Stephani is a place
rich in Byzantine monuments, monuments that refer to the history
of the progress of Byzantine Christianity towards the interior of
the Peloponnese during the 10th century A.D. The upland between
the villages of Stephani and Aghionori has hosted through the ages
countless chapels and churches as well as two monasteries- a sign
that the region represented a significant Orthodox Christian centre.
The particular economic and social development of the region during
the Middle and Late Byzantine Period as well as during the years
of Turkish Occupation, is expressed through the important examples
of ecclesiastic architecture and hagiography of the chapels and
churches that survive until today.
In Stephani the following
churches are listed under monumental protection, due to their historical
- The katholikon of the Old monastery of Taxiarhis Mihail (Archangel
Michael), built in the 12th-13th century. The katholikon's wall
frescoes are the only surviving artwork of the painter Theodosios
Kakavas and dated 1565.
- The old parish church dedicated to the Dormition of the Virgin,
was built in the 14th century, the interior decorated with wall
frescoes in 1694 by an otherwise unknown priest named Ioannis Ritzis.
- The basilica of Aghios Athanasios, whose two layer wall frescoes
have been dated between the 15th and 16th century. The church itself
was most probably erected much earlier.
All three churches preserve extraordinary examples of Byzantine
fresco wall paintings, that adorn the walls and ceilings of every
inch of their interior.
Also listed under
monumental protection was the old monastery of Aghios Dimitrios.
recently these monuments were completely neglected by the relevant
authorities and abandoned to their fate and the decay of time. A
fact that resulted in the bitter loss of the old monastery of Aghios
Dimitrios and in all three remaining monuments anticipating severe
problems that need immediate and thorough intervention in order
to conserve the buildings and their interior.
In order to find the
huge resources necessary to protect and enhance the three monuments,
the Cultural Association in close co-operation with the 6th Ephorate
of Byzantine Antiquities has proceeded with the elaboration of conservation
case studies (conservation of the buildings as well as the frescoes)
for all three monuments, in order to submit them as project proposals
for funding. The elaboration of the conservation case studies was
of course financed exclusively by the Cultural Association of Stephani.
But everyday brings
new threats to these beautiful places. The Cultural Association's
aim is to stall the decay of the monuments with all resources available,
until the resources for their restoration are granted which might
take time or may never happen. For this purpose the association
depends largely upon fees of its members and donations. Thanks to
these donations the Cultural Association has ben able to rebuilt
the western wing of the church of the Dormition of the Virgin and
to restore the 14th century monument, which is the heart of the
village, to its old beauty.