Association of Attica Tserioton "The EVAGELISMOS"

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West Mani

 

Byzantine monuments

The area around Mani today known as Messinian Mani, stretches over nearly 320 square meters, ranging from the coast of Verga up to Lagada and Poliana. Throughout this area, one can admire a multitude of churches from the Byzantine and post Byzantine era. They are either situated in the middle of most of the nearly-seventy settlements of the region or scattered between the olive groves and the dry landscape. These churches testify the inhabitants’ deep faith and particular social and cultural customs, which are characteristic of this land and dates form the early Byzantine to the post Byzantine times.

 

Architecture

There were two architectural church styles prevalent during the Byzantine era. The cruciform type church with a dome resting on two columns (a typical style found around Greece) and the single-nave vaulted church on which usually a north and south building was attached to form the three-aisled style church typical in Oriental Cappadocia. One can note that architectural material deriving from ancient buildings was used in the churches’ construction, (elements like ancient tombstones, ancient column capitals, flutings from the column shafts etc). These structural pieces were usually built-in on the front facade of the church or used in its interior decoration. Stone-carved screens, reliefs portraying animals and column capitals, prove that man inhabited this land during all the historical periods. The portrayals created during the Byzantine times preferably illustrate military saints riding on horse-back or saints in full body and martyrs.

 

Post Byzantine monuments

The post Byzantine churches of Mani show similar features between the architecture and the murals.

Regarding the architecture of the churches, one usually comes across the single-nave vaulted type elaborated into the three-aisled cruciform style church, there are also many cruciform inscribed type churches, free-cross plan view churches, single-nave vaulted churches or roofed cruciform plan view churches. During this period limestone was used as the main construction material. It was a material that facilitated creating the decor of the churches, facades with fine window and door frame carvings, ornate wall reliefs and high-storied bell-towers.

Inside the churches, one can admire wood-engraved screens that show the development of the wood-work art that decorated the walls during the 17th and 18th century. The fretwork consists of sculptured figures, themes from the traditional way of life, wall-covering representations of religious glorification, judgment day, martyrdom, miracle working saints etc.

 

Archangel Michael

Archangel Michael otherwise known as Taxiarchis is one of the most beloved figures in Mani and many places of worship are dedicated to his grace.

The Archangel is a figure depicted in amour that stuns the observer with his intense gaze. The huge skull painted on his mantle that covers his chest and the smaller skulls on his gaiters and epaulets give out an aversive message. In one hand he lightly holds a sword and in his other a baby that symbolizes the soul of the unrepentant mortal on which he stamps on with one of his feet. Some Maniots call the Saint, Charos (the ancient god of the underworld), others name him the Saint of Mani. This is an exquisite painting of the saint who looks like one of Palaeologus’ last worriors that came and captured Mount Taygetus as a battlement. He is a reminder of our vain and mundane world. Lord Michael is the serene judge, the soul bearer that constitutes the link between Christian Mani and Taenarus, which was said to be the entrance to Hades (the underworld for the ancient people).

 

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