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The 11th century Nea Moni (New Monastery) on the eastern Aegean island of Chios represents a characteristic example of the Middle Byzantine architecture and aesthetics, a period known as the golden age of Byzantine art or the Rennaisance of the Macedonian dynasty reign.
The main church of the complex, the katholikon is built on a cross-in-square plan with a large dome supported by squinches defining an octagonal space. The dome, approximately 7 m in diameter, has no lateral bays but is placed between a triconch sanctuary and a narthex preceded by an exonarthex with lateral absides. The construction of Nea Moni illustrates the so-called insular architectural type, found in Chios and Cyprus. The interior is decorated with superb mosaics on a gold background, among the finest examples of the Byzantine era, a folk transcription of the great models of Constantinople.
The construction of the monastery is fully documented as it was linked to a major event in Byzantine history. Constantine the Gladiator, a nobleman living in exile, was told by two monks of Chios, Nicetas and John, that he would become Emperor. When Constantine Monomachos married the twice-widowed 64-year-old Empress Zoe in 1042, thus becoming Basileus, he remembered the prediction. In 1045 he founded the monastery, choosing as its site a valley on Chios on the slopes of Mount Aetos and bestowing it with possessions and privileges. At its peak, around 1300, Nea Moni was one of the wealthiest monasteries in the Aegean. History sealed its fate once more in the 1822 Chios massacre by Ottoman troops during the Greek War of Independence. Nea Moni, sacked and looted, never regained its former glory.
Moni (New Monastery) is a monument of international significance. The catholicon
(main church) is the most important specimen of the insular octagonal domed type
of church, and is lavishly decorated with marble revetments and mosaics. The refectory
(Trapeza) lies to the SW of the catholicon while the west end of the precinct
is occupied by the imposing defence tower. The half-subterranean Cistern, which
is preserved intact, dates to the 11th century. The actual cells were constructed
later and many of them are almost completely ruined today. The monastery is enclosed
by an irregular in plan, stone perimeter wall.
Nea Moni was founded in the middle of the 11th century, with a donation of the emperor Constantine IX Monomachos and his wife, Zoe. For many centuries it was the most important religious centre on Chios but was repeatedly destroyed in the 19th century. It was plundered by the Turks in 1822 and was severely damaged by an earthquake in 1881, which caused the collapse of the dome, the belltower, the apse of the sanctuary of the catholicon, as well as the destruction of many mosaics. In modern times, many efforts have been made for the restoration of the monument and the preservation of the mosaics in the catholicon.
In 1857, the abbot of the monastery Gregorios Photeinos carried out extensive restoration work in the catholicon, and completely altered its external appearance. The dome of the church, which had collapsed in the earthquake of 1881, was reconstructed in 1900. In the 1960's the mosaics were restored and since then, restoration has been carried out from time to time in several buildings of the monastic complex.
Today the monument is used as a convent for nuns. A two-storeyed building of cells, located to the NW of the catholicon, has been reconstructed and now houses the Museum with the remaining treasures of the monastery.
Nea Moni is included in the Catalogue of Monuments of the International Cultural Heritage of UNESCO. Since 1995, the 3rd Ephorate has been organizeing educational programs for students aged between 12 and 18.
This text is cited Apr 2003 from the Hellenic Ministry of Culture URL below, which also contains images.
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