CULTURE

Mytilene monuments get hardback all of their own

Although the exact period that Christianity spread to the island of Mytilene (or Lesvos) cannot be identified, early Byzantine remains suggest that an organized Christian community had been established on the island by the fifth century. These monuments, together with the island’s churches, icons and ecclesiastical finds, have been compiled in a compendious, richly illustrated tome recently brought out in hardback by Ephesus publications. Prefaced by Bishop Iakovos of Mytilene, «Christian Monuments of the Diocese of Mytilene» is an attempt to chart the ecclesiastical history of the island through its monuments. Interestingly, one learns from the bishop’s introduction that a comprehensive survey of the island’s ecclesiastical history already exists: a four-volume work titled «Mytilena Sacra» and penned by the former bishop of Mytilene, Iakovos Kleomvrotos. Written by theologian Apostolos Spanos, illustrated with the color photographs of Yiannis Yiannelos (accompanied by large informative captions) and published in a bilingual edition (the Greek text is translated into English by Tania Kantzios), «Christian Monuments of the Diocese of Mytilene» is a book that supplies a wealth of – mostly descriptive – information on the subject to the non-specialized public. It combines historical facts with descriptions and offers a general, encyclopaedic-like knowledge. Thematically structured, the book deals with churches, wall paintings, carved wood iconostases, icons and manuscripts separately. Its largest part contains individual chapters on selected monuments on the island: among them the Church of Panaghia Troulloti (apparently the oldest extant ecclesiastical building on Lesvos and built at Thermi opposite the Asia Minor coast), the monastery of Saint John the Divine, probably built somewhere around the seventh to ninth century and the Church of the Dormition of the Virgin at Agiasos. In reading the book, one realizes the difficulties that scholars had in dating the island’s ecclesiastical monuments, largely because of the lack of written or other historical evidence. The dates of most monuments are vague or approximate estimates, a sometimes confusing but unavoidable outcome. The book also includes a useful glossary of ecclesiastical terms as well as a bibliography.