Alabama Church Honors Its Paintings and Heritage

November 11, 2000

Source: The Plain Dealer

On November 11, 2000, The Plain Dealer reported that "in the dome of Malbis' Greek Orthodox Church, the Almighty is the same yesterday, today and for the foreseeable future, thanks to the family of Jason Malbis. The story of Jason Malbis is only a century old, but the Byzantine sanctuary built in his memory appears a relic of generations past. On a steamy summer afternoon, an air-conditioner hums inside the ornate chapel. Massive pillars of claret and cream rise high above, supporting a star-studded plaster canopy. Glass tinted red, blue and yellow filters light that illuminates Rembrandt replica and Tzouvaras original alike. These things, beautiful as they may be, do not bring Gertrude Malbis to her family's chapel. She comes, instead, for the peace and contentment that's visited upon those inside the sanctuary. Beside richly painted murals that impart the story of Jesus' life, death and resurrection, she feels close to God...Spyros Tzouvaras, a famous Athenian iconographer, worked with two assistants on the chapel's dozens of paintings. They designed their own stencils, ordered and mixed all of their own dry pigments. They spent three months reclining on scaffolding 75 feet high, painting the Almighty, or, in Greek, Pantocrator. The chapel, which was dedicated Jan. 3, 1965, is the first mission center of the Orthodox faith in the United States. Now, at 8:30 a.m. almost every other Saturday in this small town outside Mobile, members of the Malbis family along with curious onlookers gather for worship...As worshippers pray, they're reciting the same words Jason Malbis spoke a century earlier at a monastery in southern Greece. The monk, who immigrated to the United States around his 40th birthday, started the Malbis legacy with a friend. The church, though, was not built until after his death...Gertrude Malbis recalled a time when most people couldn't read and relied on pictures for information. One watchful walk through the Malbis sanctuary imparts Christianity's most beloved stories - Mary with baby Jesus, a young Jesus in Jerusalem's temple, Jesus' celebration of the Last Supper, the Crucifixion, Jesus' ascension to heaven."