The Dormition of the Theotokos Cemetery Chapel (Dunlap, CA)

The small chapel Dormition of the Theotokos at the St. Nicholas Ranch & Retreat Center cemetery was consecrated September 20-21,, 2013. Supper was served at 6pm on the Friday, followed by Vespers and a Vigil, ending at 11:30pm. The Saturday Liturgy took place at 10am with His Eminence Metropolitan Gerasimos serving.

Custom Service Books created for the Dormition Cemetery Chapel (Bill Tomaras)
Custom Service Books created for the Dormition Cemetery Chapel (Bill Tomaras)
 Cemetery Chapel Storage (Project area: 1976 sq. ft.)
Cemetery Chapel Storage (Project area: 1976 sq. ft.)







Monastery in Fresno, California Blesses Their Church (Eleni Bozos, 2010)

NOTE: The following article is from USA Greek Reporter, September 26, 2010:

Archbishop Demetrios & Gerondissa Markella
Archbishop Demetrios & Gerondissa Markella

The Greek Orthodox Monastery (Convent) of the Theotokos (photo), the Life-Giving Spring, which is in the Sierra in the town of Dunlap, 38 miles from Fresno, California, welcomed on Saturday morning nearly 1,000 Greek Orthodox Christians for an official blessing of their church. The monastery, which has one priest and 18 nuns who live there permanently, has weekly services which the public may attend that are performed in Greek.

The abbesses.
The abbesses.

His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios, Primate of the Greek Orthodox Church in America, was present and along with Father Jim Pappas, who is the priest of the St. George Greek Orthodox Church in Fresno, conducted the ceremony of the consecration.

Father Jim Pappas, who is the priest of the St. George Greek Orthodox Church in Fresno, CA
Father Jim Pappas, who is the priest of the St. George Greek Orthodox Church in Fresno, CA

Many people attended to pray for themselves and their families. The church gives them a feeling of peace and harmony which is the reason they felt blessed to attend. Everyone who attended was given a piece of the special cloth that was used with oil to wipe down the alters to take home with them.

The hieromonks.
The hieromonks.

There were many pieces shipped over from Greece to complete the church that were handmade, so as religious icons, an icon screen, and many more. The nuns also contributed to the church with many of their holy pictures and pieces of work.

Father Ephraim (NY) and Gerondissa Markella
Father Ephraim (NY) and Gerondissa Markella

CA Nuns choir

CA Nuns procession 4

CA nuns procession 5

CA 2 nuns walking


Squaw Valley Islamic Settlement, Neighbors of Life-Giving Spring Monastery (Dunlap, CA)

NOTE: The following article is taken from the Squaw Valley Islamic Settlement website:

Squaw Valley Islamic Settlement, located in Dunlap, CA, is an attempt to re-examine how Muslims can live and raise their children in this non-Muslim land. Muslims have not fared well living mostly in the major cities. The history of da’wah (propagation) has been poor and the raising of children has not shown good results. We believe and have found that life in the countryside gives us a much greater degree of freedom and control over our environment and allows for a much better situation for the raising of Muslim children. It is also a much better context for making da’wah to the people of this country. For those who cannot make hijra to a Muslim land, we believe this is a much more viable and appropriate way of living as Muslims in this country.

Insha Allah, our goal is not just for Squaw Valley Islamic Settlement to be a better place to live for those who manage to migrate here, but also to be a center for education and  da’wah to Islam according to the Qur’an, the Sunnah and the way of the salaf in this area and beyond. This will be pursued both “on the ground” and in “cyberspace”.

We are located in a peaceful valley 30 miles east of Fresno, California. Over 100 acres of land is privately owned by individuals except 5 acres which is in trust (waqf) for masjid, school, etc. Squaw Valley Islamic Settlement, a California non-Profit Corporation is the custodian of the waqf. Along with various residents on 5 acre or larger parcels, our biggest neighbor is a Greek Orthodox church, camp and retreat center. They own 135 acres of land, about the same amount owned by Muslims in the area . They have a large ornate church and monastery and many other modern and functional buildings.

Their new church looks like this:

Church Church2

Often when we call the adhan, they will begin banging on their bell, singing or playing loud music. We’re not sure if this is coincidence. Al-hamdu lillahi, they are too far away for any of that to bother us at all, we just hear it in the distance. It also paves the way for our future prayer call over loudspeaker, insha Allah. They have built up their new church and monastery in preparation for one of their senior priests or popes who is going to take up residence here. They have also constructed a 30 room monastery and so they plan to increase their population. To do this, they had to get significant zoning variances, establishing a precedent which should help us in the future.

There are 21 nuns residing at Life-Giving Spring Monastery.
There are 21 nuns residing at Life-Giving Spring Monastery.

Our masjid, on the other hand, looks like this:


We love it, but it is time to improve and grow.

Of the Muslim families who purchased land, about half of them have actually moved in. There are other Muslims looking for the means to migrate to our location. This summer’s picnics and educational events had as many as 60 people.

CA Aerial View

Special Report on St. Nicholas Ranch & Retreat Center [Michael A. Pappas (Papadogiannakis)]

NOTE: The following article is taken from Krētē : monthly publication of the Pancretan Association of America, October 2010, pp. 10-11.


The history of Saint Nicholas Ranch dates back to 1979. In that year, His Eminence Metropolitan Anthony arrived in California as the newly elected bishop of the Greek Orthodox Diocese of San Francisco. He brought with him boundless enthusiasm and energy, love and pride for his Cretan heritage, and a passion for reaching out to the youth of the Church. Soon after his arrival in the Diocese, he shared his vision for the creation of a retreat and conference center that could be used to provide programs for the faithful of the Church, especially the youth.


While celebrating a baptismal service, he cradled the newly baptized infant in his arms and proclaimed to the congregation: “By the grace of God, I’m looking for someone to give me a million dollars, or its equivalent in land, to build special facilities for our youth, facilities to nourish and spiritually mold them in the dynamic life of Christ’s living Church.” Many in the congregation probably shrugged off the comment as the unrealistic dream of a young and inexperienced bishop. Others, however, were inspired and excited by this dynamic young bishop’s vision. A young priest, Fr. John Bakas, hearing Bishop Anthony’s words, thought of a friend who had a large parcel of land nestled in a beautiful valley in the Sierra Nevada foothills, just outside of Sequoia National Park. The property, owned by the Nick Kossaras family, had once been part of the huge Sally K horse ranch, which in the early 20th century had provided work horses that pulled wagons of ice to homes and businesses in the San Joaquin Valley. The Kossaras family enthusiastically embraced the Bishop’s dream and donated the entire 180 acres to the Diocese.


We can only guess at Bishop Anthony’s thoughts as he drove to the property for the first time. Making his way through the seemingly endless orange groves and grape vineyards of the eastern San Joaquin Valley, followed by the steep drive up through the Sierra foothills, dotted with granite rock outcroppings and Oak forests, he arrived at a large valley surrounded by towering mountains. The landscape must have reminded him of his beloved Crete and, as he looked at the old horse corrals, ranch buildings, the rodeo arena, the grass fields and oak forest, he probably imagined all that was to come. Saint Nicholas Ranch was born.


Immediately, it became a center for retreats and a youth summer camp. In the early days, the old ranch buildings were utilized, the centerpiece being a two story horse barn built in the 1890’s in which a chapel dedicated to Saint Nicholas was built. Before long, a beautiful conference and retreat center took shape. The original 180 acres grew to nearly 300 as additional parcels were purchased. Currently, the Ranch facilities include 28 hotel style lodge rooms that can house up to 90 people, 12 dormitories able to accommodate a total of 144 people, a large dining hall, two large conference rooms and several smaller meeting rooms, along with picnic areas, athletic fields, a pool, a lake, and hiking trails. A favorite spot is the Cretan Plaza Barbeque and Picnic area. Built and maintained by the chapters of the Pancretan District 6, the Cretan Plaza is used throughout the year, especially during the annual Cretan Family weekend.


As a young student at the Patriarchal Theological School of Halki, Metropolitan Anthony had visited the Monastery of the Holy Theotokos, the Life Giving Spring located just outside of Constantinople. This historic monastery contains a miraculous spring that for hundreds of years has worked miracles through the intercessions of the Virgin Mary.

The Late Metropolitan Anthony of San Francisco
The Late Metropolitan Anthony of San Francisco

During his visit to the Monastery, the young seminarian promised the Mother of God that if he was ever blessed to become a bishop, he would build a monastery dedicated to her. In 1993 the promise was fulfilled with the opening of the Women’s Monastery of the Holy Theotokos, the Life Giving Spring. Built on a hill overlooking the Ranch, the monastery offers a spiritual oasis of Orthodox Christian worship and spirituality to all who visit. The Abbess, Mother Markella, affectionately referred to as Gerondissa, oversees a growing community of 18 nuns. The monastery also contains the tomb of Metropolitan Anthony, located directly behind the Altar of the Katholikon (main church) of the monastery.

Gerondissa Markella & Abbot Tryphon
Gerondissa Markella & Abbot Tryphon

After his death, Metropolitan Anthony was succeeded by Metropolitan Gerasimos. Having visited the Ranch while serving as Archdeacon to Archbishop Iakovos, Metropolitan Gerasimos had a great appreciation for this ministry of the Metropolis, and a clear vision for its future potential. From the beginning Metropolitan Gerasimos has made the Ranch a priority, working tirelessly to improve the facility and grounds and to expand the ministries and programs offered at the Ranch.


Today, Saint Nicholas Ranch operates year-round and is home to a wide variety of programs and events. It offers a teen summer camp, youth and young adult retreats, family camps, a Greek language camp, and a variety of Elderhostel programs. Many organizations, parishes, and schools use the Ranch to hold their events. These include family reunions, parish retreats, high school retreats, marriage encounters, conferences, and music camps. Some of the larger groups include the annual Philoptochos sponsored Kids and Cancer Camp Agape program, the Orthodox College Conference, the California Autoharp Gathering, the Cretan Family Weekend, and the Orthodox Senior Camp. Recently, an ambitious effort has begun to renovate the now 30 year old buildings and grounds.

CA GreekVillageGoat

Metropolitan Anthony loved Saint Nicholas Ranch and the Monastery. He put all his heart and energy into making his dream a reality and those who live and work at the Ranch feel his presence every day. His vision, shared so long ago, continues to guide and inspire the holy ministry of Saint Nicholas Ranch.

Michael A. Pappas, Director

E-mail: or


It’s listed as a “major attraction for Dunlap, California, an unincorporated community with a population of 131.,_California

St.N7 Old Monastery at DUnlap

Greek Orthodox Monastery of the Theotokos the Life Giving Spring, Dunlap, CA (Panos Fiorentinos)

Professional 3D Architectural Models by Panos Fiorentinos

Color Presentation for fund raising & client understanding. Scale 1/16″:


“25 years of model building experience has led me to believe that models bring an architects vision to reality. Models shape the design of buildings, stimulate the imagination of the client, and are an effective sales tool. I have helped many design professionals reach their goal of design excellence through the use of models, and I can help you too.


My experience building architectural models can be applied at all phases of your design project. Whether you’re looking for a model to help you develop a design, or a highly detailed model to raise project funding….. View my projects below; click a category listing to automatically navigate to that section.”



Panos Fiorentinos has also published a book: Ecclesia: Greek Orthodox Churches of the Chicago Metropolis

Ecclesia: Greek Orthodox Churches of the Metropolis of Chicago This handsome volume presents a comprehensive documentary review of parishes across the Metropolis of Chicago. The richness of the Greek-American experience comes alive in this diverse offering of personal stories, beautiful full-color photographs and introductory articles that explain in the internal structure, symbolism and significance of church interiors and designs, as well as the communities that brought them into existence. This book is a sure conversation starter, appealing to those who have never been into an orthodox church, as well as those who want to share their faith with their friends and relatives. Fiorentinos’ photographic journey through the entire Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Chicago encompasses six states—Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, and Wisconsin—containing 59 churches. Through more than 400 of his richly-colored photographs, he captivates the reader with the unique beauty and rich tradition of the Greek Orthodox Church as developed in these communities over the course of more than 100 years. Based on personal interviews with dozens of priests and parishioners, the establishment and growth of these churches are documented for the first time in one place. In addition to showcasing each of these churches through photographs and text, ECCLESIA provides context through scholarly essays on the Greek Orthodox Church’s architecture, fundamental beliefs and history, as well as the meaning of its icons and symbols.

Book review:

Alex & Faye Spanos Heritage Center, Dunlap, CA (CJK Design)

Alex and Faye Spanos Faith and Heritage Center @ the Metropolis of San Francisco St Nicholas Ranch

The building is conceived as a “California Basilica” with exposed heavy timber construction which references Athonite and Rural connections. The center houses a new office center and gracious multipurpose spaces for meetings, galleries/ displays and a Domed Chapel dedicated to St Photini. The interior space of the center has a main Stoa, display and gathering spaces that will have frescoes of the history and development of the Metropolis and Orthodoxy in the West culminating with magnificent Byzantine frescoes in the Chapel of St Photini.  The new Heritage Center is made possible by many who are dedicated to the fulfillment of the Vision of Metropolitan Anthony of Blessed Memory.  This project has been approved through the protracted, laborious and extensive process of the County of Fresno. We are currently in the final pricing and bidding stage.  Construction is projected to begin in March of 2014.

Feb 2013 Ground breaking ceremony in Dunlap for Faith & Heritage Center
Feb 2013 Ground breaking ceremony in Dunlap for Faith & Heritage Center
Ground Breaking and dedication for Faith & Heritage Center including Faye Spanos.
Ground Breaking and dedication for Faith & Heritage Center including Faye Spanos.

This project is an interesting smaller project that will have a big impact on the functioning of the St Nicholas Ranch and Retreat Center.  This barn-like building is refined yet rustic structure, both Athonite and  Country in character with diversity of function; from office space to meeting for large and small groups, a repository for artifacts relating to the history of the Metropolis and a jewel like chapel to be dedicated to St Photini.  We will be breaking ground in the new year with his Eminence Metropolitan Gerasimos, the main benefactor Michael Spanos and other supporters of this important project.  Look for additional info as we move forward.

CJK’s Exterior Rendering for Faith & Heritage Center
CJK’s Exterior Rendering for Faith & Heritage Center
The future Faith and Heritage Center.
The future Faith and Heritage Center.

CJK’s rendering of Faith & Heritage Center Interior.
CJK’s rendering of Faith & Heritage Center Interior.
Rendering of Faith & Heritage Center St Photoni Chapel
Rendering of Faith & Heritage Center St Photoni Chapel

Groundbreaking of the new Alex & Faye Spanos Faith and Heritage Center (Video)

On Feb. 26 Metropolitan Gerasimos, in the presence of clergy and lay delegates, blessed the site of the Alex and Faye Spanos Faith and Heritage Center at the St. Nicholas Ranch. This new building, to be complete in the Fall of 2013, will feature a chapel, conference center and a Hellenic cultural exhibit room.

Holy Monastery of the Theotokos, Dunlap, CA (CKJ Design)

The late Metropolitan Anthony and Geronda Ephraim
The late Metropolitan Anthony and Geronda Ephraim

The Holy Monastery of Theotokos, the Life-Giving Spring, is located on a plateau high in the Sierra Nevada’s near Kings Canyon National Park.


The monastery master plan calls for the structure to be developed as a walled city, creating a protective, stable, and permanent sacred space within. The Convent is zoned into three general areas within the secured, fortified perimeter. The public area consists of facilities such as visitor center, store, the hospitality/reception areas, convent offices, priest quarters and the archontariki or visitor’s quarters. The northern segment of the convent is cloistered: only the nuns and authorized visitors and workers can enter this area. This area consists of the nuns’ living quarters and work areas. The katholikon or main church is the focal point, heart and center of the Convent. It is the pivot and connection point of all the areas of living and working for the sisters. The katholikon is a domed cruciform church based upon the Athonite model and includes a liti (an area between the narthex and the main church used for certain monastic services), the nave, soleas and semicircular shaped excedrae as north and south choirs, the iconostasis and altar area. Christ Kamages also by the request of Metropolitan Anthony design his final resting place.


The fusion of the Holy Spirit and Our Architect’s Genius has created a most magnificent sacred place which serves and transforms all who experience its beauty… – Metropolitan Anthony of Blessed Memory