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:


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:


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.


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.


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 Malchus, the servant of the High Priest, 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 was intrigued by the next scene which I couldn’t fit into any of the liturgical festivals. However, I have subsequently discovered that it forms part of the fresco of the Ascension (where Christ is depicted in a mandorla in the middle of the vaulted ceiling). It clearly shows Mary in the centre and possibly St John on the right with St Paul possibly to his left. Traditionally St Peter is depicted to the left of the Mary. I can’t work out 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 angel 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. I understand that the figures depicted are (from left to right): St Joseph, Mary, Simeon holding the the baby Jesus (who is looking back towards his mother) and Anna.


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_

Dr Eleftheria Lehmann has kindly provided me with some information about this founding inscription which was reconstructed and translated by A Sucrow in a doctoral dissertation in 1994: “| has been painted…[ the Church…] of the most holy Mother of God of…| by the | Money and support of Mikhailos [As]…| and his wife | and his | children | and of Theo…ni and his | wife | and his children…|of | …Asproto | and his wife | and his children and D[…] [T…] Ma […] and through…| by the hand of Ioannis |Pago|menos | in the Year 6824, Index 14

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:


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:


Finally, to the left of the altar is what I took to be a basic seat for use by the priest during long services. However, I subsequently found out that it is actually a Prosthesis or Table of Oblation, used for the preparation of the bread and wine during the liturgy. 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.

I am very grateful to Dr Eleftheria Lehmann for taking the time and trouble to comment on and correct some errors in this and and my other post on the frescoes of Alikampos.



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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