When planning a visit to St. Augustine, Florida, I had expected to see lots of Spanish and English colonial history. St. George Street, the main pedestrian thoroughfare of downtown St. Augustine, is packed with shops, restaurants and historical sites. On this street there is also an unexpected piece of St. Augustine history – a Greek Orthodox shrine.
Called “The Jewel of St. George Street,” the St. Photios Chapel, is dedicated to the first colony of Greek people who came to America in 1768. The Shrine includes exhibits about the history of the Greek Orthodox Church in America, and the St. Photios Chapel.
The St. Photios Chapel is covered with beautiful Byzantine-style frescoes including substantial use of 22 Karat gold leaf. The icons depict a variety of Christian images, biblical scenes and saints of the Greek Orthodox church.
Saint Photios the Great was Patriarch of Constantinople during the middle of the ninth century. The Orthodox Church honors Saint Photios as a theologian, a supporter of missionary activity, and a defender of the Faith. St. Photios was also known for his brilliance and for his missionary zeal.
In 863, St. Photios sent his two nephews from Thessaloniki, known to us today as Saints Cyril and Methodios, to preach the Gospel in Moravia. St. Cyril is responsible for developing an alphabet (Cyrilic) for the Slavonic people. As a result of efforts they initiated, the Slavic peoples and nations embraced Orthodox Christianity.
As a Father of the Church, his achievements as Patriarch have earned him a reputation as the greatest of all Patriarchs.
It’s hard to find another college with so many chapels on campus. Barnwell Chapel is the oldest of Berry College’s 3 chapels, built in 1911.
The sprinkles started as we drove through the streets of Rome looking for the entrance to Berry College. The weather didn’t seem to like my idea of doing a photo shoot this weekend but, we marshalled on anyway. We found the campus which was looking pretty empty since the students were largely off for summer break.
After driving aimlessly for a little while, (I was kicking myself for not picking up a map at the welcome center) we saw a circle of log-cabin style structures . Looking like an interesting spot, we pulled in and hoped the rain would pass us by. Fortunately, we didn’t have to wait long as the skies began to clear and I got out to look around.
The Barnwell Chapel, is the oldest of 3 chapel on the campus of Berry College. The building has seen a couple of renovations since its original dedication in 1911 is in nice shape for being 105 years old. Originally used as both classroom space and church, the building is still used for Weddings, Sunday services, and special events.
The stained glass windows of the Frost Chapel depict the life of Christ, and were donated by the Daughters of the American Revolution in memory of the boys who died in World War II.
I was looking for a photo opportunity this weekend when I saw a post from David Akoubian of a Bald Eagle he saw on his trip to the Tetons. I remembered that there is an eagle’s nest on the campus of Berry College in Rome, Georgia which is a little over an hour’s drive away from me. I mentioned this idea to David and he told me the eagles spend their summer somewhere that it isn’t as hot so, they would not be at the nest. Disappointed, I went looking for other ideas but on Sunday, we decided to drive out to visit Berry College anyway.
I had not been out to the campus for many years but I remembered that the buildings and grounds were very beautiful. I only got to see a small portion of the campus on my first visit. This is understandable since the campus actually covers over 27,000 acres making it the largest college campus (in contiguous area) in the world.
Berry College was founded by Martha Berry, the daughter of a wealthy local business owner. In the early 1900’s, Ms. Berry became aware of the educational needs of the poor children in the rural south. In 1902 she founded the Boys’ Industrial School and added a girls program in 1909 which together, grew into what became Berry College in 1926.
From the beginnings, the school was focused on Christian principles and teaching practical skills. The principle of hard work has been one of the driving forces of the institution. Today, every student of Berry College is required to have a job in addition to their studies. In the early days of the college, students actually built many of the structures, including the Frost Memorial Chapel that I went to visit on this trip.
Berry College is beautiful in many ways. It’s vast wooded landscape, historic buildings and inspiring high standards make it a great place to visit. It is amazing how there are so many places that are close by that we never take the time to explore. I will be back before long to check out the city of Rome and learn even more about this interesting area.
Frost Memorial Chapel
Rome, Georgia, USA