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June 09, 2007

Road Trip Day #5: Church of Panagia Kera in Kritsa

We left the Hotel Pergola in Agios Nikolaos early on Friday. Our host invited us to take a complimentary coffee before we departed, and then gave us each a free hotel t-shirt - they really were too sweet.

Our first stop was at Kritsa, just 11km or so outside Agios Nikolaos.

We wanted to see the Church of Panagia Kera, which has the most extensive surviving set of Byzantine frescoes on the island. The guide on site told us they were from the 12th century, whilst our books speculates that they are from the 13th or 14th century.

But what is a couple of hundred years between friends when you have survived succesive invasions by the Venetians and the Ottomans and various bouts of iconiclasm and the odd earthquake?

Even Claire, who has been exposed to enough Byzantine religious artefacts to last more than her lifetime, let out a gasp when we first stepped into the little church. Around 60% of the small church has retained the frescos, which depict scenes from the life of Jesus, and a fearsomely detailed description of the tortures awaiting lost souls in hell.

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So often you only get to see a little bit of what a church must have looked like back in the 1400 and 1500s, but here you could experience nearly the whole thing, imagining how the mostly illiterate congregation would get their religious instruction and examples from the images painstakingly painted onto the walls of their church.

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[Photography was strictly forbidden in the church - so you didn't see these pictures here, ok?]

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