THE MONASTERY OF SAINT NICHOLAOS ANAPAFSAS

            The Monastery of St. Nicholaos Anapafsas is situated very near Kastraki village. It is the first monastery one can meet on the way from the village to Meteora. All around we can see the ruins of other monasteries of Prodromos, Aghia Moni and Pantokrator and the small church of Virgin Mary of Doupiani.

            The rock, where the monastery stands, is very small and narrow at the top. This reason influenced the whole structural formation of the monastery which could not grow wider so finally a consecutive storeyed construction was the solutiob to the problem.

            Going up the first staircase, we meet the very small chapel of St. Antonios and the crypt where, in the past, were kept the codices  and heirlooms of the monastery. This chapel is of great importance because on its walls there are preserved few remainings of old paintings, dated back to the 14th century. On the next floor, near a long corridor, stands the katholikon of the monastery, the church of St. Nicholaos and on the last floor the old refectory decorated with paintings (Virgin Mary holding the Holy Infant, the parable of the rich and the poor Lazarus) not very important from an artistic point of view. Today the renovated refectory is used as grand reception room. On the same last floor there is also the ossuary and the recently renovated (1971) chapel of St. John the Baptist.

            The origin of the name of the Monastery of St. Nicholaos Anapafsas is not ascertained yet. It probably bears the name of one of its early founders at the beginning of the monastic life on this rock around the 14th century. Others connect the origin of the name Anapafsas with the verb “anapavomai” which means “I rest” and this way Anapafsas means a place for rest and refreshment.

            In order to find the date of the first organized monastic community we must take into consideration the few remainings of the wall-paintings in the chapel of St. Antonios, which are dated around the 14th century, as well as the exhortation of St. Athanasios of Meteora, who advised the brotherhood of the Great Meteoron to ask the opinion of the superior of St. Nicholaos for the election of the Abbot of Great Meteoron. Therefore if we connect this monastery with the Monastery of St. Nicholaos Anapafsas in Meteora, we can find the starting point of the monastic life in St. Nicholaos in the first decades of the 14th century. It should be noted that in an official letter of the year 1392/93, which is kept in the archive of the Great Meteoron Monastery, the little chapel of St. Nicholaos that is mentioned is probably the same with homonymous monastery in Meteora, the so-called Anapafsas.

            The monastery was totally renovated during the first decade of the 16th century and the present katholikon (a church of St. Nicholaos) was erected from its foundations by the Metropolitan of Larisa St. Ioannis Eleimon (+28 Mar. 1510), who resided here and spent peacefully as a monk the last years of his life, and by the Exarch of Stagoi Nikanor is mentioned, in a building note, as donator of the manuscript of Paraklitiki (original cod. 42 of Anapafsas and present cod. 61 of the Holy Trinity Monastery).

            The katholikon of the monastery is a small almost square church but uneven and irregular because of the narrowness of the rock. It has a small dome in the center of the roof which is dark without any windows, since another storey had to be built right above. An esonarthex (lite) precedes the nave, ample enough compared with the narrow nave.

            In October 1527, (in the year 7036 since the creation of the world), according to the building inscription over the entrance of the narthex towards the nave, the elegant Katholikon of the monastery was painted by the famous Cretan painter Theophanis Strelitzas the so-called Bathas:

+ ΑΝΙΓΕΡΘΗ ΕΚ ΒΑΘΡΩΝ Ο ΘΕΙΩΣ Κ(ΑΙ) ΠΑΝΣΕΠΤΩΣ ΝΑΩΣ ΤΟΥ ΕΝ ΑΓΙΗΣ ΠΑΤΡΟΣ ΕΙΜΩΝ/ ΝΙΚΟΛΑΟΥ ΠΑΡΑ ΤΟΥ ΠΑΝΙΕΡΟΤΑΤΟΥ ΜΙΤΡΟΠΩΛΙΤΟΥ ΛΑΡΙΣΗΣ ΚΗΡ ΔΙΟΝΙΣΙΟΥ Κ(ΑΙ) ΤΟΥ ΩΣΕΙΩΤ(Α)ΤΟΥ/ ΕΝ ΙΕΡΟΜΟΝΑΧΕ(Ι)Σ ΚΗΡ ΝΙΚΑΝΩΡΟΣ Κ(ΑΙ) ΕΞΑΡΧΟΥ ΣΤΑΓΩΝ Κ(ΑΙ) Τ(ΩΝ) ΕΥΡΙΣΚΟΜΕΝΩΝ ΑΔΕΛΦΩΝ΄ΕΙΣΤΩΡΙΘΗ ΔΕ Κ(ΑΙ) ΔΙΑ ΕΞΟΔΟΥ ΤΟΥ ΕΥΤΕΛΟΥΣ [Κ]ΥΠΡΙΑΝΟΥ ΙΕΡΟΔΙΑΚΩΝΟΥ/ ΕΤ(ΟΥΣ), ΖΩΛΞ ΜΗΝΙ ΟΚΤΩΒΡΙΟΥ ΙΒ΄ ΕΝ ΙΝ(ΔΙΚΤΙΩΝΙ) Αη / ΧΕΙΡ ΘΕΟΦΑΝΗ Μ(ΟΝΑ)Χ(ΟΥ) ΤΟΥ ΕΝ ΤΗ ΚΡΙΤΗ΄ΣΤΡΕΛΗΤΖΑΣ.

            “The holy and most venerable church of our Saintly father Nicholas was erected from its foundations by the Eminent Metropolitan of Larisa Dionisios and the Saintly priest-monk Nikanor the Exarch of Stagoi as well as the rest of the brotherhood. It was decorated at the expenses of the humble deacon-monk Kyprianos on 12 October 1527 in the 1st indiction by the hand of the monk Theophanis Strelitzas from Crete”.

            Theophanis Strelitzas-Bathas came from a family of artists, who migrated from the Turkish-occupied Peloponnisos (probably the old byzantine town Mouhli) during the last decades of the 15th century and settled in Crete which was under Venetian domination then. The painter was born in the last decade of the IX century in Heracleio, where he followed the artistic tradition of his family. He got married and had two sons, Symeon and Neophytos, painters as well. Before 1527 (probably after his wife’s death) he became a monk. He died in his home town Heracleio on 24 Febr. 1559. Both his sons became monks as well. Symeon (one of the painter’s sons) helped his father with the illustration of the katholikon of Stavronikita Monastery in Mount Athos at the end of 1545 until the middle of 1546. Neophytos worked later, in 1573, and painted the church of the Assumption in Kalabaka.

            The painting of the Katholikon of the Monastery of St. Nicholaos Anapafsas is the oldest known work of the great painter and leader of the Cretan School “the best hagiographer” Theophanis, as his son characterized him on the inscription of the church of Virgin Mary in Kalabaka.

            Perfect representations of full-bodied saints are in the narthex such as St. Ioannis of Climax, St. Pachomios talking to an angel, St. Antonios, St. Euthymios, St. Theodosios, St. Theophanis Graptos and many others. Below, flanked by the enthroned Virgin Mary (who holds the Holy Infant) and the saintly Athanasios the Meteoran, are depicted the Metropolitan of Larisa St. Dionisios Eleimon (on the left) and the Exarch of Stagoi deacon-monk Nikanor (on the right), dressed in monastic frocks. On the higher register we can see miracles performed by Jesus Christ (the cure of the dropsical, of the possessed of the blind man, of the paralytic and also the temptation of Christ in the desert, the wedding in Kana etc). The imposing, many-figured compositions of the Second Coming, the Dormition of St. Efraim the Syrian and the Dormition of St. Nicholaos predominate the wall along with the representation of Adam in the garden of Eden where he names the birds and animals: “And Adam gave names to all the animals and all the birds of the sky and every beast of the fields” (Gen. 2.20).

     On the top of the dome of the nave predominates the figure of Pantokrator full of sweetness and compassion who is presented here as Jesus Christ the “Eleimon” (beneficent). On the first register right below the Pantokrator there is the representation of the Mass of the Angels and on the other zone the ten prophets with rotuli in their hands, where sayings concerning Christ are written. On the pendentives there is the regular depiction of the four Evangelists and on the lower register of the walls full-bodied military and other saints (Eustathios, Artemios, Nicholaos the young, Georgios, Dimitrios, Nestor, Theodoros of Tira, Theodoros the Stratelates, Konstantinos and Heleni, the Archangels Michael and Gabriel, St. NIcholaos from Myra etc). Above this zone there are busts of saints, scenes from the Dodekaorton and the Passions of our Lord ( the Annunciation, the Assumption, the Nativity, the Baptism, the Purification, the Palm-Bearer, the Last Supper, Peter’s denial, the Betrayal, the Whipping, the Mocking, the Crucifixion, the Ressurection etc) of exquisite artistry is the illustration on the sanctuary apse of the Christ Man of Sorrows.

            Undoubtedly the painting of the katholikon of this small monastery bears the stamp of the great Cretan painter Theophanis, with all the characteristics of his magnificent work that is vividness, nobility, plasticity, light bright tones and in general high quality in sketching and performance of colors in figures, characteristics with finally chrystalized on the extended wall-painting assemblages of his maturity in the Monasteries of Megisti Lavra (katholikon 1535/1541) and Stavronikita (1545/1546) in Mount Athos.

            Concerning the aesthetic evaluation and the general meaning of the wall-paintings of St. Nicholaos Anapafsas in Meteora, A. Xygopoulos remarks: “The paintings of St. Nicholaos Anapafsas in Meteora are undoubtedly some of the early works of Theophanis… he hadn’t chrystallized his style and manner yet. He was still under the influence of the Macedonian School without having given up the manner of the portable icons. During his work in this church of Meteora the evolution of his manner and style is rapid. The few scenes from the Passion influenced by the manner of the icons is only the beginning of the illustration. Very soon he deserts this manner in order to devote himself to the new one with bright tones and light contrasts which is the manner of the illustration of the rest of the part of St. Nicholas. Also this is the style he used in the decoration of the katholikon of the Megisti Lavra later. This lack of homogeneity and the uncertainty in his style noticed in the decoration of St. Nicholaos of Meteora prove that Theophanis made his first endeavour to paint a work of such a large scale. From this point of view the wall-paintings of this church are of great importance. There we can find the seeds of the excellent artistry of Theophanis as it chrystallized in his later Works”.

            The Monastery of St. Nicholoaos Anapafsas was abandoned and started to fall to ruins since the first decade of our century. It was already deserted when N. Veis visited it in December 1909 for the registration of its manuscripts. There were then almost 50 codices which Veis transferred to the Holy Trinity Monastery on the grounds of safety. Nowadays these codices belong to the collection of the Holy Trinity Monastery along with the ones of the Holy Trinity and Roussano monastery.

            In the decade of 1960 the Monastery of St. Nicholaos Anapafsas was renovated under the direction of the Archaelogical office of the region. At the same time a systematic and careful restoration of the paintings gave back theor original beauty and glamour.


Δημιουργία ιστοτόπου ΑΔΑΜ ΠΛΗΡΟΦΟΡΙΚΗ