Άγνωστες τοιχογραφίες στο ναό του Ταξιάρχη της Μεσαριάς στην ΆνδροPart of : Αρχαιολογικά ανάλεκτα εξ Αθηνών ; Vol.XVI, No.1-2, 1983, pages 106-121
Unknown wall-paintings in the church of the Taxiarchis at Mesaria, Andros
Cleaning operations undertaken by the 2nd Ephorate of Byzantine Antiquities in the church of the Taxiarchis at Mesaria in Andros brought to light Byzantine wall- paintings that had been covered at a later date by layers of plaster. The works, carried out during short summer periods between 1978 and 1982, have not been completed and investigation was largely limited to uncovering only samples of the mural decoration.The church of the Taxiarchis is of the inscribed-cross type with dome supported on two columns and dates from the year 1158, as recorded by the founder inscription on the impost of the north octagonal column. To the same year (1158) is assigned a second inscription known from earlier publications— on a marble architectural member which was used, probably in 1775, as base for a cross with the inscription hidden under the lower side.In 1978 the following wall-paintings were visible: The Ascension on the sanctuary vault. The Virgin in the type of the Blacher- nitissa with Christ depicted in a medallion on her breast, on the little blank vault of the prothesis. Joachim and Anne in round medallions on the east pendentives of the same vault. The Archangel Michael on the little blank vault of the diakonikon. The Birth of the Virgin and the Presentation of the Virgin in the Temple on the south and north side, respectively, of the vault in the northwest section of the nave.Recent works included the uncovering and conservation of the following wall-paintings: Three full-length frontal figures ofhierarchs, partly preserved on the north wall of the prothesis. The Hospitality of Abraham, as much of it as can be seen, in the northwest section of the nave, on the tympanum of the west wall, and in the lower register of the same wall the figure of St. Constantine on the right with part of the Holy Cross (the figure of St. Helen would have been painted on the left). Medallions with busts of Saints in the middle register of the decoration on the north wall, below the scene of the Presentation of the Virgin in the Temple, and part of the garments from the full-length figure of a Saint in the lower register of the same wall. The upper part of the figure of a warrior Saint in the southwest section, in the lower register of the decoration on the south wall, and fragments of figures on the west wall. In the narthex, where the wall-paintings had been unknown so far, cleaning operations have revealed some unidentified representations on the west, north and south walls, and the Last Judgement on the three barrel-vaults (only samples have been cleaned on the central vault).On the north vault of the narthex, four choirs of Saints (Prophets, Apostles etc.) have been partly uncovered on the east side, and the congregation of All Saints before the gate of Paradise, which is guarded by an Angel, on the west side. On the south vault of the narthex, the east side shows the punishing Angels in two groups and the hosts of sinners (kings, priests, monks etc.) in the fiery river of Hell, with the Antichrist seated on a coiling reptile at the extreme right, above the scene. Part of the figure of an Angel is visible on the tympanum of the south wall. The west side of the south vault shows the torments of the damned in nine paintings equally divided into three successive registers (the lake of fire, the grinding of teeth, the worm that sleepeth not, etc.).The wall-paintings of the church proper and of the narthex must be contemporary, executed by the same painter or group of painters, as the common identical features of technique and style suggest. Similarities are obvious in all elements that make up their distinctive style, such as the quality of the design, the colouring, the modelling of faces, the richly and lightly draped garments, the often marked effect of plasticity and the dynamic movement of figures.The wall-paintings are to be assigned close to the year of foundation (1158) of the church. Their refined quality, rather unusual for a relatively small church of the provinces, displays the characteristics of the art of the Comnenian period in the mid- 12th century.Literary sources testify to the prosperity of Andros in the 12th century, when themanufacture and trade of the island’s famous silks was flourishing. On this island, the second in size among the Cyclades, the Byzantine wall-paintings known today are those in the churches of the Taxiarchis at Mesaria, of the Taxiarchis at Melida, of St. Nicholas at Korthi, and of St. George at Vathia near Menites. The surviving remains of the murals of these churches are for the most part covered with layers of plaster. As compared with the situation on Naxos, where no less than one hundred and thirty Byzantine churches and over one hundred and eighty mural ensembles are known to us, the Andros wall-paintings are very few indeed. Nonetheless, they are quite important because of the quality of their art, especially those of the church of the Taxiarchis, which are better known. In fact, the architecture of the Andros churches, the rich sculptured decoration of their architectural parts and their fine wall-paintings, all bear witness to the flowering of middle Byzantine art on this island, as well as to the prosperity and aesthetic standards of the island’s inhabitants.