April 14, 2016

Alexandros Papadiamantis and the Great Canon

By George D. Tsimbanoulis

A street of the district of Rachi in Portaria has been given the name of Alexandros Papadiamantis.

Papadiamantis was such a great personality in the area of Greek literature, that it alone was enough to explain the naming. But the reason why this street was given the name of Papadiamantis is the following:

Alexandros Papadiamantis had a brother, George, who was married in Portaria and he settled there. For many years he was secretary of the Community of Portaria then the Orminiou Municipality. His house sat in the small square, where there was a domed fountain and the great tree of Rachi, opposite the mansion of Tsopotou, now the hotel Despotiko. Thus the interpreter of the humble, authentic and uncorrupted Greek world, the monk in the world Alexandros Papadiamantis, visited Portaria many times, to see his brother and his nephews.

With this opportunity I will tell you an anecdote about Alexandros Papadiamantis, which my grandfather Papa-Antonis, who was priest of the Holy Church of the Holy Unmercenaries in Portaria from 1890 to 1942, told us. What year this exactly happened, I do not know. However, this was told to us by my grandfather.

It was Great Lent, a Wednesday, when during Vespers the Great Canon of Saint Andrew of Crete is read in the church. My grandfather came out of the Beautiful Gate with the book in hand containing the Great Canon, and with the light of the candle began to read the hymns. He didn't have a chanter, so he had to read all the hymns by himself. And they were a lot.

He read the first and took a deep breath, preparing himself for the second, when suddenly someone who was standing to the right, in front of the pillar of the church, began to chant the second hymn. My grandfather was a little surprised and moved on to the third. The unknown figure recited by heart the fourth. My grandfather, whose agony increased, read the fifth, while the unknown figure chanted the sixth by heart, and it went on, until the entire Great Canon was completed. My grandfather read from the book and the unknown figure chanted by heart, without a book. A cold sweat came over my grandfather. He barely under the weak light of the candle managed to read the hymns, while the unknown figure did so without stammering at all and recited them in context. His fear put the idea in his head that it was an angel of the Lord, sent by God to rebuke him so that he would properly carry out the task. And as my grandfather added: "I was also a new priest."

The Great Canon was finished, and my grandfather went into the Sanctuary to take off his stole, and by the time he went back out the unknown figure disappeared. This embedded the initial suspicion of the innocent priest of the heavenly origin of the unknown figure. The only thing, in his turmoil, that he was able to remember was the humble unworldly dress of the stranger. He asked around and eventually found out that this unknown figure, who so shook my grandfather with his knowledge and appearance, was Alexandros Papadiamantis, the brother of George, the secretary of the Community. The next day he went to the home of his brother to meet him, and he spoke of his simplicity, humility and wisdom.

This is how the village is connected with the blood relations of the great Alexandros Papadiamantis and rightly has a street been given his name, being the district where his brother George lived.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.