Greek restorer conserves Istanbul church artifacts with his team

Greek restorer Venizelos Gavrilakis and his team, called Ieri Parakatathiki Labs, have been preserving artifacts of churches in Istanbul since moving from Thessaloniki eight years ago. While bringing the artifacts back to life, they use gentle touches and surgical precision.

Gavrilakis, 44, trained in Italy and Greece, where he had worked on more than 40 churches. Then, he and his colleagues preserved icons, frescos and paintings in 25 Greek Orthodox churches in Istanbul. Their latest job restoring artifacts included a 16th-century depiction of the Transfiguration of Jesus Christ. However, the restoration took a longer time than planned due to coronavirus-related restrictions in Turkey.

 Venizelos Gavrilakis (R) and his assistant Umut Ballıkaya carry an early 17th-century royal door after they completed cleaning and restoration work on it at a Greek Orthodox church where Gavrilakis set up his laboratory in Istanbul, Turkey, Jan. 26, 2021. (Reuters photo)
 Venizelos Gavrilakis (C) accompanied by his assistants Umut Ballıkaya and Aslı Erel, works to clean and restore a 16th century zantine Christian icon at a Greek Orthodox church where Gavrilakis set up his laboratory in Istanbul, Turkey Jan. 26, 2021. (Reuters photo)

“The pandemic will pass, in order to fight it we all should remain spiritually united.” For him, restoration aims to send the messages of unity at a time when the pandemic has temporarily kept people apart.

“Our work on these precious and timeless artifacts will always be there for the people to see it and get inspiration and strength from it,” he said. The master restorer gives a lifetime guarantee for his work. In an interview, he once said: “Artifacts remind people of the unlimited possibilities of the human mind that can create such wonderful things that live through the centuries.”