An Interview with Niko Chocheli on his illustrations for The Legend of the Cross

Legend-of-the-cross-ARC-CoverEarlier this year, I was privileged to read my new children’s book, The Legend of the Cross to children at the St. Emmelia Homeschooling Conference at the Antiochian Village in Bolivar, PA. While at the book-signing table with Niko Chocheli, illustrator for our book, I took the opportunity to interview him about his beautiful illustrations. The first letter on each page is illuminated in a medieval manuscript style. The blue heavenly color used throughout the book is in the style of Georgian enamel, known as cloisonné. The colors are those used by Titian, a Venetian painter who inspired Niko. Below is a page by page commentary which I hope readers will find useful:

The front cover of the book shows a lion, wearing a gold crown and a cross above a scroll. The lion is the lion of Judah, the symbol of Christ who was from the tribe of Judah. The lion may also be viewed as Aslan, from The Chronicles of Narnia which was based on the lion of Judah. The lion represents power and courage, while the crown shows the lion is king.
The dedication page shows King Solomon and a heavenly Jerusalem in the background.

P 3 Shows the triple branched tree made of cypress, pine, and cedar, with a skull at its base representing Adam’s skull.

P 4  In the darkness, behind Adam and Seth, there is a silhouette of a cross which implies the beginning of the journey of the cross.

P 5 The cross is the gateway to heaven, salvation and paradise. See Niko’s book, Prepare O Bethlehem:

“The gate of Eden is opened
Adam dances in exaltation.”

P6 Shows the Archangel Michael in his glory, with a cross motif behind and above him.

P7  The angel is holding Adam’s soul and the cross behind them is the entrance to heaven. The church is the rock and is depicted this way throughout the book.
“And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” King James Bible.

P8 The earth is ruled by the cross. This is a Bolnuri cross, an ancient symbol from the early fifth century. Jerusalem is shown to the right. All symbols are prefiguring Christ’s birth.

P9 Noah’s ark contains a church on a rock, symbolizing our salvation.

P10 King David is composing his psalms under the shade of a tree with the lion of Judah at his feet.

P11 King Solomon and the woodcutter.

P12 The hippos express wealth and splendor of a great king.

P13 The large rock formation is famous in Ethiopia. The queen of Sheba travels from Ethiopa to Jerusalem, with the pyramids of Egypt in the background. An angel holding a cross is guiding them. The procession of animals and gifts represent the splendor of Africa.

P14 and 15 show the Queen of Sheba, with the church far away and in the horizon. Georgian crosses are painted behind her. She is riding a rhinoceros suggesting wealth and splendor.
P 16 The elephant kneels in respect and honor as it looks towards the church in the distance.

P17 The lions symbolize throne griffins inspired by the painting, The Judgement of Solomon, by French painter, Nicolas Poussin.

P18 The pelican is also symbolic of Christ who is also shown in the background on the cross, as  a blue dreamlike vision. The pelican symbolizes sacrifice of Christ on the cross and the Eucharist.

P19 The illustration of the throne of Solomon was inspired by an ancient Georgian throne,  in Tao Klarjeti, Turkey. The owl represents the wisdom of Solomon. The Queen of Sheba holds a cross one hand and the other hand touches the  earth – suggesting the cross will rule the world.

P 20 Shows the wood being placed in a pit forming the pool of Bethesda with five porticoes.

P21 This illustration is shown from the perspective of the angel above over the pool of Bethesda. The lame man, his bed and crutches are shown on the letter F.

P 22 The shape of the cross and the bark of the wood are shown below in the letter T. The Theotokos is shown in the bottom right.

P23 The magi come on elephants to the newborn King. The triune symbol of the cross with the star is above the Theotokos and Christ child in the cave.

P 24 and 25 Show a close up of the wood of the cross in the pool.

P26 Jerusalem is behind the crucified Christ with the sun and moon. The skull of Adam is below the Cross and the blood of Christ renders Adam a new Adam.

P27 Shows the resurrection  with Christ in His full glory! He is the Pantocrator and the Cross below is illuminated with gold colors overlooking a large, expansive landscape.
P 28 The angel flips pages of a book which is not yet finished.

Back cover – The country of Georgia commissioned The Monastery of the Cross in Jerusalem, which is represented in the top right corner. Shotav Rustavelin, a Georgian poet, dedicated an immortal poem to Queen Tamara of Georgia, and he is shown on the left. The hole below marks the spot where the holy tree is believed to have once grown, now behind the altar at the Monastery of the Cross.

SALE! Kindle version of The Legend of the Cross

Don’t miss a fabulous sale of the KINDLE version of The Legend of the Cross available on amazon for the great price of

99 cents! Reduced from $5.99

Enjoy the vibrant stunning illustrations by Niko Chocheli on the kindle version.

Hardcover and softcover are also available and are a wonderful gift for children of all ages to inspire and enrich them in their faith.


A lovely gift for Easter and Pascha! The Legend of the Cross.

The Legend of the Cross book with chocolates


Discover the legend of the tree that would become the Cross of Christ. Grown from seeds gifted from the heavens, a magnificent tree participates in ancient history before becoming the crowning symbol of Christianity.

Don’t miss this complement to the story of Easter that is sure to become a Christian children’s classic.

Chronicles of Narnia fans will love the lion on the front cover – the lion of Judah, who represents Christ!

Please visit amazon to read the five star rated lovely reviews!

Here are the titles of those reviews:

A wonderful spiritual book for the family – Maria del Rey, publisher, Childgood magazine.

Beautiful story – Bradley Culbertson

A soul-piercing read -  Molly Sabourin author of “Close to Home: One Orthodox Mother’s Quest for Patience, Peace and Perseverance.”

Beautiful and spiritual – Elaine Katsaros

Mesmerizing tale – Jane G Meyer, author of The Hidden Garden and other picture books.

The deeper magic – Jenny N. Schroedel, author of the Blackbird’s Nest and Reflections on Stillbirth.

A legend with a better than Fairytale ending. Adriane Evans, MS ed. and mother of 4

A magical journey – James R Early, author.

Touching mystery – Jodi and Dessi. Dessi Jackson is author of A Saint and His Bees.

The Legend of the Cross is available in kindle, hardcover and softcover.




Birthday book give away!

To celebrate my birthday and the first day of spring, I am giving away a hardcover copy of The Legend of the Cross! Simply like my Facebook fan page, share, and leave a comment for three chances to win! Winner will be announced Monday March 24!

More praise for The Legend of the Cross

This touching review just added on amazon by Jody and Dessi Jackson, brought tears to  my eyes. It is humbling to know that this new book is touching hearts and minds of children and adults alike!

As I sat there reading this book to my children I kept thinking how gifted the author is. The sweetness of the story, the delicious way the author uses words and the amazing illustrations will wrap around you and take you on an amazing journey. Traveling the paths among the first garden to the Cross you will be charmed. The story will draw you in and make you aware of far greater mysteries than the ones our eyes can see. After you are done snuggling up and reading this charming tale it will stay with you for the rest of your life, for once you see the beauty of God you can not remain the same. My children have been touched so beautifully once more by the author’s writings and they have been shown more beauty and loveliness, for that I am forever grateful. Bless yourself and the children (even older children) in your life. Reach out and order this sweet book and marvel at the mysteries of God!!!

Dessi Jackson is author of The Saint and His Bees and Saint Felix and The Spider.

Praise for new children’s picture book – The Legend of the Cross


I am thrilled to announce the release of my third children’s picture book, The Legend of the Cross illustrated by Niko Chocheli on February 2, 2014! From a seed of an idea back in 2007,  it is now here……

The Legend of the Cross follows the journey of the tree that would become the Cross of Christ. From the Garden of Eden to Golgotha, this story retells The Golden Legend for young audiences. Grown from seeds gifted from the heavens, a magnificent and mystical tree participates in ancient history before becoming the crowning symbol of Christianity.

Here are several lovely endorsements so far:

Once again the team of Dr. Chrissi Hart and Niko Chocheli create a children’s book of deep significance and beauty. The legend of The Cross pages open as a royal treat of beauty for the eye, the storytelling inspires deeper meaning at various ages. Herein lies a rare opportunity for parent and child to ponder spiritual ideas together and speak of the miraculous, capturing a rare moment to bond spiritually with your child.

--Maria Del Rey, Publisher, ChildGood Magazine, The Journal for Creative Families.


Chrissi Hart and Niko Chocheli have taken a medieval legend about the Holy Cross and produced a lovely picture book that captures awe, miracles, amazement, and the scope of God’s eternal plan in a wonderful format for children and adults.

–Bev Cooke, author of Keeper of the Light and Royal Monastic.


Author Chrissi Hart and fine artist Niko Chocheli have produced a mesmerizing tale of the journey of the cross of Christ. From the Gates of Paradise and Adam’s grave the cross travels through the centuries and eventually finds a place here and now as a symbol of hope. Simply but lyrically told, children will be fascinated by this unique story. Older children will be especially entranced by the visual storytelling that comes to life through the artist’s masterful use of shape, line and color. As in his other illustrated books, Chocheli’s vivid and detailed art provides layers of meaning and discovery for readers of all ages.

–Jane G Meyer, editor, and author of several children’s books including The Man and the Vine, and The Hidden Garden.


The Legend of the Cross offers a glimpse into the secret life of the cross–a story of heartbreak, hope, and heaven. Three of Eden’s seeds sprout from Adam’s grave and grow into the tree that becomes the wood that tumbles through time into Solomon’s Temple, into the Pool at Bethesda and finally to Golgotha–to carry the hope of this world and to point to life in the next. If you wish to plant the seeds of hope in the  heart of your child, read this book to them! The Legend of the Cross is cosmic and simple, gracefully written, enchantingly illustrated and sure to delight readers of all ages.

–Jenny Schroedel, author of The Blackbird’s Nest: St. Kevin of Ireland and Naming the Child: Hope-filled Reflections on Miscarriage, Stillbirth and Infant Death.


For those of us immersed in a culture of transient values and beliefs, it is such a blessing to have access to ancient Christian teachings and traditions. In her most recent children’s book, “The Legend of the Cross,” author Chrissi Hart awakens her readers, both young and old alike, to unearthly mystery and holiness through this 12th century story about the origin of the wood of the cross. Stunningly illustrated by Niko Chocheli, “The Legend of the Cross” provides a powerful opportunity for spiritual discussion and evokes wonder at God’s mystical sovereignty and omnipotence.

- Molly Sabourin, author of Close to Home: One Orthodox Mother’s Quest for Patience, Peace and Perseverance.

The Legend of the Cross is available from amazon, in hardback, paperback, kindle and Barnes and Noble Nook with audio!


Merry Christmas!

Christmas ornaments for website

May the peace, love and joy of this holiday season be with you now and always.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Christmas poinsetta  for website


Feast day of Saint Kendeas

icon of St Kendeas in church


Today is the feast day of Saint Kendeas, the Wonderworker – a very special saint for our family. Read about him on this site and in my children’s book, Under the Grapevine which also inspired my children’s podcast with the same name on Ancient Faith Radio.

Blessed Saint Kendeas intercede for us!

Children’s book sale!

Now is a great time to buy children’s books from Ancient Faith Publishing, (formerly Conciliar Press) including my two picture books! But hurry as the sale possibly ends by the end of July.

The Hermit, The Icon and The Emperor  ilustrated by Niko Chocheli is now only $6.78.

The Hermit & Icon-book cover

Long ago on the island of Cyprus, a cuckoo sang a prophetic song that started a series of mysterious adventures. A hermit had a vision, a proud and selfish governor was stricken with paralysis, and a princess lay dying. All these events, including the miraculous healings of the governor and the princess, were part of a plan God s plan to bring the very first icon of the Mother of God, painted by the Evangelist Luke himself, from the emperor’s palace in Constantinople to a new home on the island of Cyprus. The richly detailed, jewel-toned illustrations by acclaimed fine artist Niko Chocheli and the engaging text bring this true story to life for contemporary readers of all ages.


 “The story of the icon of Kykkos has been retold many times over the centuries, and shaped to serve many different aims and ideals. In this visually captivating book, its story is told in a way that will enchant children. Opening a world of splendor and heartfelt feeling to them that will surely arouse their curiosity about Byzantium, the book prompts them at the same time to ponder the deep design that underlies the dramas and traumas of the characters, drawing them together with the icon into a luminous web of divine intention.” — Annemarie Weyl Carr, Professor of Art History Emerita at Southern Methodist University and an expert on the icon of the Mother of God at Kykkos Monastery in Cyprus

“With elegance, but in words that a child can easily understand, Chrissi Hart tells the compelling story of how the Eleousa Icon came to Cyprus. In addition to the history of such an important icon, there are many spiritual lessons to learn here—the consequences of sin; the beauty of repentance; humility and forgiveness as shown by the Hermit Isaiah; and over all, the love and care of God and the Theotokos for the Church. As always, Niko Chocheli’s illustrations are stunningly beautiful. I am looking forward to more of Chrissi’s stories.” — Mother Melania, author of the Old Testament Stories for Children and The Twelve Great Feasts for Children books

 Read more here.

Under the Grapevine, illustrated by Claire Brandenburg is now only $9.57

Book cover English ed

When Christina becomes seriously ill, her mother prays constantly for her, until one day a holy man appears on a white horse and takes her to his church to be healed. Christina returns to the family farm, where she runs to her parents to tell them about the holy grandfather who helped her. This true story about my grandmother, describes the miraculous healing of a young girl in Cyprus by a much-loved local saint who lived more than one thousand years ago.  For children ages four and up.


“…The writing and illustrations are beautiful, and the story guides both young and old to look to the Saints of the Holy Orthodox Church for Intercession with our Lord. It is even more uplifting to know that it is based on the true story of your grandmother, and her miraculous healing through the intercession of St. Kendeas.

…I would highly recommend your book to all of our parents as a way of inspiring great hope in our children….”

–Metropolitan PHILIP
Archbishop of New York and Metropolitan of All North America
The Self-Ruled Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America


“A beautiful story that can introduce little children to the healing reality of the great saints of Christianity.”

Kyriacos Markides, Author of The Mountain of Silence and Gifts of the Desert

Read more here.

Saint Helena Brings the Holy Cross to Cyprus

cyprus icon stavrovouni with Saint Helena

Cyprus, the island of Saints, has endured many trials and tribulations, the most recent of which has been the banking crisis. Throughout Lent, I worried about my younger sister and her family in Cyprus and continue to be concerned about the years of hardship ahead for the people there.  It has been the worst crisis since the Turkish invasion of 1974.

Before Saint Helena brought the Holy Cross to Cyprus, the country was desolate, drought ravaged and deserted.  According to the 15th century Cypriot historian and chronicler, Leontios Makhairas, the island had been without rain for 36 years. There was great hardship and famine and the people deserted the island, which became overrun with poisonous snakes.

At that time, Constantine the Great commanded his saintly mother to find the Holy Cross in Jerusalem. She traveled to the Holy land and found the Holy Cross and the two crosses of the thieves, the nails,  crown of thorns and the rope used to bind Christ. She built many churches in Jerusalem over sacred places in the name of the precious and Life giving Cross.

Imagine the fire lit beacons on the highest towers from Jerusalem to Constantinople, proclaiming that the Holy Cross had been found! What an awesome sight that must have been.

When Saint Helena found the Holy Cross, she placed it with the two crosses of the thieves in a chest with the nails, crown and rope and departed for Constantinople but by God’s will was shipwrecked in Cyprus in 327 AD.


She had a dream of an angel instructing her to build churches in Cyprus as she did in Jerusalem and leave pieces of the Holy Wood there. When she awoke from her dream one of the crosses was missing but was found by divine will at the top of Mount Olympia where she built the Monastery of the Cross, known as Stavrovouni.


She left a fragment of the Holy Wood as well as one of the Holy Nails in a silver cross at Stavrovouni, which for many years was suspended supernaturally in midair.

cyprus Relic Cross Stavrovouni

Saint Helena saw a pillar of fire from earth to the sky and a voice from heaven told her to build a church at Tochni, which she did and a bridge for people to cross over. She left a piece of the Holy Wood there in a cross which she overlaid with silver, gold and pearls. She also built a church at Omodhos where she left a piece of the blood stained rope used in Christ’s passion.

cyprus omodos cross

From the time when Saint Helena brought the Holy Cross to Cyprus, the rains came and nourished the land. There was material and spiritual renewal. Saint Helena ordered a boatload of feral cats from Asia Minor to Cyprus landing at Cape Gata (cat) to kill the poisonous snakes. Many cats were at a Monastery now known as St Nicholas of the Cats.  And then the people returned. This story is told beautifully by Calee Lee in her children’s book, The Queen and The Cats.


In the midst of Cyprus’ struggles today, the Lord has sent two recent miracles to give hope to the long-suffering  Orthodox faithful  – two myrrh streaming icons of Saint George.  The first one was at Kambia, Farmaka and began “gushing” myrrh on Bright Monday, on the transferred feast of Saint George. Read more about this icon here.

Saint George on horse kAMBI

And a personal testimony here.

The  second is at the Sacred Monastery of Saint George outside Larnaca.  This also appeared to“gush” myrrh around the same time.Read more here.

Saint George LARNACA

They are a blessing and a gift, like rain after 36 years of drought. Without the Holy Cross we are like that parched land.  They are a reminder that God is with us, and bring the message of the Resurrection:


The Angels in Heaven, O Christ our Saviour, sing of Thy Resurrection; enable also us on earth with pure hearts to glorify Thee.


First published on The Sounding Blog, May 20 2013.