Γύψινα υστεροβυζαντινά ανάγλυφα από την ΉπειροPart of : Αρχαιολογικόν δελτίον ; Vol.56, 2001, pages 341-364
Byzantine plaster reliefs from Epirus
This study is devoted to reliefs made in plaster from Late Byzantine churches in Epiros, such as the Kokkini Ekklisia at Voulgareli, the katholikon of the monastery of the Kato Panayia at Arta, and the churches of the Koimesis at Mospina, the Metamorphosis at Kleidonia, and the Taxiarchs at Kostaniani near Ioannina. The reliefs examined are mainly templon piers, fragments of epistyles and closure slabs, arched lintels, etc. The majority are already known, but, despite the fact that the material and manner in which they were made exhibit certain distinctive features, they have not yet been the subject of systematic investigation.The material of which they are made is plaster of Paris mortar, that is a dry plaster powder mixed with water. The plaster (in powder form) is converted by the addition of water into a malleable mass, placed in moulds and given the desired form. It is believed that the craftsmen of the Byzantine period followed a similar procedure in working the plaster. Nevertheless, careful observation of preserved plaster Byzantine reliefs furnishes additional interesting information about the technical expertise of the Byzantines.The majority of the reliefs seem to have been cast and then finished afterwards. Almost all of them had a reinforcing structure inside them to secure greater stability. This structure was usually of wood, though in some cases it consisted of reeds. Their technique reached very high levels, involving the manufacture of two- level reliefs, which require a sound knowledge of the material and also considerable experience in making them.The geographical distribution of the sites at which the above sculptures have been found, the inaccessible terrain of Epiros, and the difficulty of transporting fragile structures like these plaster features, all readily suggest that the craftsmen travelled to the place of work, taking the material with them in its raw form (that is, of powder), and made the plaster features com missioned from them on the spot. Certainly, the fact that the manufacture of the plaster elements depended on the architectural requirements of each building leads to the conclusion that the craftsmen had to adapt the dimensions of their moulds accordingly, and it is therefore not impossible that the majority of these were made on the spot during the course of the building project.From the number of monuments on which plaster features have been identified, which date from the Late Byzantine period, the conclusion is drawn that this kind of decoration was probably quite widespread in Epiros, at least in the 13th century.It is interesting that the plaster sculptures (apart from the fragments of closure slabs at Kato Panayia) come from peripheral monuments located far from the urban centres of the despotate of Epiros. Their manufacture is certainly linked with the financial means of the donors, since they cost less than marble sculptures, whose transportation to remote regions would in flate their price excessively. Apart from the above, the preference for plaster sculptures is probably also due to the general scarcity in the region of marble, the importation of which would have been very expensive. In contrast, there are significant seams of gypsum in Epiros and neighbouring Aitoloakarnania, which seem to have been already known and workable in the Byzantine period.
Ευχάριστοι τον αρχιτέκτονα Στ. Μαμαλούκο για τις υποδείξεις και τις πολύτιμες συμβουλές του, που διευκόλυναν την έρευνα μου. Πολύτιμες υπήρξαν, επίσης, οι υποδείξεις του αρχιτέκτονα Γ. Σμύρη και η βοήθεια του στην επίλυση πολλών πρακτικών θεμάτων, τον οποίο επίσης ευχάριστοι θερμά. Ευχαριστίες οφείλω επίσης στον κ. Πάσχο, γεωλόγο του ΙΓΜΕ νομού Πρέβεζας, και στην Ευδ. Παπαγεωργίου, γλύπτρια, για τις γόνιμες συζητήσεις που είχα μαζί τους., Περιέχει εικόνες, Το άρθρο περιέχεται στο τεύχος: Μέρος Α'-Μελέτες