Take time for tours of historic cathedral

Photo by Burt Steel -- The interior of Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral, filled with ornate icons and historic artifacts, will be open for tours led by a priest during the festival this weekend.
Photo by Burt Steel -- The interior of Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral, filled with ornate icons and historic artifacts, will be open for tours led by a priest during the festival this weekend.

The annual Greek Festival, this weekend at Holy Trinity Orthodox Cathedral, is a celebration of food, music and fun. But there’s a serious side to the event as well — one that has to do with heritage and faith.

Magdalene Maag, chair of the archives committee for Holy Trinity, has been hard at work arranging selections from the church’s storied collection of artifacts to display during tours of the cathedral, which will take place at 7 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Friday; noon, 2 p.m., 5 p.m., 6:30 p.m. (vespers) and 7:30 p.m. on Saturday; and noon, 2 p.m., 5 p.m., and 7 p.m. on Sunday.

Artifacts on the tour will include pieces of religious importance such as an early 20th-century epitaphion featuring oil-painted leather.

Holy Trinity received one icon in its collection from the empress of Russia, Maria Alexandrovna, in the 1800s. The icon is covered by a traditional silver riza and depicts “Jesus Christ the Holy Mandylion.”

Another important piece is a kouvouklion (circa 1880) featuring a canopied table representing the tomb of Jesus Christ. The kouvouklion, which also contains a cloth epitaphion icon, is paraded in church during special annual “Great Friday” services.

The church and festival are at 1200 Robert E. Lee Blvd. in Lakeview.

“The tours were always conducted and still are conducted by the priest of our community,” Maag said.

“He will talk about Orthodoxy, because many people don’t know about Orthodoxy, don’t know really what we’re all about, and he’ll also talk about the history of Holy Trinity and the fact that we’re the first Greek Orthodox church in the Americas.

“We have legal documentation that supports that,” she added. “And we know that New Orleans is older, but we know that the Orthodox presence is almost as old as New Orleans.”

“In addition to the history, we will have artifacts dating back to the early 1800s,” she said.

“We probably have 800 worthy historic artifacts,” Maag said. “And we’re going to be selling reproductions and copies of our artifacts, and all proceeds are going to go toward the continued conservation of the collection.”

Tours are included in the price of admission to the festival.