churches of lesvos and chios

i am a big fan of medieval cathedrals, but the greek orthodox churches are particularly impressive. the paintings, the chandeliers, the gilded altarpieces …

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interior of the church of agios (saint) therapon in mytilini, lesvos.
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interior of the taxiarchis (archangel) michael monastery at mantamados, lesvos.

the finest frescoes were in the 12th century church of agios apostolos (holy apostle).  unfortunately, they don’t allow photography inside, and i wasn’t going to be a d*** about it and take pictures while the docent wasn’t looking.  the best i can do to provide a taste of what they were like is to share photos from the interior of the church of agia (saint) kyriaki on aegina, which will i will describe more fully in a later post. while not as well-preserved as the ones in agios apostolos, these frescoes come close:

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some churches are less opulent but impressive nonetheless. the monastery of nea moni is known for its mosaics, fine examples of what is called “macedonian renaissance art.” nea moni is also known for its grisly history: the monastery was sacked by the ottomans during the greek war of independence. they defaced the mosaics and massacred everyone they found inside.

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above, mosaics; below, bones of the massacre victims.

the beehive tombs of mycenae – with the diana lens

recently, we visited mycenae, which, in the second millennium b.c., was one of greece’s major cities. according to myth, mycenae was founded by the hero perseus, who slew the gorgon medusa. mycenae was also where the bloody events of the house of atreus took place: atreus began his reign by trying to kill his brother, thyestes; his son, agamemnon, became king and went to war against troy after his brother’s wife, helen, ran off to troy with paris, and when the winds wouldn’t blow to send his ships to sea, he decided to sacrifice his daughter, iphigenia, to appease the gods; agamemnon’s wife, clytemnestra, killed him as soon as he came back from the war to take her revenge; and then agamemnon’s son, orestes, killed both her and, later, the son of aegistheus, clytemnestra’s co-conspirator.

perhaps it’s no surprise, then, that mycenaean civilization is known for its tombs.  specifically, mycenae is known for its beehive tombs (“tholos”).  these are burial sites that were cut into a hill and built up with circular walls coming to a point, thus giving them the appearance of beehives.  the earthen domes piled above the tombs have worn away, but the brickwork remains.

20150601_mycenae_103 Interior ceiling.
this tholos is “ascribed conventionally” to clytemnestra, according to the accompanying sign, as the archaeologists can’t actually prove who was buried there.  the roof curves up to a point.
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this tholos is called both the treasury of atreus (for its side chamber) and the tomb of agamemnon – its original provenance isn’t clear.

the arching roof motif is repeated, intentionally or not, in other structures as well:

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the lion gate (the main entrance to mycenae) and the stairway down to the main cistern.

as to whether it makes sense to use the diana on shots like these rather than a digital camera, as opposed to just using it for images of creepy old buildings like these, taken just outside the ancient city –

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– is an open question.

next: lesvos or chios, or both.