Beautification of the Sacred Space

Read about our opportunity to buy a temple in Bergen Norway.

When encountering God in Orthodox worship, all the senses are involved. We see the Savior and salvation history painted before our eyes in the icons of Christ and the Mother of God, as well as in “the cloud of witnesses” that have gone before us. We smell the incense rising as prayer before God, as the Psalmist describes. We light candles, kiss the icons, and bow in reverence before God. We hear the words of Scripture recited again and again. We taste union with Christ in the bread and wine. It was precisely the beauty of God’s house that the envoys, who in the 9th century were sent to Hagia Sophia, could not forget. This beauty led to the conversion of the Slavic people. The worship in the church was so beautiful that they reported back, saying they did not know whether they were in heaven or on earth.

Although we are far from grand cathedrals, we aim to create a beautiful sacred space that expresses the beauty of worship in the Orthodox tradition. We also want the beautification of the church to reflect the cultural context in which we find ourselves, by incorporating elements from Norwegian traditional art and church architecture. God became flesh and dwelt among us in a specific place and at a specific time, yet He is also incarnated in every person and in every place where the church flourishes. Many have described converting to the Orthodox Church as an experience of finally ‘coming home’. We believe the visual expression of the sacred space can underscore this truth. When it appears as something beautiful and recognizable, it can help open our hearts to God.

The beautification of the sacred space will be part of the doctoral work of Hanne Svane, the matushka of our parish, an icon painter, and a current PhD student in Traditional Art at the King’s Foundation School of Traditional Arts in London. She is interested in the relationship between universal and regional elements in iconography, and in how cultural particularity, along with the universality and timelessness of the Orthodox Church, can be communicated simultaneously. The design of the sacred space according to Orthodox tradition, in dialogue with Norwegian traditional art and architecture, forms part of her project. She explores, among other things, how local cultural elements can be incorporated into the iconostasis as a way of communicating belonging within the cultural context. Read more about her work here.

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