Tag: church (page 1 of 8)

Samarina: The beautiful Byzantine church in Messenia

Share

Church of the Virgin Zoodochos Pigi Samarina

The Byzantine Church of Zoodochos Pigi Samarina cuts a striking figure set amidst a valley of rolling hills lush with olive trees

 

Lady of the valley:  There were lovely landscapes everywhere we looked while we drove through Messenia in late May. One of the most memorable and marvellous sights along the way was the Byzantine Church of Zoodochos Pigi Samarina, located between the villages of Ellinoekklisia and Kalogerorrachi. 

We first glimpsed the church from afar — from the top of an access road which winds down a wooded hillside to the clearing in which the 800-year-old shrine sits. From this vantage point, Samarina looks simply sublime: a beautiful Byzantine-style building surrounded by rolling hills and lush green groves of olive trees that extend for miles in all directions.  Although the distance offered a breathtaking panoramic perspective of the impressive monument and its pretty surroundings, we of course had to drive down to take a closer look.

Not surprisingly, the church was locked up as tight as a drum, and nobody else was around, so there was no chance of taking a peek inside. 

 

 

According to an information plaque on the grounds near the church, Samarina is considered to be one of the most beautiful Byzantine monuments in the Peloponnese. It was built in the 12th Century on what some sources claim was the site of an ancient temple that had been dedicated to the goddess Rhea. Originally, Samarina was a church operated by the nunnery of Osia Mary of Egypt. It later was renamed church of Zoodochos Pigi (Virgin Mary), but hundreds of years have passed since any nuns last occupied the building.

Amazingly, “Nothing is known about the monument’s history, while the silence of textual evidence in regard with such a monument is remarkable,” the plaque says.

 

Samarina church

A Messenian mystery: Historians say the church dates from the 12th Century, but they don’t know anything about its history.

 

The plaque describes Samarina as “a two-column, domed cross-in-square building whose careful cloisonné masonry next to the variety of decorative brickwork compose a highly artistic complex.”

Between late 2011 and the end of 2013, a rehabilitation and restoration project was carried out to recover the tiled roof, restore the decorative brickwork, and install new wooden doors. Inside, “the wall paintings were entirely restored and the marble templon screen was cleaned to retrieve its white colour and to preserve the traces of inlaid wax and mastic gum.” 

Nearby are ruins of other buildings, believed to have been monastic cells, along with a vaulted Byzantine cistern.

It would have been interesting to see the interior, with its freshly restored frescoes, but we had to make do with  viewing photos in a brochure I had picked up at Messana Hotel at Ancient Messini the day before.  Nevertheless, we enjoyed examining the building exterior, and exploring its serene surroundings. (I have tried to find the brochure and its images online, so I could post a link here, but so far haven’t had any success.)

If you’re passing through the area on your way to or from Ancient Messini, be sure to stop and take a look at Samarina. She’s a beauty.

Below are several more pictures of Samarina. You can view additional photos in my Samarina  church album on Flickr.

 

Samarina church

 

Samarina church

 

Samarina church

 

Samarina church

 

Samarina church

 

Samarina church

 

Photo highlights from our trip to the Peloponnese and Hydra

Share

Monemvasia

The fascinating fortress town of Monemvasia, where we spent three days and nights in early June

 

Amazing experience: I only need one word to describe our first-ever visit to Greece’s Peloponnese region and  Hydra island this month: Wow!

We weren’t even halfway through our holiday when we noted that the trip was shaping up as one of our best vacation experiences ever in Greece. Now that we’re back home, recalling all the places and sights we encountered and sorting through our photos,  we’ve agreed that it was our favourite trip of all. 

The Argolida and Laconia districts of the Peloponnese far exceeded our high expectations, while a spur-of-the-moment trip to Hydra impressed us immensely as well. The sights and scenery everywhere we went were simply amazing.

 

 

 

We enjoyed exhilarating views of sparkling turquoise seas and mountains extending as far as the eye could see. We roamed around charming villages and towns, visited historic archaeological sites, and walked dozens of kilometers along scenic coastal paths. We saw vast groves of olive trees, thousands of citrus trees laden with fruit, and dozens of picturesque churches, chapels and monasteries. We explored ancient castles, even spending three nights in a fortress town and swimming in the sea below its formidable stone walls. And we drank good wine and dined on delicious traditional and contemporary Greek cuisine. 

I will tell you more about our trip in detailed posts to come, but will launch my 2016 trip report with a series of photos showing some highlight sights and scenes from our travels.

Please click on the link below to view the pictures on page 2.

 

the monastery of Elona

The Monastery of Elona, which clings to the face of a cliff on Mount Parnon, was a breathtaking sight during our drive from Nafplio to Monemvasia

 

CONTINUED ON PAGE 2

Pages: 1 2

Sky views of Santorini’s sensational cliffside scenery

Share

 

Drone tour: Here’s a video to excite and inspire those of you who will be going to Santorini this summer — or possibly sometime in the future.

Created by NPro+ Aerial Production, the two-and-a-half minute film will take you on an exhilarating aerial tour of the western side of Santorini, renowned for the picturesque villages that cling to the peaks of rugged caldera cliffs towering nearly 1,000 feet (300 meters) above the Aegean Sea.

Although dozens of drone videos of Santorini are available for online viewing, I particularly like NPro+’s Santorini from the Sky because it starts with a superb view of Agios Theodori, the church that has been pictured on countless Santorini postcards, posters and travel guides.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Instantly recognizable by its shiny blue dome and brilliant white belltower overlooking the volcano island of Nea Kameni, Agios Theodori church was the first fascinating sight we saw moments after arriving at our hotel in Firostefani village on our first visit to Santorini in 2004. The video goes on to show other remarkable scenes that amazed us throughout that holiday, including views of four clifftop villages — Fira, Firostefani, Imerovigli and Oia — and beautiful Amoudi Bay below Oia. Of course, the film also shows some of the sensational sunsets for which Santorini is famous around the world.

Scenes from some of the shop-lined streets in the heart of Fira, and from a few of its many cliffside cocktail bars and cafes, also made me feel like I was right back on the island experiencing it in person all over again.

The only thing I didn’t like was the brief view of tourists riding donkeys on the path that winds down the cliff from Fira to the cruise ship tender port. Click here to read why you shouldn’t take a donkey ride if you visit Santorini.

Agios Theodori church in Firostefani

Even if you’ve never been to Santorini, you’ve probably seen Agios Theodori church — it has been pictured on scores of postcards, posters and travel guides. Located in Firostefani village, it was the first impressive sight we saw on our first visit to Santorini back in 2004. There’s a great view of the church, and the Nea Kameni volcano island (upper left), at the beginning of the Santorini from the Sky video I posted above.

A Sifnos island icon: The Church of the 7 Martyrs

Share

Chapel of the 7 Martyrs

Like hundreds of other picturesque chapels in the Cyclades, the Church of the 7 Martyrs on Sifnos has a traditional Cycladic design with whitewashed walls and a shiny blue dome

 

Chapel of the 7 Martyrs

but its startling location — perched atop a rocky peninsula pounded by powerful winds and waves — makes it one of the most memorable and impressive shrines in the region

 

Windswept wonder: We have seen hundreds if not thousands of blue-domed churches in Greece, but the Chapel of the 7 Martyrs on Sifnos easily ranks as one of the most memorable.

We got to see it during a four-day visit to Sifnos in late September 2007, and were practically blown away by the experience — and not just because the chapel is such an impressive sight. 

It was warm and sunny when we arrived at Sifnos on a Friday afternoon, but conditions changed abruptly. Within less than two hours, near gale-force winds began blowing, followed overnight by thick, dark stormclouds and periods of light rain. The gusts were so strong that rough seas forced the cancellation of ferry service for the next three days. But we didn’t let the unrelenting wind stop us from sightseeing. Occasional breaks in the cloudcover motivated us to get out and explore,  and we spent one day hiking to the villages of Artemonas, Apollonia, Kato Petali and Kastro.  

 

A breathtaking sight below Kastro village

We got our first glimpse of the Chapel of the 7 Martyrs while following a clifftop footpath that winds along the the east side of Kastro, about 90 meters above the sea. It was breathtaking to look down and suddenly see the whitewashed, blue-domed church far below, perched atop a rugged, rocky peninsula that juts into the Aegean. We saw a group of tourists making their way down a twisting, stone-paved path that leads to the church, and decided to make the trek as well.  But the blasting winds actually stopped us in our tracks a few times, and more than once nearly blew us off balance. When one particularly strong gust nearly knocked down a woman walking behind me, she and her companions turned back, saying they felt it was too dangerous to venture any further. But we plodded on, climbing down dozens of steps and then up a short hillside to reach the church.  

The wind was even worse here, but we couldn’t go inside the church to escape it because the door was locked (apparently the chapel is open only several times a year for special occasions and feast days.) It was almost impossible to hold our cameras steady to take photos, even on the south side of the building where the wind was partially blocked. In fact, the blustery conditions were so unpleasant we stayed only a couple of minutes to view the coastal scenery before making a hasty climb back to the sheltered lanes in Kastro.

Despite the inclement conditions, it was well worth braving the elements to briefly see the chapel. If anything, the wind and the surrounding whitecapped sea gave the Chapel of the 7 Martyrs even more of an exhilarating “wow” factor.

Below are several more of our own photos of the church. You can see full-size versions of them, along with 20 additional images, in my Chapel of the 7 Martyrs album on Flickr.  At the bottom of the post are two wonderful pictures of the chapel that were shot by photographers from France and Greece.

 

Chapel of the 7 Martyrs

Much of the chapel’s tremendous visual appeal stems from its location on such inhospitable coastal terrain

 

Chapel of the 7 Martyrs

Dozens of stone steps lead down the cliffside to the church

 

 Chapel of the 7 Martyrs

Here’s a view of the steps from a point far down the cliff 

 

Chapel of the 7 Martyrs

After descending dozens of steps, visitors face a short uphill climb to the chapel. A terrace that wraps around the church offers amazing views of the sea, the Sifnos coast and Kastro village, but we weren’t able to enjoy the scenery because of the high winds.

 

Chapel of the 7 Martyrs

Looking northwest along the rugged coast of Sifnos 

 

7 Martyrs Chapel on Sifnos photo by Giannis Kontos

A view of the Chapel of the 7 Martyrs in weather conditions even more severe than we experienced. This image, which has been widely circulated in social media, was captured by Sifnos photographer Giannis Kontos.

 

7 Martyrs Chapel on Sifnos photo by Charley Lataste

Another image that has been shared extensively on social media is this sunset view of the chapel, shot by photographer Charly Lataste.

 

Exploring the quiet lanes and alleys of Andros Town

Share

a lane in Andros Town

Three curious cats watch as we approach them in a lane in Andros Town

 

During our visit to Andros at the end of May, we usually had most of Andros Town all to ourselves while walking around — we saw only a small number of residents and even fewer tourists whenever we were out and about. Although the town’s main commercial street was  bustling with people each morning and again in the evening at dinner time, it was a different story off the main strip, where we typically would encounter some cats but barely any people on side streets and lanes like the one in the photo above. For us, the quiet alleys and walkways were pure bliss — a refreshing escape from the crowds, traffic, sirens and incessant city noise that stress us out back home in downtown Toronto. In main travel season, I’m sure Andros Town is teeming with tourists and residents, but we didn’t mind finding it so empty in May.

Here are more street scenes that will give you an idea of what it’s like to stroll around Andros Town:

 

a street in Andros Town

Approaching a church near the eastern tip of Andros Town

 

the main street in Andros Town

Looking along the main street in Andros Town. Vehicles can drive on this particular block, but beyond the intersection a few doors down, the street becomes a pedestrian-only thoroughfare.

 

the main street in Andros Town

With most shops and businesses closed in late afternoon, the pedestrian section of Andros Town’s main street is empty. Stormclouds gathering overhead seemed to scare most of the tourists back to their hotels until dinner time.

 

the main street in Andros Town

A view of the main street during a busier time of day

 

the main street of Andros Town

Shops and cafes line the marble-paved street

 

a lane in Andros Town

A view down the steps leading to the island’s Museum of Contemporary Art. It was open only between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., and since we were always off exploring other parts of the island during those hours, we were unable to visit the galleries. Other tourists told us that the museum’s collections and special exhibits are impressive.

 

steps in Andros Town

A steep flight of steps on the south side of Andros Town

 

a street in Andros Town

Not a soul in sight on this street, either

 

a street in Andros Town

A colourful section of street near Agios Georgios Church

 

Agios Georgios Church Andros Town

Agios Georgios Church

 

steps in a lane in Andros Town

A lane of steps in Andros Town

 

road at Nimborio Beach Andros Town

The road along Nimborio beach on the north side of Andros Town

 

a street in Andros Town

A street near Nimborio beach

 

the main square in Andros Town

The big main square in Andros Town

 

steps from Andros Town to Paraporti beach\

Looking down the long, steep flight of stairs leading to Paraporti beach …

 

steps from Paraporti beach to Andros Town

… and looking partway up the same stairs from a spot near the bottom

 

a lane in Andros Town

This lane has views of two of the most famous landmarks at Andros Town — the Tourlitis lighthouse and Agia Thalassini Church

 

 a street in Andros Town

Steps leading from Andros Town to the Nimborio beach area

 

a lane in Andros Town

A lane high above the bay on the north side of Andros Town

 

a street near Nimborio beach

A street near Nimborio beach

 

Agia Thalassini Church on Andros

A wide waterfront promenade leads to Agia Thalassini Church on the seaside

Older posts