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HOLY MONASTERY OF SPILIA

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HOLY MONASTERY

OF SPILIA

CHURCH OF ZOODOCHOU PIGI

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THE LARGE CHURCH WAS BUILT 60 YEARS AFTER THE INITIAL IN 1736 ACCORDING TO THE DEDICATORY INSCRIPTION OF THE EXTERIOR SOUTH WALL

it is illegible today and it was saved by the former metropolitan Ezekiel. The divine and holy church of Zoodochou Pigis was built in April, 1736 with the help of Parthenios, father Jonah, father Gabriel and father Anania. It belongs to the Agiorit architectural style, i.e. a three - apses and four - pillar church with a vault and a spacious narthex (entrance area which was built later in 1892). The church is quite oblong and has a single roof which adjoins it to the three-nave basilica. Its dome structure is quite different from previous examples of this style. The north and south beam of the cross are covered by monastic vaults, the east and west by windowless domes while the narthex is divided in three vaults with a windowless dome in the centre. Despite the splitting of the superstructure, the interior space of the church appears broad and unified and emphasizes both the lavish iconostasis and the iconographic program, which is especially rich. The dome is characterized by a composition of Pantocrator, the Preparation of the Throne and the Angelic Liturgy. The Bema has except from the usual cycle of festivities also the martyrdoms of the Apostles, the houses of the Akathist Hymn and scenes from the Old Testament. Christ, the Ancient of Days is depicted on the central vault and the Burning Bush is depicted on the west beam. The main church includes all the main cycles, the Twelve Great Feasts, the Passions and the events after the Resurrection, the miracles performed by Christ, scenes from the life of Virgin Mary and the Baptist, the Akathist Hymn and the miracles performed by archangels. Finally, the Zoodochou Pigi ('the life giving spring') and scenes from the Revelation of John were painted on the east wall of the narthex. The numerous scenes include many which are interesting from an iconographic point of view such as those of the martyrdoms of the Apostles which follow the models of Macedonia, others which follow the western style such as the parable of the Rich Fool and the Mocking of Christ, representations of the Revelation and some other scenes, like the Bush, reveal influences from Romania. The figures are characterized by the correct stance, rosy colors, animated drapery and a decorative tone in clothing. The variety of models used and the further depiction of figures lead to connecting the painter with the most significant painting workshop of Thessaly in the 18th century which became recently known with the name workshop of Agia. The main representative of this workshop was father Theodoros from Agia and his work in the monastery of Drakotrypa (1754). Many works from the region of Karditsa, Tsaritsani and Agia belong to this workshop. The painter of the Monastery of Spilia belongs to the earlier and bolder group of the workshop which supposedly did the paintings in the church of Hypapante in Thetidio, Farsala (1734), the ones in the monastery of Agios Athanasios in Drosato (1737) and some in parts of the churches of Agios Nikolaos in Tsaritsani and Agios Georgios in Lefki, Karditsa. The decorative tone of these paintings and mainly with regard to the baroque panels of some scenes and their love for detail shows that they used to be painters of movable icons which can also be concluded from the depicted icons like the ones of the iconostasis of the monastery of Spilia. The wood carved iconostasis is a tall and interesting wood carved artifact with three rows of icons and according to the survived inscription its construction was completed in 1779 by the craftsmen Georgios and Ioannis at the expense of the abbot Gabriel and other monks. The most icons date back to the year 1736 and some are extremely interesting such as the icon of the Virgin Mary which mentions being created by the hand of the hagiographer Theodoros from the community of Agia and the icon of Christ which mentions being created by the hagiographer Theodoros from Megalovlachia, community of Bucharest. The lack of maintenance regarding the icons makes the identification of the painter difficult but appears to have several similarities to the one of the katholikon. The monastery also keeps other heirlooms (relic boxes, censers etc.) most of which bear inscriptions from the 18th century, the period of its peak. The most significant of these is the miraculous icon of the Saint Virgin Spilaiotisa which is located in the new katholikon and is a small silver-plated icon of the Hodegetria. The Monastery of Spilia is still in operation today after decades of desolation in the 20th century and it continues to welcome many pilgrims while attracting also the inhabitants of Argithea which is at risk of desolation. The protection and the development of the monastery is reflected on the entire region, which can revive a part of the past's prosperity thanks to the monastery and some other monuments – symbols and move towards a hopeful future.

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