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Rebirth of a Byzantine ornament

The impressive church of the Nativity of the Theotokos, one of the oldest Byzantine monuments of Arta (Epirus, Greece), has been restored by the Ephorate of Antiquities of Arta.

Rebirth of a Byzantine ornament
The Church of the Nativity of the Theotokos at Koronisia during restorations
[Credit: Epirus Treasures]
The Church of the Nativity of the Theotokos dates back to the early 10th century, and is today the parish church of the small settlement of Koronisia - a picturesque fishing village on an islet in the Ambracian Gulf, which locals call 'Chersonizousa'.

'This is the main church of an important monastery for which we have a lot of data from documents of the Byzantine and Ottoman times,' says Barbara Papadopoulou, head of the Ephorate of Antiquities of Arta, adding that Byzantine sources describe it as a large monastery with many monks and a huge estate dotted with vineyards and farms throughout the Ambracian Gulf area.

Rebirth of a Byzantine ornament
View of the church's interior 
 [Credit: Epirus Treasures]
Over the years it fell into decline, however, and was eventually abandoned by the monks. Today all that remains is the church dedicated to the Nativity of the Theotokos, and the small chapel of Saint Onoufrios within walking distance east of the church.

Only ruins remain of the monastery to the south of the church and an old well which served as the main water supply and which, according to tradition, was constructed by Saint Onoufrios himself in the 18th century.

Rebirth of a Byzantine ornament
The ceiling frescoes after restoration 
and cleaning [Credit: Ethnos]
Of particular interest are the frescoes of the church, of which the most important are those dating to the second half of the 17th century and those from a century later, in the second half of the 18th century, painted by Alexios, a noteworthy hagiographer of many churches and monasteries in Arta and Preveza.

The frescoes are rendered in the technique of the Cretan school, with bright colours, exerga halos and so on. The exquisitely carved iconostasis was added in the mid-19th century and bears numerous floral and animal decorations, while the silver-framed icons date to the 19th century.

Rebirth of a Byzantine ornament
View of Koronisia in the Ambracian Gulf
[Credit: Pamvotis Press]
Architecturally the church belongs to a rare type of cruciform or cross-shaped basilica, with slight stylistic alterations to the traditional design. The nave, for example, is divided into three aisles by two rows of unevenly contoured columns and is covered entirely with a dome.

Source: Ethnos [November 04, 2015]
TANN

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