Thursday, July 23, 2015

Byzantine jewel: Hosios Loukas

Nearby, Delphi is jam packed with tourists in the mid-day sun. On the lower slopes of Mt. Helicon, in Boeotia you will find few tourists indeed, although in my opinion this is one of the greatest monuments of Greek art. The Monastery of Hosios Loukas is a World Heritage site of astonishing architectural, historical and artistic merit. It contains several churches and extensive monastic buildings that were preserved over the centuries and have been restored in the past century with zeal and care. Give yourself lots of time to wander the site and marvel at buildings and the endless ornamentation and extraordinary art.
Wonderful spaces abound throughout the Monastery

The old refectory is now a fabulous museum, filled with informative cabinets that detail restoration and its history.

The mosaics have been restored throughout to a glistening gold
The look of much of the main church must be very much as it was when it was first built over a thousand years with the Virgin and child in the apse.

The Christ Pantocrator is a much later fresco: I suspect the original mosaic may have collapsed in an earthquake long ago.

The faces are both stylized and very real

Any student of Byzantine art knows this church, of course, and it is so instructive to see how quickly the figurative arts revived after the Iconoclastic period--this is one of the first monuments of its kind in that time.

The narthex mosaics are practically brand spanking new in appearance!

The baptism of Christ is wonderful in its stylized glory--the whole body is there under the imaginitive river ripples...

Surely the loveliest Nativity of the first Milennium...

I wish the last three apostles had not been lost in this one...

The marble floors and intricate inlay is astonishing: I am horrified they allow shoes in here (as in the Hagia Sophia: the Turks have it right when they make you wear stockings to their mosques).

You can actually STEP on this art...and people have been doing it for 1000 years. It's nuts,

More precious floors

Remnants of frescoes in the neighboring church

Some lovely later Byzantine frescoes

More rich flooring

Echoed on the frescoed ceilings nearby
Echoed also on the mosaiced ceilings of the Narthex

My friend, Eric Hsu, by a fretted window

More frescoes in the neighboring church

Much of the frescoe is gone--pissibly from earthquake damage? Here's a little piece that was left.

The namesake Saint of the church, who predicted the reconquest of Crete from the Moslems.

A recent poster celebrating the Millenium+50 of the Saint's life

Wonderful carved windows

The church is gorgeous on the outside as well...

A little fig scheming to colonize the wall: I wouldn't bet on it! The place is kept in ship shape.

Monastic quarters and a Campanile--all so charming.

More fabulous Byzantine design...

St, Barbara is theoretically in the crypt: I couldn't find the tomb, though...

I did find the tomb of St.Luke, however (not the one of the Gospels--the later hermit): this was reputed to be miraculous--particularly if you slept next to it...I didn't try.

The crypt beneath the church is also elaborately decorated.

A view towards the foothills of Mt. Helicon---I took a picture from that hill in the distance you will see at the end.

A last look back at the Monastery...

A branch of a Cephalonian fir tree by the entrance--amazing it can grow at this low elevation!

I admire the complex from the parking lot...

As we drive away towards Thebes, we look back at the Monastery in the distance, with the slopes of Mt. Parnassus rising up behind.


  1. Stunning, architecture, art details, and views beyond that fir tree! Scenery right with southern California, but without all the hordes of people in the foreground...

    A part of the world I've never been.Any plants from there we can buy / use in desert USDA z 8b?

  2. The Greek flora is well represented in Mediterranean/desert climates: just think Cistus, Sage of all kinds, Lavender, Rosemary, Thyme, Italian Cypress and a bevy a bulbs for starters. The wonder is that we don't have even more, David.

  3. Both my wife and I really enjoyed your pictures.


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