There's a lot to celebrate at the 52nd Original Greek Festival. Beyond the usual sampler of Greek food, wine, music, and shopping, the festival's host, Annunciation Greek Orthodox Cathedral, recently completed a $13 million renovation that expanded the cathedral, restored its stained glass, and added a larger, gilded dome.
The first liturgy in the renovated space was held last weekend, and all involved are excited to show off the space throughout the festival, which runs from October 4–7. Even festival-goers who’ve done the annual architecture tour before should take it again—and newbies shouldn’t miss it.
“We’ve basically doubled the capacity of the cathedral,” says Mike Koinis, a church member who served on the cathedral’s renovation and construction committee. “Outside, we added 20 feet to either side of the original building, and the inside is just spectacular.”
The church, located off Yoakum and Kipling, has been a Montrose landmark since it opened in 1952. After a year and a half of renovations, the restored space makes for a grander, gorgeous house of worship with a striking white limestone exterior. Inside, the cathedral is sparkling white, with light flooding through massive stained-glass windows that have been painstakingly restored and cleaned. The icons around the altar area have been restored as well, with new additional icons added in a traditional Byzantine style. New pews were crafted and installed along with a new choir loft.
And then, there’s that dome.
“Theologically, the dome helps us understand the dual nature of Jesus and man and God,” says Father Michael Lambakis, dean of the cathedral. “It shows how heaven was bent and he came to meet us where we are.”
Within the next year, the dome—currently blank—will boast a huge icon of Christ, 45 feet across, surrounded by the four evangelists Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. But its brightness is still impressive, giving the once-cozy cathedral’s interior a feeling of openness and light.
Architecture lovers will enjoy seeing how the renovations blend seamlessly into the original space. And art aficionados will want to take in all the icons that grace the cathedral’s altar area. They showcase a scene of the annunciation, when the angel Gabriel came to Mary to tell her she would give birth to the son of God, from which the cathedral takes its name. There are smaller images of the 12 apostles and the prophets.
“This really explores the idea of the old and the new,” Koinis says of the renovation. “We wanted a way to keep one foot in our past—restoring parts of the cathedral—while realizing we needed to expand and grow and meet the future.”
Lambakis and Koinis are excited for festival-goers to see and explore the church. But they also want the public to enjoy the massive weekend block party that is the Original Greek Festival. Armies of volunteers are whipping up souvlaki (Greek beef skewers) and dinner plates with pastitsio (a kind of Greek lasagna) and filo dough stuffed with cheese and spinach, as well as Greek meatballs and a host of pastries. Wines from all corners of Greece are available, as are Greek beers and coffee. Kids and adults will show off their dancing skills in traditional dances from across Greece, and live music will happen on the festival grounds every day.
“This is a chance to share our culture with people,” says Koinis, “but the core of that for us is our faith. And we’re so anxious to show off the cathedral.”
Original Greek Festival, Oct. 4–7. Tickets from $5. Annunciation Greek Orthodox Cathedral, 3511 Yoakum Blvd. 713-526-5377. More info and tickets at greekfestival.org.