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After leaks damaged artwork at Sts. Constantine & Helen Greek Orthodox Church in Annapolis, artist returns to fix paintings

Twenty-four years after painting religious artwork for the Saints Constantine & Helen Greek Orthodox Church in Annapolis, Serbian artist Dragomir Djekic is back to restore the work back to its original glory.

Djekic was part of the original team that installed the iconography in 1997. He said the Byzantine art pieces were painted in his studio in Europe with a team of artists. Each piece took two to three weeks to paint on canvas with acrylic and then transport to the church.

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Some of the iconographies were painted on the wall, like the dome since it is curved, Djekic said.

“You can’t tell the difference, 80% of the pieces are on canvas,” he said. “To install them, that took three weeks and we had to come a few more times.”

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Walking into the church is like walking into an art museum the way the iconography is plastered all around the walls. The artwork constantly has a person looking around not being able to focus on just one piece. Every piece is unique and detailed in its own way telling the story of Jesus Christ.

All of the works were donated by members of the church, according to Djekic. Some people wanted to donate “Virgin Mary” or “Jesus being Born,” he said.

Father Kosmas Karavellas has been the priest for 35 years and he has been at the church since it was built and painted. He said leaks started about seven years ago but they didn’t notice until 2019.

Karavellas said the water wasn’t gushing in but dripping constantly.

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The restoration, which was completed Wednesday, took Djekic 21 days to fix because of all the leaks the church had. He installed the new drywall before doing the paintings. He said the artwork that was on canvases held up better against the leaks, than the artwork painted on the walls.

“You can’t even tell that I fix them but there are some sentimental feelings coming back after so long,” he said.

Djekic said he doesn’t think he will have to come back in another 20 years to fix them, depending on how the church takes care of the wall. Karavellas said with the weather in this area, it is possible they will need another restoration but they have to stay more vigilant.

“It is a great feeling to have them looking good again, but I thought I was the only one that noticed all the leaks,” Karavellas said.

Karavellas said it was expensive to bring Djekic to do the restoration and he had to get everyone on board to see the mistakes.

“The amount of work and detail and the artistic resolve of Djekic shows members how beautiful it is again,” he said. “These iconography are part of our worship and a visual aide to the scriptures.”

This artwork is common in European churches and Djekic said he has painted these style walls in many places in America and overseas.

“To do this kind of artwork you have to believe in God and love it,” he said. “When people see walls like this for the first time they are so surprised but it is accustomed where I’m from.”

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