The parish of the Holy Prophet Elijah in Aliquippa, Pennsylvania is in the midst of an extensive renovation project on the sanctuary of its parish church building. Constructed between 1954 and 1956, the church has seen several renovations throughout the years, with the most recent significant renovations coming in 2003-04, under the leadership of +Protojerej-Stavrofor Stevan Stepanov of blessed memory. Since that time, normal wear-and-tear from usage, water damage from roof and mortar joint leaks, and wall cracks that resulted from slight foundation movements all combined to create a need to repair and restore several areas inside the church sanctuary.
By mid-2017, work to address the causes of the leaks was completed, and engineering studies determined that no significant problem existed to cause the foundation movement. As a result, the parish’s current pastor, Reverend Branislav Golic, and its Executive Board sought and received the blessing of their diocesan archpastor, His Grace, Bishop Irinej, for the repair and restoration of several elements of the building. The project includes:
- Repainting the interior of the church sanctuary, which required the construction of extensive scaffolding to provide access to the walls and ceilings that rise over 20 feet high.
- Restoring and re-applying gold-leaf detail on decorative painting installations throughout the church, including inside the high central dome.
- Installing a completely upgraded lighting system that uses high-efficiency LED lights, which will last longer and use far less electricity than traditional lights.
- Rewiring the church’s large central chandelier and conversion of the lights in the chandelier to LED bulbs.
- Thorough cleaning of the hundreds of pieces of crystal comprising the chandelier that had been covered by over 15 years-worth of dust and smoke, which required the chandelier to be taken apart piece-by-piece, cleaned, and then reassembled.
- Professional stripping and cleaning of the marble floor surface.
- Restoration of the exterior mosaic icon of the Holy Prophet Elijah above the main entrance door. The mosaic, installed in the late 1950s by Alexander Dzigurski (who also painted the icons for the church’s iconostasis), has suffered damage by the accumulated effects of weather over the last 60 years.
In addition to all of these tasks, the parish is hopeful to include one more work item as part of this renovation project: the installation of a fresco of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ on the ceiling of the church’s central dome. Not only would this installation be consistent with traditional Orthodox architecture and iconography, it would also complement the existing frescoes of the Theotokos “Panagia” and the angels that were installed in the church’s altar and adjacent walls in 2004 by iconographer Filip Subotic.
Work on this renovation project began in late June. Since that time, Divine Services have continued to be held regularly in the church, beneath the scaffolding that spans the entire lengths and width of the church. As Father Branislav recently noted, this has temporarily transformed the sanctuary into something resembling the catacombs in which ancient Christians gathered to pray during times when the Church suffered great persecution. Fortunately, the parish’s faithful have continued attending these services despite the construction conditions and resulting inconveniences, and many have enjoyed observing the signs of progress from week to week. The faithful also have generously supported the project with significant financial contributions, allowing the parish to complete all of these projects without taking on any debt.
The project is expected to be completed by late August 2018. The parish invites all to “Come and see” the restored sanctuary and to join us in prayer in this beautiful and holy temple once the project is complete!