January 11, 2023

A Farewell to the Mosaicist of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, Sotiris Varvoglis

Sotiris and Patriarch Demetrios in 1988

By the Great Archon Aristides Panotis

At the beginning of the new year, a great and modest artist of ancient mosaics, suddenly passed into eternity on January 8, 2023, leaving behind his loving family and that of the knowledge of the art of mosaics to his children and to his many students and friends, who appreciated in recent years his multi-talented contribution to a multitude of Greek church lintels.

But his top artistic contribution was deposited mainly in the Throne of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in the Phanar, both in the new "House of Christ's Hungry" erected by the family of P. Angelopoulos, such as the three mosaics of the Entrance, as well as his works in the Patriarchal Church of Saint George, like the "Reclining Christ Child", which leave the last Byzantine memory to the pilgrims of the revered three-aisled basilica of the Phanar.

When the erected building was finished, Patriarch Demetrios invited me to his side to visit it. And then I told him that his entrance does not resemble an ecclesiastical building and should be decorated appropriately to recall the history of the struggles of the holy institution. That is why I suggested to him that this building should be monumental and the appropriate art that should be used in the decoration of its entrance is the "mosaic". Then I suggested to him Sotiris Varvoglis who studied with his father, conservator of mosaics in notable monuments from the 11th century, in Daphni and Osios Loukas etc. from the Archaeological Service.

This mosaicist actually studied this technique and aesthetics of mosaics made of natural marble and marble stones, with fidelity to the design and vitality in the forms and balance in the compositions, and in addition he was knowledgeable about the "plaster" fixing of each work, so that they are perennial in its resistance to every shock and atmospheric test. To Sotiris I pointed out two important events in the History of the Throne, which must be recounted on either side of his entrance. First is the delivery of the gospel in the Bosphorus by the Apostle Andrew to the first bishop of Byzantium Stachys, and second was the historical moment of the "handover of the privileges of the Church" by the conqueror Muhammad to Patriarch Gennadios in 1453. This work is admired today even by the Turks.

Sotiris Varvoglis, of Asia Minor origin, studied in the living artistic tradition of classical Byzantine iconography. Artistically, he experienced close to his father the rescued masterpieces of our medieval era and emerged as a real initiate of the great art of mosaics. He did not imitate foreign techniques for profit, which now entered our country from Italy and Russia. In our days, he offered to our Church and to our Culture what came from the works of our forefathers and which the folk muse sang when these works were painted on the scaffolding and the surfaces of the walls: "Με το ψηφί με το τριγλί και με το μαργαριτάρι" i.e. with the colorful pink marble and glistening tesserae from the inside of the oysters.

Eternal be your memory friend and teacher.
Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.


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