The restoration and enhancement of the churches of Panagia Myrtidiotissa and Agia Anna, two of the greatest monuments of the Lower Town in Monemvasia, are among the works that will change the face of the Castle Town.
In both churches, there have been restoration works of great extend, with a mind to respect their authentic structural characteristics and architecture, utterly impressive features that the visitors of Monemvasia never miss to admire.
“Restoration and Enhancement Project: Churches of Panagia Myrtidiotissa and Agia Anna, Lower Town, Monemvasia” is a project that was implemented in the period between 11.04.2011 and 31.07.2014. Its budget amounted to 600,000.00 euros.
The aim of the monuments’ restoration implemented by the 5thEphorate of Byzantine Antiquities was to document the original form of the temples, to preserve and enhance the churches’ authentic elements, reverse the damage of earlier interventions, endow the new structures with discreet legibility and finally use traditional materials and techniques.
The church of Panagia Myrtidiotissa or Kritikia
It is one of the most important and impressing churches of the Castle Town of Monemvasia.
It is located in a central area of the Lower Town, near the Church of Christos Elkomenos and is one of the 26 extant churches of the Castle Town. Lore has it that the church’s name, Panagia Myrtidiotissa, has its roots in the church’s function of yore; its interior was the home of the icon of Panagia of Myrtidia, hence Myrtidiotissa, whose worship originated in the neighboring island of Kythira.
Local tradition strongly corroborates the foundation of the church as being the work of Philotheos Darmarios, Bishop of Kythira, who hailed from Monemvasia and is considered to have been instrumental in spreading the worship of Virgin Mary Myrtidiotissa in the city. The church is also known by the name of Panagia Kritikia because of its ties to the quarter of the Cretan refugees, who settled in Monemvasia during the 2nd Venetian Rule (1690-1715). Both the construction and the morphology of the church allude to the church architecture of that period and assumed monumental expressions of Monemvasia.
PanagiaMyrtidiotissa is one-aisled and domed, an architectural style, which was widespread in Greek territories, especially during the time following the Fall of Constantinople. Noteworthy are the pediments of the church’s west and east façades. In the west side of the church, there is the entrance through an arched gate with a round transom over it.
The church’s interior bears a coat of plaster. Still, the plaster coat of the semi-cylindrical part of the apse does show signs of remarkable graffiti that depict a galloping horse and a ship standing out. On the church’s floor there is a plain, rectangular opening that corroborates the existence of a cistern below floor level.
The restoration works revealed aspects of the initial form and structure of the church, as the vertical clay pipes that had once channeled rainwater, as well as the face fix hangers on the west wall, which both corroborate the existence of a separate gallery for women congregants.
It also revealed that the sealing of gates and doors on the south and north façades must have taken place during the 2nd Ottoman Rule (1715-1821). All restoration works were carried out in compliance with the approved study by archaeologist Panayota Skagou and architect – engineer Konstantina Douvi from the 5thEphorate of Byzantine Antiquities.
The Wood-Carved Templon
Το The templon of the church of Panagia Myrtidiotissa was crafted in the early 20th century from parts of an unknown templon and from parts of the wood – carved barrier, which was initially part of the church of Christos Elkomenos. The templon from Christos Elkomenos was re-assembled in the church of Myrtidiotissa with an extemporaneous and unplanned way, since many of its segments were positioned in the wrong place, while others were replaced by plain wooden planks.
The templon had been removed from the church of Myrtidiotissa earlier and underwent systematic conservation works, which enhanced its superb combination of carved decorative depictions. After the restoration works, the templon was repositioned and makes up yet another sight utterly worthy of admiration.
The church of Agia Anna
The church of Agia Anna is close to the west gate of the Lower Town’s fortified wall and the wall’s bastion. It is a two – aisled, domed basilica, whose east façade ends in a semi-circular apse over its Altar. The north and south aisles are unequal in both width and ground level and connect with a double arch ensconced in a square pillar.
In the south aisle, which is the main aisle of the church, there are two blind arcades, whose recesses are of different depth, which come from an older structure that had been encompassed in the church. The church’s north aisle, which was added to the church’s initial shell, had already existed as a separate structure that had belonged to the fortifications.
The church’s interior has been plastered and no decorations have been salvaged. The structural characteristics of the church classify its construction to 2nd Venetian Rule (1690 -1715), as the church of Panagia Myrtidiotissa. The project’s restoration works were implemented, in compliance with the study compiled and approved by the 5thEphorate’s scientific stuff.
The identity of the works
“Restoration and Enhancement Project: Churches of Panagia Myrtidiotissa and Agia Anna, Lower Town, Monemvasia” is a project that was implemented in the period between 11.04.2011 and 31.07.2014. The direct labour and supervision works were all implemented by the 5thEphorate of Byzantine Antiquities within the framework of the Western Greece – Peloponnese – Ionian Islands (DEPIN 2007-2013) Operational Programme. The project was jointly funded by Greece and the European Union and its budget amounted to 600,000.00 euros.