From greek words: icon + stasis = picture + station


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Read and have a look at some of them - Good surf!

According to the Grolier encyclopedia, the word 'iconostasis' is used to name "the icon screen that in Eastern Orthodox churches separates the sanctuary --the area around the altar that only the clergy may enter-- from the rest of the church. In the Byzantine church the iconostasis (originally, in the 6th century, only a low parapet, to which images were added by the 9th century) remained relatively low until the 16th century. In Russia, however, by the 14th century the iconostasis had already appeared in its final form--a solid high barrier completely blocking the congregation's view of the sanctuary and its sacred mysteries. Covered with rows of large icons arranged according to a strict formula, the Russian iconostasis embodies the basic doctrine of the incarnation of Christ." At home, iconostasis are places where again icons are presented. An oil candle is always burning there, usually in a glass enclosure, and that is the place where the family gathers for prayer.

Road iconostasis are basically the same as the latter. According to Nicholas Gage: "Like the gods in ancient times, today's saints are often revered at shrines and tiny chapels. Many of these shrines are built in a spirit of thanksgiving for services rendered. Usually, the size of a large birdhouse, there are thousands of them thoughout Greece, often situated at the most picturesque bends in the road". They are usually shaped in a variety of forms ranging from a mere box to a small church with a cross on top and glass windows. It is large enough to hold a couple of icons and an oil candle and some wax candles. The meaning of these is that, for instance, in that specific spot, a car accident was either avoided or there was one without a fatality, due to a divine intervention. The motorists involved or their families, erect this little monument to show their faith and gratitude to their patron saint, for the miracle that occurred in that spot. That is why they are usually found in very bad road curves. The more dangerous the curve, the more numerous the iconostasis. Every passer-by is expected to pray, to stop and make sure the candle is burning and to clean it, if it needs to... Sometimes a bowl invites him to gives some coins for the stewardship of the iconosatasis. Though numerous in Greece, the iconostasis are not evenly distributed. They are mainly present in Peloponissos and nearly missing in Crete, notwithstanding the road dangers of this island...

This custom calls to mind the 'Hermae' that ancient greek were used to erect. Those were small columns (usually square) dedicated to Hermes who was the patron god of the travellers. Some similitude may also be seen with the tradition of wayside crosses that exist elsewhere in Europe, specifically in Brittany.

In any case, the road iconostasis give a concrete body to the greek idea of faith.

Last modified October 2007.

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