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Hermitage of Panagia Eleousa

Hermitage of Panagia Eleousa
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Hermitage of Panagia Eleousa

The much photographed hermitage of Panagia Eleousa in Great Prespa is a beautiful creation of human faith.


It is the best preserved hermitage of the region built in a relatively big rock-shelter of the southwestern shore of lake Great Prespa. At its entrance and on the perimeter of the small plateau fragmentary ruins of cells are preserved, together with a protective wall and an arched construction that constituted part of the stairway that led to the hermitage. The small single-room temple is preserved in an excellent condition, with a niche formed semi-hexagonically in its exterior part. It has been built with stones and white mortar, on which and on all the walls red lines imitating ceramic-plastic decoration and other various patterns and symbols have been painted.


On the arc above the entrance Panagia Vrefokratousa is depicted and there is an inscription referring to the founder, whose name nevertheless is not preserved. On the contrary, in the interior of the temple and above its entrance there is an inscription, which cites the priest-monks Sabba, Iakovos and Varlaam as founders in 1409/1410, while the name of the sovereign Voukasinos is also cited. According to the experts, this local landlord had under his surveillance the region of Prespes at the end of the 14th century. Taking for granted that he was killed in a battle in 1371, the inscription of his name several years after his death probably referred to one of his descendants. Moreover, on an inscription above the window of the southern wall the priest-monk Ioannikios is cited as painter of the temple.


The interior of the temple is fully covered by murals arranged in two zones. On the lower zone figures of saints are mainly depicted, the most typical of which are the figures of Saint Dimitrios, Georgios, Romanos Melodos, Simeon of Stylite, Stefanos, and some figures of prophets etc. The iconography of the upper zone includes scenes from Dodekaorton, Passions of Christ, Ascension and Metamorphosis of the Savior, while on the arch of the sanctuary Platytera in the type of Panagia Vlachernitissa is portrayed. The figures of the upper zone are schematic and expressive, while those of the lower zone approximate the archetypes of the Byzantine iconography, a differentiation which may indicate the engagement of two different painters in the temple’s painting decoration.

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