The monastic complex will remain closed until the cleaning and restoration of the damage to the sanitary areas is completed so that it can be opened to the public as soon as possible
With the appropriations already approved, it looks like work will begin immediately to restore the damage to the historic site. Monastery of Saint Lukea monument inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List, recently threatened by the great fire in Boeotia.
The monastic complex, moreover, will remain closed until the cleaning and restoration of the damages to the sanitary areas are completed so that it can be opened to the public as soon as possible. “50,000 euros were given and we will do the necessary fixing, cleaning of the site, everything that needs to be done to restore the damage,” said Alexandra Harami, head of the Ephorate of Antiquities of Boeotia, to APE-MPE, who referred us to the information she gave to publicized the Ministry of Culture a day after the fire, which broke out last Wednesday, August 23.
As stated in the announcement of the Ministry of Culture and Sports, “with the timely and coordinated intervention of the Fire Service and thanks to the systematic deforestation of the surrounding area, which had preceded, by Municipality of Distomo-Arachova-Antikyra, the Catholic Church of the Monastery, the Church of Panagia, the Crypt, the Fotanama, the Bordonareio and the North-Eastern Lodges did not suffer any damage”, while “thanks to the immediate actions of the staff of the Ephorate of Antiquities of Boeotia, immediately after the fire broke out, in very short distance from the Monastery, visitors and pilgrims, who at that time were inside the monument, were quickly and safely removed”. The passage of the fire, however, damaged part of the surrounding area of the Monastery, the abandoned cell of the monk Ioasaf, from the 19th century, which collapsed, the sanitary areas of the visitors – not to mention the ecological disaster caused by the fire in the area.
Thus, according to the same announcement, instructions were immediately given by the Minister of Culture L. Mendoni for rescue operations in the area, i.e. removal and cleaning of the products of the fire, repair of the sanitary facilities, assessment of the damage to the section of the Southeast Wing, where the cell of the monk Joasaph. It is also very important that the updated fire-fighting study drawn up by the Ephorate of Antiquities of Boeotia – and which has been checked by the Fire Service – is about to be submitted to the Central Archaeological Council (KAS), in order to immediately start the tendering process for the project .
The Monastery of Osios Loukas, on the western slope of Mount Helikon, below the acropolis of Ancient Steirio, is the best preserved monastic complex of the Middle Byzantine period in Greece. It consists of the complex of two churches, the Monastery of Panagia and the Catholic Church of Saint Luke, flanked by cells and auxiliary buildings.
The oldest church dedicated to the Virgin Mary dates back to the second half of the 10th century. Its catholicon belongs to the type of complex cruciform inscribed tetragonal church originally developed in Constantinople. It is the first temple of this type in Greece and a model for all the temples of the so-called “Greek school”, with the main characteristic being the refined external appearance with brick-enclosed masonry and brick decoration. It is called quadrangular because the central dome rests on four free columns in the middle of the single space. The dome is octagonal, crowned with arched cornices, and has inlaid colonnades at the edges of the sides ending in lion’s head gutters. These are the main features of the so-called “Athenian” dome, because it was used on a large number of Athenian monuments. But its appearance in the church of Panagia is the oldest known example. The only fresco that survived from the original decoration of the church of Panagia tells the story of the appearance of the Archangel Michael to Jesus before the fall of Jericho. Frescoes are also preserved on the southern leg of the cross and the diaconium. A total of five figures of hierarchs are represented, dated to the end of the 12th century.
The Catholic of St. Luke, which was built in the first decades of the 11th century. to house the relics of Osios, it is larger in dimensions with an underground crypt. The mosaics, which decorate the walls of the catholicon and date from around the second and third decade of the 11th century, are top masterpieces of Byzantine art. The Catholic Church of Saint Luke belongs to the architectural type of continental complex octagonal churches due to the support of the dome at eight points. It is considered the first of its kind in Greece. The catholicon of Saint Luke is characterized by its wide dome (diameter approx. 9 m.) and correspondingly the enlarged single square space below it. The weight of the dome is carried by eight massive pessos which are bridged at great height by four large arches between four semi-arches. Of the chapels that surround the square core, the northeast one is of particular importance because there, and at the point of communication with the northern antenna of the cross, the marble reliquary of the saint has been placed. This is the section of the catholicon connected to the church of Panagia, facilitating the passage of pilgrims in front of the holy relic and their entry into the church of Panagia. At the same time as the catholicon, the crypt was built, which has the shape of a cruciform tetragonal church in plan view. The crypt houses the original tomb of Saint Luke, which is located on the north wall, just below the catholicon area, where the saint’s reliquary was placed. Two more tombs in the crypt belong to prominent abbots of the monastery.
The first monastic community was founded by the saint himself, who settled in the area in 946, according to the text of his Life. With the financing of the general of the theme of Greece, Krinitis Arotras, Saint Loukas built a church of Agia Barbara. After his death in 953, the rumor that his relic was miraculous caused multitudes of believers to flock to the monastery and the original buildings gave way to more monumental ones. The enormous costs required for the construction and the quality and luxury of the materials reveal not only the favor of Byzantine emperors and officials but also the call-in of workshops from Constantinople.
The monastery was so powerful during the 11th century that it founded two shares in Euboea and one in Antikyra with a two-story octagonal temple, now extinct. After the construction of the accompanying buildings, the complex was fortified, but few remains of this original fortification survive today. The Russian monk Barsky, who depicted these buildings in the middle of the 18th century, gives a good picture of the form of the fortification and the monastery in general. The wings of the cells, which began to be systematically rebuilt in the 17th century, suffered great damage during the Frankish and Early Turkish periods. Significant damage was caused to the monastery by the Ottoman troops during the Greek Revolution and the bombings of 1943 during World War II.
The entire complex, largely restored today, was included in the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1990, a registration made together with the Monastery of Daphni and the New Monastery of Chios. According to the world organization (https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/537/), although these three monasteries of the Middle Byzantine period are geographically distant from each other, they belong to the same typological series and share the same aesthetic and architectural features.
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