CLEARWATER, Fla. — It’s been a long road for the people at the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in Clearwater.
Much of the church was destroyed by a fire in 2015 but thankfully, in 2019, they were able to reopen their doors but still had some work to do to fully restore this house of worship to its former glory.
For Reverend James T. Paris, head priest for the church, it’s a blessing to be the leader of his congregation.
“It’s just beautiful art and symbolism and inspiration to us,” Paris said.
As soon as you step into the sanctuary of the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in Clearwater, you feel like you’ve stepped into a truly holy place.
“If you look up,” Paris said when he showed Bay News 9 the sanctuary, “you’ll see Christ in a circle and you’ll see four angels around him, which means the ascension.”
But this creation took a lot of work and dedication.
The church suffered significant damage from a fire nearly seven years ago and reopened just before the pandemic.
Now that normalcy has essentially returned, some of the hard work that’s been left to do since the fire is being done right now.
“[I] love what [I’m] doing,” Achilles Tourlas, a painter from Greece, said through an interpreter.
Tourlas spent years refining his craft in iconography. He’s been doing it since the 90s and went to school in Athens for it.
“He loves the art of iconography,” the interpreter said.
So much so that he has spent the last few weeks here in Clearwater, putting some of the finishing touches on the recent artwork to complete these incredible pieces surrounding the new and improved sanctuary.
“He works 10 and 12 and 14 hours and the next day he starts all over with the same pathos,” Tourlas said through the interpreter.
Which is pretty apparent when you step into the sanctuary.
The work is a reflection of a byzantine style of art that goes back over a thousand years.
“These men work tirelessly but they never get tired,” Paris said.
The detail is incredible, each stroke of the brush done with care.
But Paris says they do this with a clear mind on who it’s for, saying that Achilles and the other painters from Greece pray before beginning each day.
“When they paint these icons,” Paris said, “they’re doing it with love in their heart, with love for Christ, God and the saints.”
Which he’s thankful to see come together this holiday season.
“It makes us stronger and closer together to one another in Christ,” Paris said.
Strength through art, to help weather any disaster and create something out of the ashes that’s truly breathtaking to see.