Tag: monastery (page 1 of 3)

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.]

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