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Last Updated on 22 September 2011

Nea Moni

Location

Nea Moni (New Monastery), located in the central region of the island of Chios, is one of the most important Byzantine monuments in Greece and a monument of international significance. The architecture of the main temple is the well-known "island" octagonal type, whose only examples existing today are in Chios and Cyprus. It was built in the 11th century (between 1042 and 1056) honoring the Assumption of the Virgin Mary.

Nea Moni was founded with a donation of the emperor Constantine IX Monomachos and his wife Zoe. According to monastic tradition, the emperor founded the Monastery to repay three Chian monks for predicting that his banishment to Lesvos was temporary and that he would eventually return to the throne. Then, the three monks discovered the miraculous Icon of the Virgin Mary hanging on a branch of myrtle, and there they built the original church of the Monastery. Later, the Emperor Monomachos provided the Monastery with property and revenues, something that was often very unusual for the Byzantine financial system. Throughout the years, the Nea Moni Monastery became one of the wealthiest and most well known monasteries in the Aegean, being also the most important religious center in Chios, (according to local legends one of the Icons depicting the Assumption of Virgin Mary was painted by St. Lucas). However, the Turkish occupation marked the beginning of its financial decline.

The buildings standing in the approximately 17,000 m2 covered by the Monastery are of different nature. The catholicon (main church) is located in the central point of the Monastery. It is comprised of a main church, the esonarthex and the exonarthex, and it is lavishly decorated with marble revetments and mosaics. While the imposing defense tower occupies the west end of the precinct, the refectory (Trapeza) lies to the SW of the catholicon. The half-subterranean cistern, which is preserved intact, dates to the 11th century. The ruins of the monks' cells can also be seen in the precint. The monastery is enclosed by an irregular in plan, stone perimeter wall. Also inside the limits of this stone walls are two small temples, the Temple of the Holy Cross and the Temple of Aghios Panteleimonas.

One of the most important features of the Monastery are the mosaics, made of natural multi color stone and glass, and a representative proof of the austere Byzantine Art. They decorate the walls on the higher surfaces, the domes in the inner narthex, the nave and the holly sanctuary. Dating back to the 11th century, this is one of the three remaining collections left in Greece of the mid-Byzantine period and it remains in relatively good condition.

Unfortunately, the Monastery was repeatedly destroyed in the 19th century. In 1822, it was plundered by the Turks and was severely damaged by an earthquake in 1881. The earthquake caused the collapse of the dome, the bell tower, the apse of the sanctuary of the catholicon, as well as the destruction of many mosaics. Many efforts have been made for the restoration of the monument and the preservation of the mosaics in the catholicon in modern times. In 1857, Gregorios Photeinos, the abbot of the monastery, carried out extensive restoration work in the catholicon, and its external appearance was completely altered. The dome of the church, which had collapsed in the earthquake of 1881, was reconstructed in 1900. The mosaics were restored in the 1960's. Since then, restoration has been carried out in several buildings of the monastic complex from time to time.

Today the monument is used as a convent for nuns. A two-storied building of cells is located to the NW of the catholicon. This has been reconstructed and now houses the Museum with the remaining treasures of the monastery. Nea Moni is included in the Catalogue of Monuments of the International Cultural Heritage of UNESCO. Since 1995, educational programs for students aged between 12 and 18 have been organizing by the 3rd Ephorate.