Central Greece’s past

An area of central Greece that has not been given much attention by the experts but which has several noteworthy monuments is Aitoloacarnania, where archaeological excavations have not yet shed full light on its Roman, Early Christian and Early Byzantine periods. According to Athanassios Paliouras, a professor of Byzantine archaeology at the University of Ioannina, archaeological exploration in this area is still its early stages. Its ancient, medieval and modern history is completely uncharted. Paliouras’s «Byzantine Aitoloacarnania,» published in the 1980s, has just been reissued with new material. Many monuments have been restored since then, such as the Katochi Tower, Myrtia, the Monastery of Prodromos Analypsis, the Panayiotissa Gavrolimni and the Monastery of Ligovitsi. Some have had their foundations strengthened, others have had a dangerous roof replaced, but many more still await attention. Time is running out for some of the most important monuments in the region, such as the Pantokratoras Monastiraki, Aghioi Apostoloi Neromana and Aghios Nikolaos Kremastos, the «most important center of asceticism in the area during the Middle Ages.» The book, published by Ifitos, outlines the area’s artistic development as is evident from the monuments dating from the Early Byzantine period to the Greek War of Independence. «The monuments’ architectural forms are described as much as possible, as well as any artwork,» said the author. Illustrated with 475 pictures and diagrams, the book gives a brief presentation of the region’s historical geography, the churches of the bishoprics, local prominent figures in the Church, the arts and letters, and the characteristics of the local architecture. There are also references to old Christian churches. A descriptive list of all the monuments and geographical districts completes the information. Also interesting are the references to monuments that no longer exist, such as the Church of Panaghia Preventza that is now under the waters of the Kastraki Dam, Aghia Triada at Vlocho, which was demolished for the construction of a local road, the ruined Monastery of Prodromos at Dervekista and many carved wooden altar screens, vessels and icons that have disappeared. Paliouras, who describes himself as an «archaeologist fighting with a writer» is not writing just for fellow experts. He has tried to make his book useful to both his colleagues and the «informed reader.» «Byzantine Aitoloacarnania» is for all those seeking a deeper knowledge of Byzantine history and art. It takes readers to the excavations of the Early Christian Basilica of Aghia Triada in Kato Vassiliki, the cave of Aghios Nikolaos Varasova and the impressive digs at Aghia Traida Mavrika at Agrinion which began in 2002. The latter is a beautiful monument that for centuries lay buried under the banks of the tiny Erimitsa River, but whose excellent construction saved it from the ravages of time.

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