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The Nea Moni Monastery
Nea Moni Chios

This picture has been made in the monastery of Nea Moni on Chios. The monastery is on the european monument list. When driving on top of the mountain you can see the monastery in the distance. It is very impressive. The Nea Moni monastery is situated 11 km west of Chios-town. It dates from 1042. The monastery has beautiful 11th century mosaics. The most impressive mosaics are those of the Anastasis and the washing of the feet of the desciples. The monastery is opened from april to october daily between 8.00-13.00 and from 16.00-20.00.

This famous New Monastery was founded in 1402 by the Byantine emperor Constantine IX Monůmachos, on the spot where 3 hermits under mysterious circumstances had found an icon of the Holy Virgin Maria. The Holy Virgin Mary predicted the hermits in a vision that Constantinos, the sun in law of Emperor Constantinos VII, would climb to the throne of Constantinopel within short time. This Constantinos lived in exile on the island of Lesbos. The three monks visited him to tell him of the vision. He promised that if the prediction would come through he would built a monastery on the spot where the icon of the Virgin Mary was found. After Constantinos indeed was proclaimed the new emperor the construction of the Nea Moni Monastery began in 1042. The monastery was given countless privileges from the emperor and thus became one of the richest monasteries in Greece. This wealth more or less came to a sudden end in 1802 when the monastery had to pay a big penalty to the Turkish rulers after two Turkish women had converted to Christianity. The Nea Moni Monastery was forced to sell the land that they owned.

The architecture and the mosaics and painting are typical for the socalled "Renaissance" of the 11th century, the official emperial court-art under the Macedonian dynasty. The Chapel of the Holy Cross, at the monastery entrance, contains part of the skulls and bones of 600 monks and 3,500 women and children who were massacred after seeking refuge here during the horrors of 1822 when almost the whole population of Chios was either murdered or taken away to be sold as slaves by the Ottoman Turks. Many of the monks were killed and the monastery complex was set on fire. An earthquake in 1881 did more damage to the monastery. The dome collapsed and the mosaic floors were severely damaged. The floor mosaics that can still be seen in the monastery are amongst the most important examples of Byzantine art that was made in the 11th and 12th century. These mosaics were a gift from the Byzantine emperor. The frescoes on the walls and the domes have disappeared (with the exception of one very small detail). The central dome once had the image of the Virgin Mary and eight martyrs on it. However, there are more mosaics on the walls to be seen representing saints and the betrayal of Judas.

The Nea Moni Monastery is situated 13 kilometers west of Chios Town and is open for the public every day (but closed between 13.00 and 16.00). The ride to the monastery through the desolate mountain landscape is pretty impressive. On the last stretch to the monastery there are large cypress trees on either sides of the road. Instead of the 300 monks who once lived there are now only two people. With the monastery there is a museum where the treasures of the monastery can be seen (open 8.00-13.00). There is also a cemetery close to the monastery (at about 200 meter away) where under the small church you can see a crypt with thousands of skulls that are piled in rows.

© Hans Huisman, Paul Jakobs, 2014
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