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.

do you know the way to agia solomoni

we decided to visit the church and catacombs of agia solomoni, which was located relatively close to our hotel. agia solomoni (saint solomoni) was an early christian who took refuge in a cave to escape persecution by the romans. when the romans located her hiding place, they walled her up inside, condemning her to a long and painful death; however, when the cave was opened up 200 years later, she walked out alive. so the legend goes.

amazingly, there is not a wikipedia entry on this.

as is typical, there was a only a small sign pointing us toward the site, so we parked and trudged up a hill to the only structure we could see up there. it turned out to be some kind of shed, but there was a staircase cut through rock leading underground, so down we went. we were underwhelmed by what we found:

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sure, interesting, but a holy shrine? not so much, especially if the mattress and discarded beer cans were anything to judge it by.

we spied another way out and scrambled up, thinking maybe we somehow came in the wrong way, and we did find a nondescript chapel-like room further along the side of the hill, yet – curiouser and curiouser – the exit led onto someone’s junk-filled backyard.

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“okay,” we decided, “this is just some inexplicably bad tourist attraction, like you read about in inexplicably bad tourist attractions magazine,” and we went back to the car. however, as we drove back onto the main road, we saw a chestnut tree with ribbons tied onto its branches for good luck, and a neat set of stairs leading downward, and we realized that this was the entry to the church and catacombs, and the other place we’d been exploring was just a dirty hole in the ground.

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