MANATEE COUNTY - There are many hidden treasures here on the Suncoast; amazing sights of beauty we may sometimes miss entirely unless someone points them out for us – like St. Barbara Greek Orthodox Church on Lockwood Ridge Road at Tallevast Road.
Experts say the Greek Orthodox church in Tarpon Springs may be more historic than St. Barbara, but St. Barbara is by far the most beautiful around. It'll be open for public tours this weekend.
Outside St. Barbara doesn't look unusual. But step inside, and look up.
Every Greek Orthodox church has a dome. "In the main dome of the church you always have Jesus Christ represented. You don't have to look up, you know Christ is watching over us," says Rev. Father John Bociu.
This dome is spectacular and huge. Jesus' face is more than 6 feet tall.
Every Greek Orthodox church also has icons...sacred depictions of holy figures. Those at St. Barbara are special. The icon of the Virgin Mary is a mosaic made of tiny pieces of colored stone.
You'll also see a lot of gold there. "In using the gold we want to represent the richness of the kingdom of God."
375 families make up the congregation. The first Greek settlers came to Sarasota at the end of the 19th century from Tarpon Springs, and the Rev. Father says to preserve their way of life and their heritage, they established St. Barbara in 1976.
Parishioners say the life of their community revolves around this church. "It’s integrated into the way we're brought up…the culture, the customs, the language, the religions...it’s all part of us," says Paree Gardner.
Some members of the congregation immigrated here from Greece, others are 2nd and 3rd generation, some are new -- like Constantine Kontonickas and his wife, who chose to move here because of this church. "The church is both a cultural and spiritual anchor in both our lives, and probably if this church had not been here we would have sought out another town that had a Greek Orthodox church in it."
There will be tours of the church during the Greek Glendi Festival this weekend. Don't miss this opportunity to see something truly beautiful. The glendi also features authentic Greek food, dancing, games, arts and crafts.