Tag: monastery (page 1 of 2)

Samarina: The beautiful Byzantine church in Messenia

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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

 

An aerial peek at Patmos

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This video by Vassilis Kostoulas includes the song Celestial Liturgy— verses of Revelation set to music by Constantine Gousis

 

Pondering Patmos: Today I learned that friends are considering a trip to Patmos this spring, as part of an island hopping holiday in the Dodecanese. By coincidence, I also stumbled upon a video of Patmos that was posted to YouTube only five days ago. I’m sharing it here on the blog not just to show my friends some of the island’s main features, but also to assist any readers who might be pondering a visit to Patmos themselves.

Entitled Η γη σαν ζωγραφιά, which roughly translates as “The earth like a painting,” the video runs for nearly 5 and a half minutes and offers an aerial tour over much of Patmos. It starts and ends with views of the picturesque mountaintop village of Chora and the island’s most famous attraction, the Monastery of St. John the Theologian.  The film also shows several of the island’s beautiful bays, including my personal favourite, Grikos, along with the port town of Skala and some of the scenic beaches and coastlines.

 

If you want to see more of the island after watching this video, click over to my post Perspectives of Patmos, from March 2016.  It includes two more enticing aerial videos that were produced by the Municipality of Patmos to promote tourism to the island.

For on-the-ground views of various places around Patmos, flip through my Patmos photo collection on Flickr, which contains more than 600 pictures from our visit in May 2010. Some of those photos accompany my mini trip report Greece holiday 2010: Patmos.

And in my post Greece holiday 2010: Grikos Bay on Patmos,  you can watch several of my own videos of Grikos, which has been named one of the most beautiful bays in the world by the international World Bays organization.

Monastery of St John the Theologian on Patmos

The imposing Monastery of St John the Theologian towers above the elegant whitewashed mansions of Chora village on Patmos

 

For further information about Patmos, give the following travel website articles a read:

♦  Apocalypse Now, on Patmos, posted January 17 to the excellent travel, culture and gastronomy website Greece Is;

The Top10 things to do and see in Patmos, published January 5 by The Culture Trip; and 

Patmos, the spiritual Greek island, a profile from the September 2016 issue of Conde Nast Traveller magazine

Also be sure to check out the official website for the Municipality of Patmos.

 

Petra beach near Grikos Bay on Patmos

Back to back beaches: Petra beach, in the foreground, is just a quick stroll from Grikos beach (behind the road of trees) at lovely Grikos Bay (top)

 

Photo highlights from our trip to the Peloponnese and Hydra

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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

 

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An entrancing visit to Arcadia, the mythical land of Pan

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The Arcadian is a captivating short film by PanoVerino

 

Domain of Pan: Just two days ago, I published Experience Greece’s glorious off-season sights & scenery with winter walks and drives, a post packed with photos of beautiful winter scenes in Greece. The Arcadia region of the Peloponnese was one of the regions featured prominently in that post.

I just discovered a fascinating short video of Arcadia that filmmaker PanoVerino published the same day on the film and video sharing website Vimeo.com.

Entitled The Arcadian, the 3-minute film shows entrancing ground and aerial winter time views of impressive mountain and valley landscapes, breathtaking hillside villages and the extraordinary Monastery of Prodromos, which was constructed into the side of a sheer cliff face around the year 1167.

In notes on his Vimeo page, PanoVerino explains that “The Arcadian is a person who leads and prefers a simple rural life. According to Greek mythology, Arcadia of Peloponnesus was the domain of Pan, a virgin wilderness home to the god of the forest and his court of dryads, nymphs and other spirits of nature. It was one version of paradise, though only in the sense of being the abode of supernatural entities, not an afterlife for deceased mortals.”

The spellbinding scenery in Pan’s domain is beautifully filmed, and The Arcadian makes me eager to explore this scenic and mythical area of the Peloponnese, hopefully on our upcoming late spring trip to Greece. Give it a watch to see if the video has the same compelling effect on you.

[If the name PanoVerino sounds familiar, you may recall seeing his film Postcard from Mykonos Greece, which I shared in  my July 11 2015 blog post, A breathtaking video postcard from Mykonos. Take a look at the PanoVerino Vimeo page to see more of his marvellous films.]

Must-see sights in and around Rethymno on Crete

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Guest post by the Cretico blog

Rethymno is the third largest city in Crete and one of the most beautiful in Greece. Byzantine churches and monasteries, renaissance monuments, caves, countless beaches and enchanting villages throughout the province, await the visitor to wander and admire them.

The Old City

Rethymno in Crete

The oriental influence of the Turkish occupation, combined with the Venetian architecture of the Renaissance, compose the beautiful picture of the old town of Rethymno. Taking a walk through the narrow streets of the historic center, you can see many Venetian and Turkish monuments. From the Venetian harbor and the famous lighthouse, you can reach the Venetian Fortezza castle. The arches of the Venetian Loggia will definitely impress you. After a while, you will have the chance to rest and drink fresh water from the Rimondi fountain with three spouts in the shape of a lion, built in 1626 by rector Rimondi.

A stop at the Historical – Folk Museum of Rethymnonn with its historical exhibits, is definitely not a waste of time. Continuing your tour in the old town, you will admire the church of San Francesco, you will pass through the Great Gate and will reach the main square where you will admire the various public buildings. The old city is the living history of Rethymno, it turns you back in time and invites you to visit it.

 

The Fortezza Castle

Fortezza Castle

Undoubtedly, one of the most prominent highlights of Rethymno is the unique Venetian castle Fortezza. This is the Venetian castle that dominates the hill of Paleokastro, in the heart of the city and is famous as the largest Venetian castle ever built.

In the same place, in ancient times, was built the citadel of ancient Rirthymna and the Temple of Artemis, which have not survived. After the city was looted by the Algerian pirate Ouloutz Ali in 1571, was created the need for a good fortification. That’s why in 1573 was built the majestic pentagonal fort, according to all the modern methods of fortification and was designed so that it could shelter the entire population of the city.

Its premises, many of which are preserved in good condition until today, included barracks, a church, hospital, warehouse, the residence of the Directors, the residence of the Rector and a luxurious and stately building in the central square of the fortress. In the fortress of Fortezza takes place, in the summer, the Renaissance Festival of Rethymno, which attracts many visitors to Rethymno.

 

The Archaeological Museum of Rethymno

Archaeological Museum of Rethymno

In front of the main gate of Fortezza is the Archaeological Museum of Rethymno, since 1887. It is housed in a pentagonal Ottoman building that was built for the protection of the entrance of the east gate of Fortezza.

Here are displayed findings of the Early Minoan, Middle Minoan and Late Minoan times, such as various pots, tools, weapons, pottery, jewelry, signets, and clay figurines, such as this of a female figure known as the “goddess with upraised hands”. The visitor can also admire various objects and artwork of the Classical, Hellenistic and Roman period, such as gold jewelry, glass vases and collections of sculptures from various regions.

Among others, the Museum displays an interesting collection of coins from different historical periods of time.

 

The Monastery of Arkadi

Monastery of Arkadi

One of the highlights of Rethymno which deserves a visit is the Monastery of Arkadi, one of the most important monasteries in Crete, situated 23 km from Rethymno, in a strategic location on the northwest side of the mountain Idi.

The name of the monastery comes from the Byzantine Emperor Arcadius and its foundation dates back to the 5th century. The Monastery of Arkadi became known worldwide as it was strongly involved in the liberation struggles against the Turkish conquest. On November 8, 1866, the defenders of Crete who were sheltered in the monastery, blew alive in order not to surrender to the Turks. This event is known in history as the “Holocaust of Arkadi Monastery” and for this reason, this place has been characterized by UNESCO as a European Freedom Monument.

After the destruction, the monastery was completely rebuilt and restored to its original form, although the burned-out temple, and a cannon ball, wedged in a cypress, witness its history. Visitors can admire the two-aisled church in the center of the monastery dedicated to Saint Constantine and the Transfiguration of the Savior, which was built in the 16th century, the chapel of St. Arkadius, the monastery’s museum hosting exhibits dating from its inception and the powder magazine where the tragedy of 1866 took place.

 

The Monastery of Preveli

The-Monastery-of-Preveli

The Monastery of Preveli is located about 40 km south of Rethymno and is one of the most famous and respected monasteries of Crete. We don’t know exactly when it was built, but the evidence shows that the first part of the monastery was built in the late 10th to early 11th century, at a time when there was a great development of monastic life in the southern region of Crete.

It consists of two building complexes, the Monastery of Prodromos, in which you will see paintings of the painter Mercurius, and the Monastery of Theologos. It is worth visiting the museum located inside the monastery, which hosts about 100 pictures of priceless religious and historical value. Important exhibits such as a Gospel of 1807, a gilt chalice of 1847, a collection of embroidered vestments, a collection of various ecclesiastical vessels etc., complete the rich collection of the museum. The library of the monastery contains about a thousand volumes of books and other church documents. The Monastery of Preveli is located in a unique natural environment which is almost tropical.

 

Anogia Village

Anogia-Village Crete

The village of Anogia, in Mylopotamos, is approximately 50 km away from Rethymno at an altitude of nearly 800 m. Built on the slope of the hill Armi, with about 2500 inhabitants, Anogia have achieved a tremendous contribution to the national liberation struggle against the Turkish conquest, particularly in the Battle of Crete.

Anogia is also an epicenter of contemporary Cretan civilization. If you visit Anogia, you will be surprised by the traditional textile industry of the place, the reputed embroidery of the village and the use of the loom, which continues even until today.

The Anogians love their heritage and respect the customs and traditions of the place, keep the traditional clothing and language idioms. What remains intense in memory of every visitor of Anogia is the characteristic hospitality of the locals and the excellent care to foreigners.

 

The Caves of Rethymno

Ideon-Antron-Cave

Another highlight of Rethymno is the 800 caves that exist in the mountains of  the region, which present archaeological and folklore interest. At an altitude of 1538 meters in Nida Plateau in Psiloritis, is the Ideon Andron, a large cave, where, according to Greek mythology, Zeus was raised by Amalthea. Ideon Andron was a cult center during the Minoan years. The excavations have brought to light various findings such as gold jewelry, ceramics and various metal objects.

In the Cave of Melidoni, which was Mercury’s place of worship, the visitors can see the bones of the inhabitants of Melidoni, who died there from suffocation, as they were besieged by the Turks. Also, the cave Sfentoni in Zoniana village, with 14 halls, impresses the visitor with its stalactites and stalagmites. Accessible is also the cave of St. Anthony in Patso, with the beautiful church – dedicated to St. Anthony – located in the cave.

 

The Renaissance Festival of Rethymno

Rethymno Renaissance Festival

Every summer, in Rethymno, is organized the Renaissance Festival, an institution that has been established since 1987, on the occasion of the great development that the city experienced experienced during the Venetian conquest, in arts, literature and architecture.

The aim of the Renaissance Festival is the preservation and dissemination of the cultural heritage of the city, and the promotion of important Venetian monuments, like the old town of Rethymnon and Fortezza. So far, the Renaissance Festival has presented a variety of important plays of Cretan theater, and other important artists of the Renaissance, such as Shakespeare, Goldoni, Moliere, etc.

The music concerts, involving orchestras and musicians from all over Europe, the opening and closing ceremonies with artistic events, and events organized in various places of the city.

 

Beaches in Rethymno

Bali beach Crete

Both in the north coast, and the south, there are many sandy beaches in Rethymno which attract visitors to walk along them, enjoy the sun and swim in the beautiful waters of the Cretan and the Libyan Sea. The beach of Rethymno is a huge, 12 km long sandy beach, which starts from the city of Rethymno and ends in the region of Scarleta.

Near the Monastery of Preveli, there is the homonymous beach, an exotic place with palm trees, crossed by the river Koutalioti and considered by many as the most beautiful beach of Crete. For those who are looking for peace and mental calm, there is the secluded beach of Triopetra in approximately 50 km. south of Rethymno. Within walking distance, you will find the quiet beach of St. Paul, offered for nudism.

Plakias-Beach on Crete

The water sports enthusiasts can visit the beach in the village of Plakias, situated 40 kilometers from Rethymno, and also Bali, on the national road Rethymno – Heraklion, which is very popular. The beach in Platanes village is appropriate for a quick dip, and it is 4 km east of Rethymno. The beach of Panormo village, 16 km away, is very organized and offer many facilities to the tourists.

Of course, these are the main highlights of Rethymno, however, when you visit it, you will realize that this place offers numerable places with such beauty and long history, that will make you love this city forever.

 

This article originally appeared on the Cretico Blog published by the Cretico Crete holiday villa website, and is republished with their kind permission.

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