September 17, 2019

A Unique Icon of Saint Sophia in Mantzavinata on the Island of Kefallonia

In the village of Mantzavinata on the island of Kefallonia is the Church of Hagia Sophia dated to 1693. Over the years the church has been destroyed by earthquakes and restored again, especially after the devastating earthquake that hit the island in 1953, after which it was built to be earthquake-proof.

Though the Church of Hagia Sophia was probably originally dedicated to the Wisdom of God, like Hagia Sophia in Constantinople and many others prior to modern times, today it is dedicated to Saint Sophia the Martyr and her Three Daughters named Faith, Hope and Love. These Saints suffered martyrdom during the reign of Emperor Hadrian (117-138).

In this church is a magnificent and unique icon, large in scale and unsigned, depicting Saint Sophia in a full body posture, holding a cross in her left hand, and to her left and right are three miniatures each, on the left depicting the martyrdoms of her three daughters, and on the right are the tortures that they endured. This icon was painted by a remarkable iconographer of the 18th century.

The left miniatures from top to bottom depict the beheadings of Hope then Faith then Love. The three miniatures on the right depict from top to bottom the flagellation of Saint Hope, the cutting off of the breasts of Saint Faith, and the death by grieving of Saint Sophia before the graves of her three daughters.

Judging by the details of the work, we can conclude that the iconographer was not only a remarkable and profound expert in his art, but also a man who was well acquainted with every ecclesiastical theme he painted. The iconographer was acquainted with the story of the three girls and their mother, and he managed to faithfully portray them in the era of Emperor Hadrian, without departing from the theme. That is, it portrays the martyrs in a "realistic" manner and in accordance with the time it took place.