A Golden Byzantine Treasure: Greece’s Hosios Loukas Monastery

Hosios Loukas is an historic walled monastery situated near the town of Distomo, in Boeotia, Greece. It is one of the most important monuments of Middle Byzantine architecture and art, and has been listed on UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites.

The monastery of Hosios Loukas is situated at a scenic site on the slopes of Mount Helicon. It was founded in the early 10th century AD by the hermit, Venerable Luke of Steiris, whose relics are kept in the monastery to this day. The monastery derived its wealth (including funds required for construction) from the fact that the relics of St. Luke were said to have exuded myron, a sort of perfumed oil which produced healing miracles. Pilgrims hoping for miraculous help were encouraged to sleep by the side of the tomb in order to be healed by incubation. The mosaics around the tomb represent not only St. Luke himself, but also hegumen Philotheos offering a likeness of the newly built church to the saint. 

St Luke the Younger (896-953 AD). Mosaic from the Monastery of Hosios Loukas.

The crypt contains frescoes on the entryway and its vault, eight lunettes around the walls with depictions of Christ’s Passion and Resurrection, and forty medallion portraits of apostles, martyrs and holy men, abbots including Philotheos, as well as numerous inscriptions. C.L. Connor claims it has “the most complete program of wall paintings surviving from the Middle Byzantine period.” – Hosios Loukas. 2021 February 17. In Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hosios_Loukas

Mosaic was a popular art form that enlivened both Christian churches and Islamic mosques during the Middle Ages. Mosaics are images made from little pieces of colored stone or glass, called tesserae. They most frequently decorate architectural settings. This ancient technique was popular in classical Rome but reached new heights during the Middle Ages. While Roman mosaics typically used stone tesserae in muted colors, medieval mosaics glitter thanks to brightly-colored glass and gold tesserae. Imagine how they would have sparkled during candlelit church services! In the classical world, mosaics were primarily floor decorations, but medieval artists covered the walls and ceilings with them instead. Mosaics flourished as Christianity grew and prospered starting in the fifth century CE, when they replaced murals as church decoration. This tradition took hold particularly strongly in the Byzantine Empire, especially Turkey and Greece, and in Byzantine-influenced Italy. – Alexandra Kiely, Daily Art Magazine




Heaven on Earth (Art and the Church in Byzantium)

Safran, Linda

Published by Penn State University Press (1997)

ISBN 10: 0271016701 ISBN 13: 9780271016702

Touring Byzantine Greece: The Monastery of Hosios Lukas

Lazarides, Paul

Published by Editions Hannibal

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