Restored church in Alexandria set for grand reopening

It took the vision of one Alexandrian, the enthusiasm of another two Alexandrians, two years of meticulous work and $600,000 to bring back the shine to the Church of the Holy Virgin in Alexandria, explained Antonis Papadimitriou, president of the Alexander S. Onassis Public Benefit Foundation. The church was not only an architectural monument, but also a focal point for the Greeks of Egypt, he told the media at the announcement of the official opening. The foundation undertook the task of restoring the cathedral in 2002, under the leadership of the late Stelios Papadimitriou, then president of the foundation, whose vision it was. Papadimitriou was an Alexandrian by birth, as are his wife Alexandra and their two children. His eldest Antonis, now president of the foundation, was 11 when the family left Alexandria, according to the volume dedicated to the restoration project. On April 2, the bells of the cathedral will ring out again, in the presence of Greek President Karolos Papoulias and Greek ministers. Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomaios will perform the opening service with Theodoros II, Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa. Papadimitriou senior’s vision for the cathedral was shared by the late Archbishop Petros VII, who died tragically with his entourage when the Chinook helicopter in which they were traveling crashed into the sea near Mount Athos. The third person to share their dream was Stefanos Tamvakis, then president of the Greek community in Alexandria and now president of the Council for Greeks Abroad. In his introduction to the book he describes the foundation’s contribution as «magnificent and monumental.» The work was done by the foundation’s secretary, architect Giorgos Zambelas, and civil engineer Panayiotis Panayiotopoulos. In the final phase, Patras-born clock maker Theodoros Kostakis was called in to repair and reset the cathedral’s famous clock. The foundation stone was laid on November 16, 1847, and the church was opened on March 25, 1856. Expressing his delight at handing over the restored church to the Patriarchate and the community of Alexandria, the foundation’s president said, «Once again, we recall that Greece is not confined to strict geographical or temporal borders.»