Byzantine monasteries
© Fabulorum. José Medio

Nea Moni or New Monastery, is an ensemble of buildings up on the craggy and pine-clad mountains of the Greek island of Chios. They stand proudly isolated, paradoxically voiceless. Legend tells of its foundation in 1045: three hermits, Niketas, Ioannis and Iosif found an icon of the Virgin Mary in the vicinity and advised a nobleman in exile, Constantine Monomachos, that he would become emperor. When the prophecy became reality, the emperor in recognition donated the land and supported the construction of the monastery. Craftsmen and artists were sent from Constantinople to embellish the work. Thus was born one of the richest and most populated Byzantine monasteries of the Aegean.

The current prestige of the site owes much to the glittering set of mosaics covering the niches and reflecting the light like fiery gems. In spite of the vandalizing of the katholikon – the major church building- by the Turks and the gouging of the mantles of the colored pieces with their pikes, much of the powerful impression experienced by the early faithful remains intact.

The site prospered for centuries, its temporal and spiritual reputation attracting monks, sheltering local population and growing in fame year after year. The collusion of those opposing dynamics began to take place when the Ottomans invaded the island during the Independence War of 1822, massacring the population and later through the earthquake of 1881. The material wreck left intact the spiritual pulse of the site. As a chrysalis peeling off its outer case, the restored buildings and damaged mosaics channel more fervently the purity of the sacred. The loss of the secular is the gain of the mystical. Nea Moni in its present appearance is impregnated by otherworldliness, as a spacecraft of sorts, a benign fall on earth from outer space.