Church altar, relics ‘miraculously’ saved from fire
A FIRE that tore through a Greek Orthodox Church caused extensive smoke damage "miraculously" spared the altar where the most precious religious relics were stored.
The fire at the Greek Orthodox Community of The Nativity of Christ on Church St in Port Adelaide was spotted just after 2pm on Friday when smoke was seen billowing from the roof.
Within the space of an hour smoke from the fire caused irreparable damage to hundreds of religious icons painted on the walls of the church.
Even as the smoke poured into the roof space, down a back corridor and, eventually, out broken windows, the altar remained untouched.
President of the Port Adelaide Greek Orthodox community John Douvartzidis said the heat from the fire had melted the symbolic paintings from the walls and the ceilings.
"There was extensive damage to the front of the church, but inside it is all just smoke damage," he said.
"All the religious stuff was saved, miraculously. When I was allowed to go in the first thing I saw was the altar, it is pristine, yet everything in front of it, around it and behind it is black.
"I grabbed our priest and he went and in and recovered all the artefacts."
A cross, gospel and chalice were saved from the altar.
Mr Douvartzidis said the church had been inundated by offers for assistance from members of the wider community.
He said the community would start to repair the church as soon as possible and the Christmas ceremonies would be held in the hall next door.
"The calls we have had from the broader community has been overwhelming," Mr Douvartzidis said. "No shortage of help or assistance.
"Everyone here has been here for decades. the community started in 1959 and within a few years we built our first church and we have been upgrading and building since then.
"It was one evolving community, very strong, very tight-knit.
"Greeks and church go together. Without one there isn't the other and that's why the members are so devastated."
Initial estimates from the Metropolitan Fire Service have placed the damage bill at around $750,000.
But Mr Douvartzidis said an accredited iconographer would have to travel from Europe to start the long process of the restoring the hundreds of religious icons that adorned the walls before the fire.
"It will take years to paint them again," he said.