September 8, 2010

The Monastery of Panagia Kosmosotira in Feres

On the south-east edge of the Evros region, next to the legendary Evros River and its Delta, the Church of Panagia Kosmosotira adorns the town of Feres and its imposing size dominates the town centre. The historical course in time of Feres is identified with that of the Monastery, having the same starting point in time. 

The Monastery includes a fortress enclosure (walls, towers and gate) and a registered two-columned katholikon in the cruciform style and a five-dome roofing. The various frescoes are fine examples of 12th century art of the Constantinople School. In the northeast corner of the church there is an eagle–theme enclosed ceramic ornament. We don’t exactly know when the narthex was demolished. The central arch and the pre-chamber have been repaired at later times as well as the four struts on the outside. 

The Monastery was founded in 1152 by Emperor Isaac Komnenos, third son of Alexios I Komnenos. His life was a constant struggle for power, with a lot of behind the scenes drama. In the middle of the 12th century he was already 59 years old. Ill and full of remorse for his previous reckless life, he resigned from his political ambitions and dedicated his life to God. This is when he established the new Monastery dedicated to the Virgin Mary known as Kosmosotria (Salvation of the World) in Vira, in order "to relieve his soul" and make the Monastery his mausoleum. Isaac Komnenos offered his entire fortune to the Monastery, making it rather wealthy and constantly supporting it financially so that it can retain its autonomy. It included settlements for 100 monks, a hospital, a nursing home, a water tower, a library and other buildings. He worked with the local population of three neighbouring villages in the construction of the Monastery. The Monastery’s title deeds include numerous farming lands with their communities in the south part of Byzantine Thrace that included a big port in the town Ainos, 12 river boats that were hugely profitable for the Monastery, the full management of the Maritza and Samia rivers as well as the dependency of St. Stephen Avrilianos in Constantinople. 

During the Turkish occupation, the frescos where covered by mortar, when the church was transformed into a mosque in 1357. The church was built to be a miniature of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople. Today it is the most important Byzantine monument of Thrace. 

It celebrates its feast day on August 15th.