Nea Moni Monastery, Chios

Nea Moni Monastery, Chios

The Nea Moni Monastery was built in the 11th century (between 1042 – 1056) and was dedicated to the Assumption of the Virgin Mary. It covers an area of approximately 17,000 m2 and is located in the central region of the island of Chios. The buildings comprising the Nea Moni Monastery include the main church (catholicon), 2 smaller churches, a table or trapeza which was the monks’ dining area, the monks’ quarters (kelia) and underground tanks (kinsternes) that were built to collect water. In the northwest corner of the Monastery, there stands a strong defensive tower. A tall, stone-wall surrounds the complex of the Monastery.

According to monastic tradition, the Emperor Constantine Monomachos founded the Monastery to repay three Chian monks for predicting that his banishment to Lesvos was temporary and he would eventually return to the throne. The three monks discovered the miraculous Icon of the Virgin Mary hanging on a branch of myrtle at the Monastery’s current location. This was where they originally built the small church with a few quarters. The Emperor Constantine Monomachos provided the Monastery with property and revenues, a rare practice for the Byzantine financial system.

The Nea Moni Monastery became one of the wealthiest and most well known monasteries in the Aegean. This prosperity continued until the Turks occupied the island in 1822 and looted the Monastery, henceforth the beginning of its financial decline. The main church or catholicon is located in the central point of the Monastery. It is comprised of a main church, the esonarthex and the exonarthex. The architecture of the main temple is the well-known “island” octagonal type. The only examples of this architecture in existence today are in Chios and Cyprus. The other buildings contained within the limits of the stone walls include: The Temple of the Holy Cross – a small temple built on the side of the entrance gate, which stores the skeletal remaining of the martyrs and fighters of the Massacre of Chios.

The Temple of Agios Panteleimonas – a small temple on the right side of the road that leads to the Tower. It is dated around 1889.

The Museum – the exhibition of the relics of the Monastery was opened to the public in 1992.

The mosaics of the Nea Moni Monastery date back to the 11th century and comprise a portion of the Monastery’s dowry. Today, it is one of the three remaining collections left in Greece of the mid-Byzantine period and it remains in relatively good condition.

Key characteristics of the technique used to create these mosaics pertain to the dramatic expressions and monastic simplicity in its entirety. The golden background occupies a large portion of the surface drawings and as the light reflects on it, it enhances the transcendence of the depictions and shapes as if they are moving on a superior and spiritual world. Their exquisite quality in addition to the fact that they comprise the work of artists directly connected with the imperial workshops in Constantinople, place them amongst the most significant creations of Byzantine art.

The Monastery is listed in the monuments protected by UNESCO’s World Heritage.