February 26, 2010

The Strange Church of St. Photini in Mantinea

Greece is full of strange churches. Some find beauty in the architecture of these churches, some just see architectural aberrations. For me they are an extraordinary experience.

Located 12 km from Tripoli in southern Greece, this church is of recent origin across from what is now known as Ancient Mantinea. The foundations were laid in 1969 and completed in 1973, though not opened till 1978. It is an architectural mixture of traditional Byzantine and Greco-Roman. The iconography and decor is classical. In other words, this church captures all the significant historical periods of the region bridging its historical and architectural history together.

Of course, this church is not without its controversy. To prevent a modern attempt of paganization of an Orthodox church, officials have stepped in and replaced many of the paintings with traditional iconography. This imposition is partial however.

There are also two neo-classical monuments which surround the church. The first is the Ηρώον (Heroes) to honor all those heroes who fought for Greek independence from the Turks, since it is in this region where the rebellion was initiated. The second is the Φρέαρ Ιακώβ (Fountain of Jacob) to recall the story of St. Photini's meeting with Jesus at Jacob's Well.

About St. Photini

Saint Photini was the Samaritan Woman who encountered Christ our Saviour at Jacob's Well (John 4:1-42). Afterwards she laboured in the spread of the Gospel in various places, and finally received the crown of martyrdom in Rome with her two sons and five sisters, during the persecutions under the Emperor Nero.