A Church to Saint Basil the Great



From time to time Päivi Kristiina Loikala, originally from Iitti, hears the question: "How did you end up painting Byzantine style frescoes in the middle of Tavastia in Finland?" Here we hear Päivi Kristiina answering this question. We hope that someday the former X-ray room will be covered all over by frescoes and will be consecrated as a church dedicated to Saint Basil the Great.



Päivi Kristiina Loikala:






In the premises of Athos-Foundation there is a small X-ray room. When people were pondering how one could use the room, there came an idea to change it into a church. My sister Minna had an idea that sounded good: maybe there will come a volunteer, who will be ready to paint the room's walls. So, she asked me to do the job. I thought about it long and hard, "over night", as they say in Finnish. And I came to the conclusion that it'd be nice job. First, however, I wanted to hear what Mr Alexander Wikström thought about the idea. He had been my icon painter teacher in New Valaam Academy and it was there where I met him. He encouraged me to take up this opportunity.


So, my journey to Lammi began. What kind of place would it be like? On my way there I met my father confessor and after discussing with him, I continued my visit to Lammi. The place was HUGE! Parks and buildings everywhere. Fortunately, I knew Mr Hannu Pöyhönen from previous encounter with him when I was taking part in a pilgrimage in Cyprus. After viewing the future work place, which at that time had a ball pit and strange light pillars in it and after wondering at all the plans for the future, I was all mixed up.


A new acquintance was Mister Constantine (Konstantinos) Xenopoulos. He was present when I first visited Lammi. Together with Hannu they looked at some of the photographs of my works. At that point I did not have very many of them! After viewing my work, they promised that I could start painting the church. Because I did not have any experience of painting a whole church, we agreed that Hannu and Xenopoulos would be my instructors. The models and the overall plan of the picture program would be send from Greece. I could also attend the courses held by Mr Xenopoulos so that I could learn his methods.




So I had accepted the job. Then came up the business of sorting out the practicalities because at that point I was unembloyed. There we ran into difficulties and time went on... Finally, in December 2013, I met a office clerk who took care of the matter in 15 minutes! So, I could begin painting with the help of work experiment money. I am not sure if I understood what I was getting myself into when I traveled to Lammi and my man with dogs and cats and a child was left back home as keepers of the house.


During the autumn my sister Minna had moved to Lammi and started the work in the X-ray room. When I arrived in December everything looked already quite nice. Xenopoulos held an icon painting course and showed us how to fasten the fabric into the wall, and next week we were already in a fabric shop buying a whole bolt. And then we just began fastening the fabric into the wall – some people aren't afraid of heights! - ”learning by doing”. And it was a miracle: it worked!




Then I began to magnify the first pictures into real sizes. The models came from Greece into Hannu's computer and from there they were printed in size A4. Just barely was there room enough in the icon painting studio where I drew the pictures into real-size models. It was quite a task to fasten the loooong papers into place on walls and start making the picture in its place in the church. First time there came into my mind the question: ”What am I doing... really?”



It was also interesting to choose the best colour for the backgrounds. There are no windows in the room so there is also no natural light in it. Colours that were beautiful elsewhere, were not suitable in the interior of the church. Hannu decided that I would make colour models and after that we would together decide on the best ones. There were seven people present. At first we put away all those colours that nobody liked. A few suggestions was left behind. In silence everyone thought of their own favourite on their own. Then we said which colour would be the best one – and we had all come to the same conclusions, so that was it.


It was the turn of January to Februaby 2014 when I felt enough courage to paint the first colours to the white surface – exciting!!





So my work began. I was excited and painted the background and walls to the Annunciation.


It was nice how the white wall was slowly covered by paint. Soon I could paint the angel and... all!
The flowing garments of Archangel Gabriel - how do they have so many layers. How do they set in place? And the hand, it also is too long.

In the chapel there is room to look from a distance and soon I notice that it's worth to climb down more often to see what I have done...
Visitors come and view my work. Questions. Questions. I notice that I know very little and yet here I am, up, near the ceiling with a brush in my hand! I am desperate: I feel that I am running after knowledge. Someone asks and I do not know what to answer. I find out. And my memory is not so good: even I find something out, I don't remember it.
When I finish the Archangel Gabriel, a fresco painting course begins. Mr Xenopoulos makes us do the Last Judgment. He teaches us a totally different method of painting the clothes! A thin layer, like a wash, shadows and lights! Many tiny disciples and all them have different shades. I get excited. I want to learn more. TO BE CONTINUED...


Most Holy Trinity, have mercy on us.
Lord, cleanse us from our sins.
Master, pardon our iniquities.
Holy God, visit and heal our infirmities for Thy name's sake.












The first wall was finished in spring 2015. All in all it took a little over a year - with breaks and all. Quite good. I thought at first that it would take a year per wall - and then the ceiling. 

Then started the wait. The suggestions and topics we had planned with Hannu were evaluated by Mr Xenopoulos...