Posts tagged 1921
Back in July, Fr. Andrew wrote about the above photo, which depicts a gathering of American Orthodox bishops in the early 1920s: Greeks Meletios and Alexander, Russians Platon and Alexander, and Syrian Aftimios. At the time of Fr. Andrew’s original post, no one knew exactly when this photo was taken, or what occasion brought all these hierarchs together. Fr. Andrew wrote,
This photograph was found in the archives of the Library of Congress. As yet, there have been no official documents that have surfaced detailing what this 1921 meeting must have entailed. It might have been only a courtesy call, with a photo op at the end.
Fr. Andrew went on to observe that, based on the photo, the other bishops appear to have regarded Metaxakis as “first in seniority among them.” To read the rest of Fr. Andrew’s post, click here.
Why am I bringing all this up again? Becasue I believe I now know when and where this photo was taken, and why all these bishops were in the same place. On December 9, 1921, Abp Meletios Metaxakis was elected Patriarch of Constantinople. He was in New York at the time, having been deposed from his previous position as Archbishop of Athens. With Bp Alexander Demoglou, Metaxakis had come to the US to organize the Greek-American churches into a unified archdiocese. The New York Times (12/10/1921) announced that one of Metaxakis’ first acts as Patriarch would be to appoint Alexander as bishop of North and South America.
The Times also reported, “This morning at 10 o’clock the Most Rev. Alexander, Archbishop of the Aleutian Islands and North America for the Russian Church, will formally call upon the Patriarch-elect and officially present the felicitations of the 100,000 Russians who are in the Western Hemisphere, who are his spiritual subjects.”
The Russian goodwill towards Metaxakis’ election was not limited to Abp Alexander Nemolovsky. Archimandrite Patrick Mythen, the powerful convert priest, hastily organized a special ceremony. December 19 was the St. Nicholas day, the patronal feast of the Russian cathedral in New York. Invitations were sent out, in the names of both Met Platon and Abp Alexander. Besides the two Russian and two Greek bishops, the guest list included the Syrian Bp Aftimios and four Episcopalian hierarchs. Representatives of the new African Orthodox Church were also present, as well as the “Hungarian prelate [...] Bishop Stephan of Pittsburgh.” I think this was Bp Stephen Dzubay, a former Uniate who converted to Orthodoxy in 1916 and became the Russian Archdiocese’s Bishop of Pittsburgh. (Dzubay returned to Roman Catholicism in 1924.)
After the Divine Liturgy, there was a buffet luncheon for the clergy at the neighboring parish house. The above photo must have been taken during or after this luncheon. Here is another, nearly identical photo, which appeared in the New York Evening Telegram on December 20, 1921:
Comparing the two photos, it’s quite clear that they were taken at the same event, probably within moments of one another. The Evening Telegram photo doesn’t include the non-bishops, Polyzoides and Andronoff, but it’s possible that they were just cropped out before publication.
The event itself, the pan-Orthodox liturgy, is evidence of the rather friendly (or at least cordial) relations between the Greek and Russian hierarchy in 1921. Speaking to the Evening Telegram (12/19/1921), Fr. Patrick Mythen expressed what must have been on the minds of the Russian bishops as well: that Metaxakis’ election as Ecumenical Patriarch marked the first time since the fall of Constantinople that the Patriarch was elected without the consent of the Turkish sultan. He would thus be “politically free and will rule the Church as a priest and not as a politician.” Mythen meant that Metaxakis would not be bound to the Turkish state, but I’m sure many today would find his words ironic, Metaxakis being the controversial Church politican that he was.
Last week, I wrote about the introduction of organs into Greek churches in America, but I didn’t really know why they were introduced. Thanks to David Mastroberte, we now have a plausible explanation: someone specifically set out to popularize organ music.
That man was George Anastassiou. Courtesy of Mr. Mastroberte, here are Anastasiou’s own words, from a Greek hymnal called Αρμονικη Λειτουργικη Υμνωδια (published 1944, reprinted 1960):
I am convinced that I first introduced the organ in our Churches in America with the musical cooperation of ever-memorable artist and musical [sic] Spyridon Saphrides upon my arrival in America and my appointment as precentor-choir leader of the Greek Church of St. Sophia in Washington at the time of the progress and reformatory presidency of Mr. T. H. Theotokatos, lawyer and at that time teacher of this community in the year 1921. Later I introduced it also in New York and in other places by special musical-historic lectures, descriptions in our Greek press, and by special teaching in the choirs of our communities, which I formed, and lately in the beloved Greek city of Florida, Tarpon Springs, where there is played today, in that very beautiful cathedral church of America (as it is called today by all the Greeks and Americans by reason of the Pan-American celebration of Theophany services every year) an organ of great value electrically, microphonically, megaphonically, and with chimes, on the great singing tower, the bell tower of about 100 feet in height of this Greek Church of St. Nicholas in Florida, called the Greek singing Tower of America.
And thus, and in time, the organ of Greek invention became the valuable leader and coadjutor of our choirs and in America for the elevation of the Divine Worship and for our reunion through our choirs (which, I am convinced, I first introduced in America), with the ancient Greek Byzantine greatness of our church.
This makes sense. Anastassiou mentions the musician Spyridon Safridis, who, according to Nicholas Prevas, was hired to be the first musical director of Annunciation Church in Baltimore and introduced “European music” into that church.
The Anastassiou story suggests that parishes weren’t necessarily trying to just Americanize by adding an organ — they were also trying to be more “Byzantine,” at least according to Anastassiou’s interpretation of history. David Mastroberte writes, “In earlier paragraphs, Anastassiou claims that the organ was invented by Greeks at Alexandria, was used in the ‘Hebrew church’ and was even employed by such great saints as Athanasius and Basil the Great. He also mentions its use in the narthex of Hagia Sophia, and its subsequent introduction into the West via Byzantium.”
I’d love to learn more about Anastassiou, Safridis, and their efforts to spread organ music in Greek churches. All this was taking place during the 1920s — the era of the Royalist / Venizelist and Old / New Calendarist schisms among Greek Americans. If I may hazard a guess, I’d say that the Venizelists were more inclined to adopt the organ, and the Royalists were more likely to resist it. But I don’t know for sure. It would also be interesting to know whether there was any connection between Anastasiou’s efforts in 1920s America and Abp Athenagoras’ introduction of organ music on Corfu at the same time — that is, did Anastassiou inspire Athenagoras in Corfu, or were the two unconnected until Athenagoras came to America?
Many, many thanks to Mr. Mastroberte for providing this information.
After I published a piece on Fr. Kallinikos Kanellas earlier this week, I spoke with Fr. Nicholas Verdaris, the pastor of Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church in Little Rock, Arkansas. As it turns out, the Annunciation community continues to maintain Kanellas’ gravesite, and Fr. Nicholas was kind enough to send me the above photo of Kanellas’ tombstone. From it, we can see that Kanellas was born in 1837 and died in 1921, at the age of 83 or 84. That would put him in his 40s when he served in India, and in his early 50s when he came to the United States. Considering when he lived, Kanellas enjoyed a very long life.
According to some sources, Archimandrite Kallinikos Kanellas was the first ethnic Greek priest to serve in America. And those sources may be right, depending on your definition of “Greek.” The only other candidates would be from the Greek church in New Orleans. Fr. Stephen Andreades was the priest in the late 1860s, and Fr. Gregory Yayas served there from 1872-74; considering their names, both were almost certainly Greeks of one sort or another. Archimandrite Misael Karydis (or Kalitski) was the priest from 1881-1901, but he was reportedly from Bulgaria. In any event, Kanellas was one of the very first Greek priests in America.
I don’t know anything about Kanellas’ early life. I do know that, before he came to the United States, Kanellas had spent some time in India. From 1880 to 1886, he was the rector of the Greek church in Calcutta (the origins of which dated to the 1700s; see this fascinating history for more information). He first shows up in the US in 1889, as one of the priests of the Russian cathedral in San Francisco. He seems to be the first of several non-Russian priests brought over to America to serve in the Russian Diocese — “client clergy,” as Fr. John Erickson has called them. Soon, he would be followed by people like Fr. Ambrose Vretta, Fr. Theoklytos Triantafilides, Fr. Sebastian Dabovich, Fr. Raphael Hawaweeny, and Fr. Michael Andreades. But Kanellas seems to have been the original.
I’m not sure what Kanellas was doing from 1886 to 1889, but I suspect he might have been in Russia. This would explain his connection to the Russian Diocese in America.
Kanellas appears to have been trusted by Bishop Vladimir Sokolovsky, who appointed him to serve on the Alaskan Spiritual Consistory, the group of clergy which ran many of the day-to-day affairs of the diocese. He was particularly useful in ministering to ethnic Greeks. In 1891, he made a cross-country missionary trip. He stopped in Savannah, Georgia, and baptized a Greek child. The Columbus Enquirer-Sun (6/24/1891) reported that the child’s father spent $650, which presumably included transportation and lodging costs. The paper said that the amount “includes a handsome fee.” $650 seems outrageous, though. I checked an online inflation calculator, and it estimated that $650 in 1891 is equivalent to over $15,000 in 2008.
From Savannah, Kanellas went to New York City, where he baptized the daughter of Anthony Ralli (who was possibly connected with the well-known Ralli Brothers merchant firm). The New York Sun (6/26/1891) said that Kanellas had a “patriarchal beard and jewelled gown.” According to one account, he actually had to bring his own baptismal font — can you imagine taking one of those on a train?
I’ve seen some references to Kanellas having served in Chicago. That’s a bit of a puzzler… In July 1891, the Chicago Inter Ocean (7/11/1891) reported that a certain Archimandrite Lininas, “who presides over a temple in San Francisco,” was visiting Chicago and holding services for the Orthodox there. I haven’t been able to find evidence of this Fr. Lininas being in San Francisco, and it’s very possible that this was actually Kanellas, on his way back from New York to California. However, the Inter Ocean says that Fr. Lininas “is a finely educated gentleman, speaking German, Russian, and French fluently, but his English is best understood through an interpreter.” So according to the paper, he didn’t speak Greek (which, if true, means he wasn’t Kanellas).
In 1892, amid much turmoil and scandal, Bp Vladimir was recalled to Russia and replaced with Bishop Nicholas Ziorov. On July 1 (June 19 Old Style), the members of the Spiritual Consistory (of which Kanellas was apparently no longer a member) wrote to the new bishop,
Today, the Archimandrite Kallinikos was informed that he has to leave the Mission as of July 1. He replied that he has nowhere to go. In accordance with Your Grace’s will, we deemed it was better to say nothing in reply: Your Grace has ordered not to drive him out.
Obviously, something was up, but I don’t know what. The 1893 San Francisco city directory doesn’t list Kanellas among the cathedral clergy, so he didn’t stick around much longer. And for the next 18 years, I can’t figure out he was. I’m pretty sure he stayed in America, and by at least 1911 (and probably earlier), he was pastor of the Greek church in Birmingham, Alabama. In the 1913 book Greeks in America, Thomas Burgess, writing about the Birmingham church, said,
Of its former pastor, says the “Greek-American Guide,” “The Rev. Arch. Kallinikos Kanellas is a very sympathetic and reverend old man of whom it is possible to say that of the Greek clergy in America he is the most—shall we say ‘disinterested’? The Greek word is a dandy, (literally, ‘not loving of riches’). Plutarch used to use that word.
In 1913, Kanellas moved to Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church in Little Rock, Arkansas. He spent the rest of his life there. This is from Annunciation’s parish history:
Father Kallinikos Kanellas was brought to Little Rock on a permanent basis in 1913, and services were held in an upstairs meeting hall near 9th and Main Streets for the next eight years. This hall included a small chapel for Liturgies and Sacraments such as weddings, baptisms, etc., as well as a place for social gatherings. Incidentally, research indicates that Father Kanellas probably was the first Orthodox priest of Greek ancestry to come to the United States. When Father Kanellas became seriously ill, young Theo Polychron visited him daily, bringing soup from his little café. Father died in 1921 and is buried at Oakland Cemetery where most of the early Greek immigrants were also interred.
As you can see, Kanellas’ story has a lot of missing pieces. I suspect a lot of the gaps could be closed by a letter Kanellas wrote to Archbishop Meletios Metaxakis on March 16, 1918, in which he gave an account of his career in both the Russian Diocese and the Greek communities in America. That letter appears on page 333 of Paul Manolis’ History of the Greek Church in America in Acts and Documents… unfortunately, though, I can’t read Greek, so for now, I don’t know what the letter says. If any of you out there can read Greek and are interested in Kanellas, email me at mfnamee [at] gmail [dot] com.
It is often asserted that Ecumenical Patriarch Meletios Metaxakis invented the idea that the Ecumenical Patriarchate has authority to extend its jurisdiction beyond its traditional boundaries into the so-called “diaspora.” This is the Patriarchate’s current interpretation of Canon 28 of the Council of Chalcedon, which Meletios used in 1921-22 in order to justify his establishment of the Greek Archdiocese. He has received much criticism for this supposed invention.
Yet in 1908, when Ecumenical Patriarch Joachim III (r. 1878-84, 1901-1912) issued a tomos transferring the Greek churches in America temporarily from his own jurisdiction to the jurisdiction of the Church of Greece, he wrote:
For, it is obvious that neither the Holy Church of Greece, having been granted by our Patriarchate the status of autocephality within strictly defined jurisdictional boundaries, nor any other Church or Patriarchate, could canonically extend its authority beyond the boundaries of its defined jurisdiction except our Apostolic and Patriarchal Ecumenical Throne; this both by virtue of the privilege accorded to it to ordain bishops in the barbarian lands which are beyond the defined limits of the ecclesiastical jurisdictions, and by virtue of its seniority to extend its ultimate protection to the said Churches in foreign territories.[*]
This is the same Patriarch Joachim who is supposed to have refused to send a Greek bishop to America because he recognized Russian authority there. The tomos was entitled “Concerning the Grant to the Most Holy Church of Greece of the privilege of canonical sovereign jurisdiction for the spiritual protection and supervision of all the Orthodox Greeks in the diaspora in Europe, America and other countries, excepting only the Orthodox Greek Church of Venice.”
Commentary: Posting this source should not be construed as agreement with its contents and/or canonical interpretations. This is simply meant to illumine the discussion on these two points:
- Whether Meletios Metaxakis invented this idea about the Ecumenical Patriarchate in 1921-22.
- Whether Joachim really believed that America belonged to the Russians and not to himself.
[*]“O Patriarchikos kai Synodikos Tomos,” Ekklesiastike Alletheia 3 (1908): 183. Referenced in FitzGerald, Thomas E. The Orthodox Church. Westport, Connecticut: Praeger, 1995, p. 134, note 13.
Also quoted in Trempelas, Panagiotis. The Autocephaly of the Metropolia in America. Brookline, Massachusetts: Holy Cross School of Theology Press, 1974, pp. 25-26.