios, the shrine of St Anyssia, the grave of Lukas Spandonis, and the shrine of St Gregorius Callides.

Wednesday morning, the day before the feast day of St Demetrios, a procession took place.  The casket that contains the relics of St Demetrios was brought around the streets of Thessaloniki asking St Demetrios to continue to protect their city.

On the feast day, Holy Mass began early in the morning and went on for hours. The singing was heavenly. I joined the congregation for a couple of hours but eventually had to sit down. My back gave way on me and the church was so crammed with people, I retired to the outside garden. Once again it was wonderful to be there and being with people so rich in faith always rouses my own faith. Thank God for these people. The church was thronged for the day and I’m sure St Demetrios was smiling on them all and on me too, I hope!

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One day in Athens


Tuesday 31st Oct 2017

I just returned yesterday from a trip to Greece, Athens and Thessaloniki. My husband, Anto and myself have been planning this trip for quite a while but it had to be postponed a few times over the last year. I am writing up the last day of our stay, firstly as I think our members and readers will find the information I gleaned useful. I will post some more blogs on Thessaloniki and Athens later this week and I’ll write up a more detailed account of the journey for the next Newsletter.

I had decided, on this visit to Athens to look up some of the small byzantine churches of Athens having read the excellent blog “My Unusual Journeys” by Kanstantina Sakellarion. So,we began the morning with a visit to our local church, the Church of St John the Forerunner,

next door to our hotel in Falirou St, Koukaki, Athens. It’s not one of the small churches but quite modern, beautifully decorated with byzantine style frescoes and some lovely icons on wood, impossible to resist as one passes! . Having spent the last 2 weeks with me in both cities, Anto says “There is even churches on the way to a church!”

The next stop was the 12th century Panagia Gorgoepikoos Church, dwarfed by the Mitropoli, Athens Cathedral right beside it.

Little Metropolis

Panagia Gorgoepikoos 

We then headed for Agios Nikolas Rangavas, Church in Plaka, on the advice of Andreas Sampatakos, a restorer of wood, whom we had meet in an exhibition, “Templon, Holy figures, invisible gates of Faith, 20th and 21st Century”  Templon Exhibition in Thessaloniki. He had told us to visit this much loved and important early byzantine church and to speak with Maria Chatzidakis who lectures on the conservation of Antiquities and Works of Art in TEI, Athens. She was there with her students when we arrived and very kindly took time out to show us this 11th century church, which was built on an older temple. She showed us the conservation work that is being done on the frescoes (mainly 20th century) within the church. The initial church was absolutely tiny but had been extended over the years. In Athens, Maria said the churches were much smaller than in Thessaloniki as in the early centuries of Christianity, Athens was still the centre of the old religion. After the 11th century the churches began to be built bigger. The church is a beautiful spiritual space and even though the icons are not in the style our Association work with, the church is certainly worth a visit.

We moved on to Agia Dynami Church, which is situated at the entrance to the Electra Metropolis Hotel. It’s a fascinating place. The church is right under the columns of the modern hotel.

Agia Dynami

Agia Dynami

I was touched by the respect the Athenians showed for their heritage, unlike in Ireland where we bulldozed Woodquay, (one of the largest Viking Settlements ever uncovered) to the ground and built office blocks on top of it. Having once more lit our candles and venerated the icons therein, we headed for “The Ant and The Cricket”, to meet Eva Vlavianos for lunch. Once again, we were very fortunate to be visiting Athens when Eva was back there, a real blessing. After a lovely, tasty lunch Eva and myself headed for the excellent bookshop, Philokalia, 36 Voulis St, Syntagma, Athens. I bought a few books on icons of course (in English) and Eva bought some theology books. Thankfully the bookstore will send the books by post back home.

Our next call was at the end of Ermou St. We passed the next small 13th century byzantine church, Panagia Kapnikarea, which was nearly destroyed to make way for progress but thankfully saved and restored by Athens University. So now the very busy commercial street of Ermou continues around this oasis of peace.

Eva brought me through the flea market to the amazing workshop of, Kyriakos Kiafas, Christodopidou 4, Monastiraki Tel. / Fax: 2103242048 who makes traditional furniture and beautifully carved icon supports, both gessoed and ungessoed.

He too will post any orders to Ireland. I chose a small triptych as I had carry on luggage only for my return flight.

A big thanks you to Eva for all she did for us and all she gives to us. I always feel blessed when I spend time with her and she made a good day perfect.

Having left Eva, I couldn’t resist going to see the last small byzantine church on my list, Agios Ioannis stin Kolana, (Saint John around the column) which was pretty close to where we parted, but it was closed

Agios Ioannis stin Kolana

Agios Ioannis stin Kolana

I guess I’ll just have to come back again to Athens!
God bless


P.S. The other two small byzantine churches I had on my list are Agios Dimitrios Loumbardiaris (St Dimitri the Bombadier) on Filopappos Hill and Agios Georgios tou Vrachou (St George of the Cliff) in Anafiotika. I had visited both these churches in the first few days in Athens.

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Hyde Bridge Gallery, Icon Exhibition, September 2017

See below for some more great photographs taken by Olga Weston click here and Philip Brennan of the Sligo Exhibition click here.

Some comments:

Congratulations on the Sligo exhibition. Loved it! – particularly the titanium one! A great crowd at the opening! Suzanne Halpin

In the Hyde Bridge Gallery today (Fri 15th Sept). Loved the exhibition, beautiful work. What talent in this country! Had to go back later to spend some more time with the icons. Cepta Collier

Was in Sligo this morning (Sat 9th Sept). The icons look great and the gallery is very nice! Mary Fitzgerald

You did a great job at the opening of the Sligo exhibition. Well done to everyone. Keep up the good work! Philip Brennan

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