September 12, 2020

Graves and Relics of Metropolitans Uncovered in an Excavation of a Church in Rhodes

Earlier this month, during restoration work of the floor of the Metropolitan Church of the Entry of the Theotokos on the island of Rhodes, a major unexpected discovery took place. First, there was a tomb with a Metropolitan still sitting on his throne, then there was the tomb of Saint Meletios, along with the relics of four other Metropolitans. At the same time, the foundations of the first church that was located there and dates from the 15th century were revealed.

"On the one hand, there is historical information, and on the other hand, from the findings, conclusions can be drawn. The tomb (the first to be found) may date from the 15th century. This is the deceased who was buried sitting, which means that he was a Metropolitan. The same is shown by the tomb that was in front of the throne, which had another throne inside. So it was the tomb of Metropolitans. There we found four buried remains," His Eminence the Metropolitan of Rhodes, Mr. Kyrillos, told the local radio station Palmos and the newspaper Rodiaki.

Regarding the information that mentions the tomb of Saint Meletios as a find, His Eminence clarifies:

"Saint Meletios reposed in front of Metropolitan Synesios (1865-1876), due to the shock he underwent from the slander that he endured. Saint Meletios is buried in the Metropolis, but not inside the church. In the surrounding area of ​​the church, which was a cemetery, Saint Euthymios of Rhodes was buried, who fought along with the prominent people of the island the Ottomans, as a conspirator in an attempt at revolution. There are many important findings. Let the coronavirus pass and we will organize a conference.

The history of our Church is being revealed, we make so much effort and it is unfair for 'some' to try to accuse, saying that I want to close the Metropolis to move the headquarters to Evangelismos, to turn it into a museum, etc. These things are a joke, because no Metropolitan denies his history. Soon the church will be ready to liturgize."

The Problems

According to His Eminence Metropolitan Kyrillos, "the work began in order to remove the staircase which had risen and created a problem at the Beautiful Gate. Along the way, when we went to repair plaster falling from the roof (not to forget those who protested, that a whole piece fell - and then protested that a person would be killed) it was found that all the plaster was rotten and hollow.

It was decided to remove the shabby parts and to plaster the temple. Subsequently, too many cracks were identified and the Ephorate of Antiquities (EAD) of the Dodecanese argued that a static study must be done. No one took the responsibility, not even me, to proceed with plasters before ensuring the static adequacy of the temple.

Eventually the study was completed and a large number of stones and other elements of the masonry were required to be replaced, plastered and the floor and some other points that do not have satisfactory static adequacy. The temple was falling, for example the bell tower, the parapet in front of the women's quarters was a meteor. In an earthquake - during liturgy - we would have a big problem. This is what the experts say, not the Metropolitan.

After the autopsy was performed a few days ago by the EAD, we are in the selection phase, one of the three samples of plaster, in order to select the most complete one. It is not my business to decide, it is Archaeology, because the temple is a monument.

So you understand that in the process, the emergence of a study, the emergence of evidence for the temple which is of the 15th century, so as not to be 'abused' again, that is, to be done correctly - in the past there have been dozens of interventions, additions and alterations from the original form - this is in fact a year late," emphasizes Metropolitan Kyrillos.

Built on the Foundations of Panagia Tholaritsa

The Entry of the Theotokos is the Metropolitan church of Rhodes that during the period of Ottoman rule, was the core of the district "Marasi of the Metropolis". According to the founding inscription, it was built in 1750 on the site of an older church dedicated to Panagia Tholaritsa. The church was probably demolished in 1481 as part of a conspiracy between Rhodians, Western Europeans living on the island and Grand Master Pierre d’Aubusson to level the temples outside the walls to prevent their use as a bulwark by the Ottomans in an impending new city.

The church acquired its current form gradually. The initially single-aisled cruciform church was extended to the south, north and west and was transformed into a three-aisled church probably in 1842, while during the reign of Metropolitan Germanos (1877-1888) the bell towers were built in the corners of the west side and the narthex with a loft. After the earthquakes of 1956-1957, a general repair was carried out during which the neoclassical decorative elements of the facades were added.

In the ornate wood-carved iconostasis of the church, which is one of the best examples of Ottoman Baroque in the Dodecanese, two construction phases are recognized. The first concerns the part of the central aisle and dates back to 1760 during the reign of Metropolitan Kallinikos from Veria, as it appears from the inscription of the silvering of two despotic icons, of Christ and the Virgin, works of John Anagnostos from Pisidia of Asia Minor. The second phase corresponds to the iconostasis of the side aisles, which according to tradition, is the work of a Thomas the "single-eyed" from Rhodes or the master Drakos Taliadouros from Kos.

The pulpit is of the same era and art, while the despotic throne, quite different with inlaid ivory and pearl mosaics, was crafted, according to an inscription, by Stamatios Diamantis in 1750. Separate wood-carved shrines with mostly silver-plated icons can be found in various places, mainly in the narthex. Silver-plated icons of fine art, some of which are despotic, are also hung on the pillars of the side aisles. The frescoes of the church were made in 1955 by Ioannis Terzis, a student of Photis Kontoglou, and his three-member crew under Metropolitan Spyridon.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.