Master Wood Carver

Konstantinos Papadakis is a master wood carver whose work is acclaimed throughout North America and in Europe. His carvings in the Byzantine style are widely acknowledged as among the finest displayed in Orthodox Churches in the U.S. and Canada today.

When only a young boy of 9 in Crete, Konstantinos chanced upon a vacationing sculptor who taught him several carving techniques. This brief mentoring in an old coffee shop was the beginning of a life-long prolific career for Konstantinos. When only 12, Konstantinos so impressed Master Carver Theoponis Nomiko that he took the young lad on as his apprentice. There, under the expert’s professional tutelage, Konstantinos honed his craft until he emigrated to the United States in the mid-1960’s

Konstantinos’ first commission in the U.S. was to create a frame for tiny St. Mary’s Greek Orthodox Church in Minneapolis, where he worked from a closet sized room in the church basement. Word spread about the young artisan. By 1969 he was commissioned to produce a large screen for a church in Manitoba. Several years later, he produced the largest known Byzantine style altar screen in the U.S. for a church in Louisville, Kentucky. A faded picture of this screen graces the main page of this website.

Konstantinos’ works have encompassed numerous commissions for secular clients as well. Today one can see many of his pieces of furniture in use at the historic Capitol Building in St. Paul, Minnesota. His creations encompass myriad types and styles of wood furniture and decor.

Within his craft, Konstantinos has mastered many intricate and demanding styles including the Byzantine, Barocco (Baroque), Gothic and Greek Folk styles and the traditional Cretan form of Kritieptamsiaco. For each piece that he is commissioned to produce, Konstantinos works closely with the client to select a style and create a design that balances both traditional principles with the contemporary requirements and tastes of the customer.

Today Konstantinos is also an active teacher of his art. Several of his apprentices work with him on major commissions. He also mentors through the Minnesota State Arts Board in the Folk Art Apprenticeship program. One of his past pupils through this program is Mary Van Abberna, who is now a full time wood and stone carver in South Carolina. Konstantinos regularly demonstrates carving at many venues, including schools, cultural festivals, and the Minnesota State Fair.

Konstantinos makes his home in Minneapolis, MN. When not carving, Konstantinos enjoys spending time fishing, and with his cherished family.

Letter to St. Nektarios Parishioners

I would like to apologize to you for the delay in completing the iconostasis. Please read below and draw your own conclusions. In 1955, I went to Aegena toward the end of the summer with my father and my cousin to tour the island and to venerate the icon of St. Nektarios. On the following day, it being a Sunday morning, we went to church but there were so many people that we would have to wait 2 hours at least before venerating the icon. Having a good time seemed more attractive to me at the time and I persuaded them not to wait.

In the afternoon, 30 passengers in all, most of them young girls ages 18 to 22 years, departed from the island on a small boat. The outcome is self-explainable: despite the advice of my old father, my cousin pushed me into the sea for the completion of the saying “it was in front of me and it looked like a column.” I reached out to grab the column without realizing that behind it was the exhaust fumes’ pipe. The palm of my hand blistered with third degree burns! According to the physician’s diagnosis, I would never gain full function of the palm of my hand. I would never be able to move my fingers in order to continue working as a wood carver. The only solution would be for me to select another profession.

My mother who was not aware that I was the cause of the change in our plans in Aegena, advised me to pray to St. Nektarios, the Miracle Worker. This was my only hope. I turned my face repentfully to him whom I had forsaken in the past hoping for the best. Almost 10 days later, I managed to move my fingers a little. At my next visit to the doctor’s office, the doctor noticed this change. Certain words cannot be put on paper, “Go my child, the doctor you have is superior to me, from the bottom of my soul, I advise you to keep him.” During that same month, the doctor told me that my hand would totally heal and that I would not even have a scar from this accident. One day, St. Nektarios told me to carve something out of gratitude in his honor since he had offered me so much help. I was thinking that I would be doing this as soon as I had a chance. However, this opportunity was delayed. So many years passed, I got married, I had children, I had to overcome many difficulties, I came abroad and lived through hardships, and I could see that in the New World that I had come there was no hope for me to find a St. Nektarios church.

Fifty-two years later, they called me to come to your city to make the iconostasis of your church. After I had shown all of my pictures and potential iconostasis designs, Fr. Steve selected a picture of an iconostasis in the Cretan Eptanisiako rhythm, which I always hoped to carve before dying and to carve again. The room started spinning. In addition, the most beautiful and unbelievable of all things was that the name of the church was St. Nektarios! I felt my knees bending; I could not lift up myself. Was this God’s miraculous act? You will be the judges of that. As far as I am concerned, it was St. Nektarios’ help: to carve an iconostasis in the rhythm I loved thus fulfilling my promise to St. Nektarios. I finally had the opportunity to create something that had never been done in America! Without realizing how long it was taking, two whole years went by. My only hope is that the quality of my work will overshadow my delay. It would be beautiful if the parishioners were aware of this story. His strength was the one giving me wisdom and endurance through the opportunity of the completion of the iconostasis and His work.


P.S.: Naturally, he did not let me go unpunished! At the time that I burned my hand, the wrestling championship was underway and it was definite that I would be the one to win the belt of the champion. As soon as the committee saw my hand, they forbade me categorically to participate in the contest.

On January 2, 2011, Mike Binkley, WCCO-TV presented a wonderful piece in his “Finding Minnesota” segment about Konstantinos Papadakis, the Greek Wood Carver.