The Byzantine chapel of Agios Dimitrios
By Elias Rizos
In the town of Methana, somewhere between Mouskes and Kounoupitsa villages, lies a beautiful place. A headland with thick, fertile soil and wide ledges. Towards the sea, this headland is surrounded by steep, almost impassable hills, while on the east side, the border of the fertile land is defined by a rocky brow, an impressive corrugation of lava, formed by the volcano eruptions in the old days. The Byzantine chapel of Agios Dimitrios was built right at the edge of the lava, circa the end of the 13th or the beginning of the 14th century.
The Byzantine chapel of Agios Dimitrios hides a lot of mysteries, which probably may never be solved. It is built right on top of the remains of an older, bigger church. The chancel of the church was preserved and integrated to the Agios Dimitrios chapel.
The church interior is richly
decorated with iconography, unfortunately in a really bad condition. The icons were probably painted in “fresco” style, right after the construction of the temple. Despite the corrosion of the iconography, the chapel remains very beautiful and impressive.
What’s really interesting is engravings on these icons, mostly galleons and caravels, as well as animals and many dates. The types of the engraved ships were sailing across the Mediterranean from the 13th until the 18th century. Thus, centuries ago, people left their mark on the already old iconography. Were they pirates? Refugees? Castaways? Visitors? Who knows?
A beautiful architectural element is the inbuilt roof tiles that form decorative frames across the north and south side, as well as the decoration of the lintel above the entrance. Impressive, wide Byzantine roof tiles, possibly the authentic ones, still remain in place.
The altar consists of 2 marble capitals, with rich sculpted design. The capitals were transferred from another, older church, so they don’t match with the rest of the structure’s elements. Judging from their design, they date back to the mid-6th century A.C., which means they are 700 hundred years older than the chapel!
Αn ossuary with bones from many different people in the church area, may mean that a small monastery once stood at that spot.
Its remote location and difficult access have led to its abandonment. There are no paths leading to the chapel, and in a way, you need to get lost in order to find it. The Byzantine chapel of Agios Dimitrios is another well-hidden secret in the mountains of Methana.
Katheti, through a series of articles, such as the hiking trails and the beaches of Methana, aims to highlight the natural beauty of the peninsula and discover its secrets. This article is an excerpt from Elias Rizos’s text. You may find the rest of the article on the Volcanotrails webpage.
Featured image & photos by: Elias Rizos