Greeks, Greek Americans, and enthusiasts of Greek culture gathered together to mark the 191st commemoration of Greece’s Independence from the Ottoman Empire in Hartford, Connecticut this past March. Amid events celebrating the anniversary, which included parades, exhibitions, and music, Fairfield University’s own Dr. Katherine Schwab, professor of art history, received the annual “PAIDEIA” award, given to those who have excelled at bringing prominence to Greek culture and history through teaching and research.
This year’s theme was “Art History of Greece,” for which Dr. Schwab is a noted expert. Her detailed research drawings of the Parthenon east and north metopes are displayed prominently in the Acropolis Museum and her connections within the Greek art world contributed to Fairfield University’s Bellarmine Museum of Art’s “Gifts from Athens” exhibit in 2010, and to the gift of 23 photographs from noted Greek photographer Socratis Mavrommatis.
Dr. Schwab has had many book chapters and journal articles published on Hellenic Culture, including research on her Caryatid Hairstyling Project, which is a careful analysis and recreation of the elaborate hairstyles on the Caryatids, or maidens, forming the columns of the south porch of the Erechtheion, a temple on the Acropolis. The project and film received praise for its innovation and attention to detail and will be screened in Athens in May at AGON 2012, the ninth International Meetings of Archaeological Film of the Mediterranean Area and Beyond.
The Independence Day celebration was special for one of Fairfield University’s students as well: Monica Mosho ’13, a psychology major with a minor in management/entrepreneurism, is the great great granddaughter of Grigorios Papaflessas, a major war hero of the Greek and Ottoman war.
During her acceptance speech, Dr. Schwab noted that one of the joys of teaching is “the chance to share my passion for art and culture, and to find different ways to help students discover the past.” She learned of her student’s connection to Greece’s independence when Mosho, who was taking one of her art history courses, completed an assignment on family heirlooms and wrote about her ancestor. The Swampscott, Mass. native attended the celebration with Dr. Schwab and was able to see first hand the lasting affect Papaflessas had on the Greek community.
Papaflessas (Papa means ‘priest’ in Greek) had been ordained to the highest position of priesthood but decided that he could best serve his country by fighting against the Turks. He eventually served as Minister of Internal Affairs and Chief of Police. Papaflessas was killed during the Battle of Maniaki, but his legacy remains strong. Over the years, Greece has had places, events, coins and stamps named after him or with his likeness to commemorate his strength and courage.
The celebrants had a large, framed picture of Papaflessas at the celebration. “When I was standing with the picture, people were coming up to me taking pictures and telling me about how Papaflessas was one of their favorite war heroes. It was amazing to see how he really still is a key figure in Greek history,” said Mosho.
Greek Independence Day 2012 took place at the State Capitol Building, Hall of Flags and at St. George Greek Orthodox Cathedral, both in Hartford, Conn. The Greek War of Independence took place from 1821-1832. After years of revolts, war, and negotiations, Greece was recognized as an independent nation in May 1832.
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