Mistras was the steep fortress offered Taygetos in the last defenders of the Empire thousands of years. From the top of two centuries reflected the glow of classical Greece, with liberal philosophers such as Gemistus Pletho and fatal Emperors like Constantine Paleologos. Seven brilliant examples of church architecture and Byzantine art have survived the citadel accessible to visitors.
Agios Dimitrios (Metropolis)
Near the entrance of the archaeological site is Saint Dimitrios, the metropolis of Mystras. Probably built in 1291- 1292, initially had the look of the basilica, and then attempted to turn into a cruciform with five domes. This conversion is explained by: The Royal reminiscent of the early centuries of the Roman Empire and directly related to buildings of Classical Greece, while the cross-domed churches with more associated with the image and atmosphere of Constantinople.
The temple is decorated with frescoes follow the dictates of John Damascene: in the central aisle depicted the cycle of Feasts, Passion and Resurrection, the side aisles miracles of Jesus and the narthex depicted scenes of the Second Coming.
The temple paintings are the work of three different and rather modern painters between the schools. These were served in an artistic competition to leave their trace in the history and the ‘canvas’ of the church. The observant visitor will distinguish several differences in the colors and volumes of the figures of the saints as it moves between the colonnades with Theodosian capitals. When you stand beneath the central dome and having admired the decor, looking down he will see the two-headed eagle.
Marble, sculpted in the temple floor, the blazon of Paleologi. According to tradition, on this knelt Constantine Palaeologus during his coronation as the last ‘King Romans’, as the ‘Chosen One of God’ in the year 1449.
Near the city, in a higher position and moving to the Northwest, we meet Evanyelistria a temple limited dimensions but with ideal proportions. Established between the years 1390-1410 in two-column cruciform rhythm and form are clearly influenced by the neighbor and largest temple Odigitria (the Boss). Since it has adopted the existence vestibule with floor-loft, which combined with the rhythm of the church, found the world only here, unique sample of Byzantine church architecture.
The visitor should stand in the rich sculptural decoration of the church and floral decoration of the capitals: Anthemia, lis, pine cones, twigs etc. They give a pleasant tone inside the church. From the frescoes of the church unfortunately survived a few samples: Angels in the dome, the Lamb of God in the sanctuary, the Virgin Life in Diakonikon and other small treasures of art scattered in the temple, but so fragmentary that do not allow us to follow the thought artist, nor to imagine what it would total the church decorated. only are pleasant breaks in the eye of the visitor, samples of the Paleologos style in the 15th century.
There was a time when dozens if not hundreds of monasteries were founded within the Byzantine cities. The monasteries beyond asceticism and prayer centers, gradually evolved in copy centers and thus the study of ancient Greek philosophers projects without losing their theological orientation, allow however to rationality and secular thinking rays penetrate heavy hitherto orthodox veil mysticism.
Mystras, like Istanbul and Thessaloniki maintained monasteries within its walls. Life in the monastery revolved, unsurprisingly, around the church, the church of the monastery, which was situated in the center of the complex. Around this developed or life of monks, or when working (mills, millstones to grind, etc.) or when rested (cells, bank, baths, etc.).
During his heyday in Mystras Vrontochion was the center of intense intellectual activity. This teaches the greatest intellectual figure of the Late Byzantine period, the Neoplatonist philosopher Gemistus Pletho, in a circle of prominent students as the later Roman Church Cardinal Bessarion and the last Byzantine historian, people Chalkokondyli. Plethon founded here in Mystras a secret fraternity, where he taught a theory Platonic inspiration extolling the recovery of a purified paganism.
The emperors and nobles competed in their bids to the Monastery, causing it to accumulate wealth and power, but also one of the greatest libraries of Empire.
Inside the monastery complex of Vrontochion are the two most impressive churches of Mystras:
The church was founded around 1290 by the abbot Pachomio and adorned by the typical and very famous octagonal dome. The dome had collapsed in the past and the Saints Theodori had deserted before restored again in the 20th century. Because of neglect, the murals that have survived are few, but even so distinguished for their technique.
The two military saints captured, must have belonged to a whole ‘guild’ armed saints that adorned the walls of the church down to the height of the faithful, preparing him for the consequences of that turbulent era.
Above the pillars of the sanctuary, an angel offers a dynamic movement Lily in a scene of the Annunciation and the chapel where the tomb of Emperor Manuel Paleologos, he is shown kneeling before the Virgin and Child.
Virgin Odigitria (or “boss”)
It is the second church in Vrontochion founded in 1310 by the chancellor Pachomio. In this manifested very clearly the desire of the founder to emulate the standards of the great temples of Istanbul. The Constantinople, although critical hours passed, political pneontas its last legs, however, maintained an unsurpassed prestige in the field of art and humanitarian pursuits.
The Hodegetria was the first church in Mistra where the composite architectural style applied: Basilica in plan view and cross with five domes and in a splint. We could say a lot about the architecture of the church, if it did not overshadow his painting.
For the unique frescoes adorning the church, invited artists from Constantinople to transmit extra-terrestrial aura to the embodiments illustrated. A visitor comes to stand in front of the illustrated witnesses, on the west wall of the north chapel to feel the Byzantine magnificence: floating forms with looks of deep spirituality, classic proportions and bouncy movements, painting skill with absolute color perception and control of shades to an almost impressionist finish.
Art, the eastern despot could never have imagined and thus to assess. The whole temple is a huge canvas color contrasts and melodies. It is inconceivable that man says he loves the art of painting and not have gone through this temple …
In the chapel of the northwest corner of the church is buried Theodore II Palaeologus, which probably led to the nickname ‘Boss’, while the chapel of Southwest corner, bring the walls painted the chrysobulls imperial privileges that were given to Vrontochion.
The secluded church Peribleptos, founded in the 14th century, resting on the bedrock of Mystras, which is responsible largely for architectural irregular provision.
Even so, the outer face of the temple is distinguished for its elegant proportions and elaborate masonry.
The temple carries on several points of the coats – heraldically symbols: Leo and lis, symbols both of dynasties Kantakouzenos and de Lusignan. We must not forget that our wife first despot of Mystras, Manuel Kantakouzenos was Isabella de Lusignan.
Here the visitor can admire some of the most beautiful frescoes of Byzantine Art. Protostathei Where to look? In the sanctuary, where the Mass is depicted with the Christ officiates between whitewashed angels, bearing divine gifts of heaven? In the arch of the sanctuary, with Christ hovering between four angels and the Virgin Mary and the Apostles admired with awe? In the scene of Genesis? Baptism? Happy whoever claimed to admire these unique works of art.
In the district of the palaces, the Upper Town of Mystras, find the Hagia Sophia, founded in 1365 as a universal large monastery, which many equate with that of Zoodotes Christ.
Over the capitals of the columns we can see the monogram of the founder, Manuel Kantakouzenos: Manuel Palaeologus Katakouzinos Bishop ktetor. Architectural belongs to two-columned type, a variant of the cross with a dome and a tall storey bell stands beside.
Although Catholic monastery, the church has functioned as the church of closely located palace, and the Cathedral is quite far away from the administrative complex.
Extensive restoration work of the previous decade, led the church today is in very good condition and to discover unknown aspects of the life of the monastery, such as water supply through underground clay pipes.
From the frescoes of the church stand out: the Birth of the Virgin and the offering of gifts by a procession of women in costumes of the nobility of Mystras.
The monastery of Pantanassa is the only the single function of Mystras today, with hospitable nuns to offer guests other than their blessings, cool water and information.
The church of the monastery, the church of Pantanassa, is the last great Byzantine church work in Mistra. Founded in 1428 by John Fragopoulos, known family scion Istanbul egkivotionei the architecture of all the concerns and experimentation of the time, very interesting final result.
But the inside is what captivates the visitor.
The color is everywhere: high loft, in the sanctuary apse, arches and dome in colored columns and even the floor is made of colored marbles. The enumeration of the wall is futile. Overall, other than those of the 17th century on the ground floor, part of the overall Palaeologan tradition.
The painters Pantanassa gave liveliness to the persons portrayed, put them to move with momentum and favor, roughly shaping landscapes and architectural, but also paid special attention to details that accompany the main theme of the mural. In Pantanassa the visitor must give time to himself to seek the gaze of the romantic details of the murals that animate the narrative, such as the green Jew who keeps his nose to illustrate the Raising of Lazarus, because as says the Gospel body of Lazarus ‘already operate an’ or elegant young children at the shows.