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June 27, 2013

The Byzantine Chapel Featured in "Before Midnight"

The 2013 movie Before Midnight starring Ethan Hawke (Jesse) and Julie Delpy (Celine) was entirely shot in the Southern Peloponnese of Greece (see here for popular locations), a perfect location to end the beloved globetrotting trilogy. It is a sequel to Before Sunrise (1995; filmed in Vienna) and Before Sunset (2004; filmed in Paris), all shot nine years apart to show how the romance between Jesse and Celine develops over eighteen years.

In one scene of Before Midnight, Jesse and Celine come across an old Byzantine chapel which Jesse had previously visited and now wants to show Celine. As they enter we see a small chapel with very old wall-to-wall frescoes, which Jesse explains is dedicated to a saint who is the patron of eye problems. Ironically, most of the figures in the frescoes have their eyes scratched out, which Jesse explains, as he was told by a local, that this was done by the Turks to dishonor the images. It is almost a sacred moment, but as anyone who has watched the trilogy knows, Jesse and Celine like to talk about spirituality but they are not Christians, and they proceed to make sexual jokes to get themselves out of having that sacred moment some viewers would perhaps like to see.

The chapel itself is located in the outskirts of the village of Platsa in Greece and dated to 1412 according to the plaque above the entrance, though the actual construction may be from the 13th century. It is in fact dedicated to St. Paraskevi, the patron saint of eye problems. Inside the cross-shaped church there are a variety of frescoes, possibly not all of the same period and all likely to be much later than the date of construction. The earliest are dated to the early 15th century.