The Byzantine frescoes of Alikampos – programme of scenes from the liturgical year

This is second of my posts about the wonderful frescoes at the Church of the Dormition of the Mother of God in Alikampos and will cover scenes from the Orthodox Church’s 12 festivals of the liturgical year. You can read my first post here about frescoes of individual saints at Alikampos.

The first scene on the upper tier on the left hand side of the church is the Crucifixion:

Crucifixion

Next to that is what I think is the Presentation of the Mother of God in the Temple:

Presentation of MoG in the Temple

and then finally on this side of the church the Baptism of Christ in the Jordan:

Baptism

On the right hand side nearest the iconostasis is the Nativity. In this fresco, I love the expression that the painter has given to Mary lying in the cave; the washing of the full-grown Christ by handmaidens in the lower right hand corner; and the devil trying to sow doubt about the birth in Joseph’s mind at bottom left.

Nativity

The middle scene on the right hand side shows the Resurrection:

Descent into Hell

The final panel is a very dramatic presentation of the Betrayal in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Betrayal

In the centre Judas betrays Jesus with a kiss, whilst the soldiers have their swords raised ready to strike. One of the soldiers points accusingly at Christ while to lower right St Peter tends the soldier whose ear he has cut off. I am intrigued by the hats in this fresco: there are the conical-shaped hats of the two soldiers above Christ and the one on the right behind the soldier’s raised sword. The two figures on the left hand side have two different types of hats, one round (a bit like a Byzantine Emperor’s) and the other more like a turban. Two other soldiers stand on the right wearing different types of hat again. The clothes the protagonists are wearing are also an interesting mix of re-imagined robes from the time of Christ, Roman soldier’s uniforms and Byzantine court costume. I wonder why the painter Pagomenos used such a variety of types of clothing and hats.

I am intrigued by the next scene which I can’t fit into any of the liturgical festivals. It clearly shows Mary in the centre and possibly St John on the right, but there is nothing on the painting to indicate who the other figures are. I particularly like the way Pagomenos depicts the Mother of God, both here and in other scenes. He uses a very simple, almost folk art representation.

MoG in sanctuary

The next scene is a bit of a mystery as I can’t work out what it depicts. Who is the Archangel greeting? Is it St Paul?

Assumption detail

Assumption detail 3

Our guide tells us that local people think the figure on the right is wearing glasses:

Assumption detail 2

I think this next scene shows the Presentation of Christ in the Temple of Jerusalem, though I am not sure where the infant Jesus is in this scene – perhaps in the cradle in the foreground.

Unknown

The final scene is the one that gives the church its name, the Dormition of the Mother of God, and it is painted over the entrance door:

Dormition of the Mother of God

At the bottom of my picture, beneath the bare plaster you can just see the original fourteenth century lintel above the entrance door, though originally there would not have been a door fitted.

To the right of the entrance, Pagomenos depicted two of the donors of the church holding what must be a representation of the Alikampos church itself:

Fresco of the donors of the church

Above the fresco is a list of all the donors, but it has suffered major damage and is now very hard to read:

Names of the Donors of the church_

Finally I would like to draw attention to some of the detail in the sanctuary of the church. To start with here is a general view of the altar:

Sanctuary-2

The altar table is a rectangular block of stone. The floor is the original flagstone one and the front of the altar has a simple decorative design also on stone:

Altar

Finally, to the left of the altar is this basic seat for use by the priest during long services. It’s not particularly well painted, but I found its folksy design somehow very touching.

Sanctuary - priest seat

On the outside of the church seashells are visible in the rock, showing the origins of the rock and connecting the church with even more remote ages:

Exterior view-2

I tell Giorgos, our local guide, that the village must be very proud to have to have such a beautiful and historic church in its midst. Unfortunately, he tells us that most people aren’t interested in it and don’t help to keep it clean and tidy.

 

 

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2 thoughts on “The Byzantine frescoes of Alikampos – programme of scenes from the liturgical year

  1. Pingback: The Byzantine frescoes of St Nikolaos in Argyroupoly | wordscene

  2. Pingback: Ioannis Pagomenos – 14th century Byzantine painter | wordscene

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