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About the exclusion of Fotis Kontoglou from the Iconography of Churces.

The struggles of the foremost advocate of Byzantine Iconography

Fotis Kontoglou was the greatest icon painter of modern Greece and one of the most important theologians and literary writers He died in Athens on July 13, 1965. His death, was deeply mourned throughout Greece. In the face of his struggle for Tradition and Orthodoxy, Kontoglou did not care about anything or anyone, no matter how high he "stood" and what power he had. He refused to put even a drop of water in his wine, he refused to succumb to the suffocating pressures that were exerted on him and he did not accept for any reason the shackles of any powerful person, in order to gain favor, support, and various other "advantages". Which would ensure a rich life!

"...Because it is one thing to write or paint brilliantly, and your attitude towards life is a betrayal of what you do or write, and quite another to keep your texts and paintings upright and true as a "example of a good and honest life"! "

It is obvious that such an attitude of life became a nail in the eye of the then "powerful", who, small-minded as always, avenged him, excluding him with various pretexts, one of which was that he did not know how to paint hagiographies, from the illustration of temples.

Even when, after the accident of September 1963, which left his wife clinically dead and himself with a paralyzed leg, he was facing a survival problem. These should be read by those who have recently indulged in the over-analysis of Kontoglou of the period 1920 - 1923, ignoring or rejecting the rest. Because it is one thing to write or paint brilliantly, and your attitude towards life is a betrayal of what you do or write, and quite another to keep your texts and paintings upright and true as a "example of a good and honest life"!

Here are some of the letters and documents that prove the "dislike" in which Kontoglou had fallen due to his "baldness" but also the consequences for himself and his family. We sample excerpts from two letters and quote a whole. The first excerpt is from a letter to the Metropolitan of Corinth, who expressed the intention in the year 1959 to assign some illustration to Kontoglou. The assignment was never made. The second excerpt is to the Ministry of Religions and refers to the hagiography of Kapnikarea, where Kontoglou was blamed for a painting inadequacy, in order to be replaced in the work by one of his students. Kontoglou, of course, refutes the accusations in his letter, but he also reaches "for them". In the real reason for which he was windowed from the completion of the iconography of the Church. The third letter needs no explanation.

1) Excerpt from a letter to the Metropolitan of Corinth Mr. Prokopion,


"To the Metropolitan of Corinth Mr. Prokopion

In Athens on September 5, 1959

Yours sincerely

My dear friend Mr. Iatropoulos told me that you expressed the desire to paint the icons of the iconostasis of the new church of Nemea. So I hasten to thank you, happy because a Greek hierarch remembered that I am a hagiographer, which is rare "

2) Excerpt from a letter to the Ministry of Religions regarding flaws in the illustration of Kapnikarea by Kontoglou

"However, I believe that all this was created to serve as a pretext for me not to continue the work that began years ago and continued under me the painting of the revered monument of Kapnikarea, and this, because I did not accept to falsify the character of the superficial, subject to the persistent recommendations of two members of the ecclesiastical committee of the church, who have no competence. With their irresponsible suggestions, I, the person in charge, will assist in the monstrous distortion of this historical work of art, if any of the desires expressed by them give way. I have paid dearly for my steadfast attitude towards these incompetent professors of theology and I continue to pay for it, as can be understood by all the readers of the above lines, the brevity of which did not allow me to write down the most painstaking and detailed details of my .

3) Letter to Archbishop Chrysostomos for the illustration of the crypt of Agia Filothei 14/2/1964. It should be noted that Kontoglou has not even recovered from the accident, as he is still unable to walk well. The iconography was not assigned to Kontoglou, although the Archbishop agreed.

"To His Beatitude the Archbishop of Athens and all of Greece Mr. Chrysostom

Blessed are you As a humble child to a revered Father I dare to write this. My love and devotion to the Orthodox faith of our fathers often led me into conflict with the Western professors, theologians and students of the papist's and Protestant theology of the universities, who declared war on me.

As a result, I was excluded as a hagiographer from the temples presided over by modern priests or commissioners who are deaf and ignorant, working for the falsification or even the abolition of our sacred tradition in terms of the Iconography of the temples and the chanting in them. The result of this situation was my exclusion from the iconography of most temples, despite the fact that I learned as much as anyone about the rebirth and imposition of Byzantine art not only in Greece, but also internationally. Instead of me and my students, people are hired to decorate the temples, who have no spiritual connection with the Church, nor do they love or respect the sacred art of iconography, which they practice only for money, while they are of mediocre technical ability, by various methods and taking advantage of the hostility towards certain church leaders, for the reasons I have set out above, they manage to undertake iconography contracts on many churches, and some of them undertake the works of so many temples at the same time, that I wouldn't be able to do in my entire life.

In this way the sacred art for which I suffered untiring hardships and hard sacrifices, fell into the hands of unworthiness and disrespect and thus it became a stage of unholy trade for the tradesmen. This evil has reached such a point that I don't have any work. Recently it was informed that the crypt of the Metropolitan Church of Athens, in which the holy relic of Agia Filothei is kept, will be iconographed and that a relevant competition has been announced.

However, because I am afraid that the well-known iconoclasts may infiltrate this work as well, I hasten to ask you, as your respected order, to entrust me and my students with the iconography of this crypt, so that it becomes a brilliant Byzantine monument. I pray to the Blessed Sacrament as the craftsmanship of the crypt of the patron saint of Athens, Agia Filothei, was assigned to my workshop, especially now that, after the car accident that struck me, I need help.

F. Kontoglou

Translated from Source:

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