#208 Panagia Mprioni (Neochoraki)

Location

It is a picturesque byzantine church that is located near the road that leads to Neochoraki. The temple of Holy Mother of Brioni is located South East of Arta and is dedicated to the Assumption of Mary.

 

Construction Data

The monument is a combination of a cruciform church and a basilica.

The excavations that were carried out in the past confirmed the hypothesis of G.Velenis that the temple was originally structured in accordance with the two-columned cruciform or cross-shaped type, with the main church being square in plan and having a straight narthex.

During this excavation, the foundations of the original west wall of the main temple were uncovered, at 2.80 m. from the west wall of the present church, which provide sufficient evidence to verify this hypothesis.

During the renovation of 1870, the church suffered damage to its exterior, which is quite visible on the walls.

"The church is built of rough layered plate and horizontal rows of blocks were inserted, some of which have a decorated spine and plenty of lime." The church is built in the same way on the east side, up to the cornice of the apse, and from then on only with bricks.

The masonry of the temple was originally richly decorated, especially on the eastern side on the drums of the gable of the Cross' antenna. However, the masonry of the long sides of the reconstructed pars of the monument is simple and without any decoration.

The dome is eight-sided

Nowadays, however, it is certain that the dome was built at the same time as the original building. However, due to the damages incurred after its destruction in 1821, repairs needed to be done, which can be spotted between the roof and the windows part.

"The sanctuary is entirely "embroidered "with bricks in decorative bands and various designs: dentil, geometric shapes, elaborate combinations of serrated, vertical and parallel bricks and a decorative element that is seen only in this temple: curved or corrugated bricks that were molded before being baked -during the building process- with a trowel, an indication that the main objective of the craftsman was originality. Similar motifs are also found in the drums arm of the cross".1

The dimensions are 9.80 m. long, without the arch, and 6.10 m. wide. The shrine is tripartitioned.

The original temple along with the narthex occupied the dimensions of the present temple. The main temple is formed into three aisles with the aid of two pairs of columns. The center is wider (2.30: 1.30).

Apart from the picture of the Almighty on the dome and a 19th century fresco beside the Despotic there are no paintings in the temple.

The frescoes in the apse of the sanctuary and the Prothesis are of particular interest since they are works of exceptional technique and are preserved until today in excellent condition. They were made in 1873 by Athanasios Zografos from Samarini.

The splendid composition and rarity of the subject makes the mural representation of the blood-crying Virgin on the niche of the Prothesis worthy of observation.


The wooden iconostasis, which has preserved icons and the Sanctuary Gate, where the image of the Virgin Mary in the Annunciation scene stands, was created at the same time.2

 

Historical Data

There are several versions concerning the nickname "Brioni". According to the first, it may be associated with the name of the owner or some abbot, or it is the name of the Turk, who according to tradition had great devotion to the monastery, thanks to the miracle of Holy Mother that made him regain his sight.

Another less likely scenario states that the name "Brioni" come from the misspelling of the word "perionymi" which means very famous, so the correct name would be "Holy Mother Brioni". This scenario was portrayed by the metropolitan Seraphim Xenopoulos in one of his writings.

There are also several versions about the church's date of construction. According to Professor Panagiotis Vokotopoulos, the church was built in 1238, and it was a two-columned cross-in-square church with a narthex. He reached to this conclusion by reading an inscription on a brick on the south side of the church. "G. Velenis expressed the idea that the church was originally a three aisled cross-shaped type, which later turned into a cruciform church with a dome. "3

Seraphim's idea is considered equally possible. He states that the date of foundation of the temple was 1111 A.C, a view implicitly shared by Orlando -the prime researcher of the monument.

According to the above opinion, the church was built in the 11th century and in the 13th century it isn't the creation of the church that occurred but the retrofitting of the older cruciform basilica with a dome.

The monastery had its glorious moments, from the time of its creation to the time of Ali Pasha, when its downward trend began, until its complete destruction in 1821 when it was burned by the Turks and was completely destroyed. In 1867 its radical and fundamental renovation began and it was completed in 1871. Since then the monastery remained intact and according to the walled inscribed slabs during that time the narthex was installed and the outside wall with the belfry was created.

 

Additional information of historical, cultural and tourism interest

On the one hand the traditional Byzantine monuments, the great stone structures, castle, and churches. On the other, places full of trees and chestnut trees, canyons, rugged and wild slopes, fertile plains, wetland exceptional value, compose the mosaic of this wonderful region of Epirus. Strolling in the City Skoufas from the northern to the southern and the eastern to the western end one will get in touch with the rich natural, historical and cultural heritage.

In the northern and mountainous part, dominated by Peta,one can find the traditional Square, the Church of Saint George, the Monument of Philellinon the Monastery of Virgin Mary, the Folklore Museum of the beautiful Lake Pournariou.Of rare beauty is also the village of St. Dimitrios with the beautiful square, the traditional Neochoraki with stone houses and the picturesque Amphithea Megarchi.

In the center of the municipalityone can locate Kompoti, which is rich in attractions. The Statue of Nicholas Skoufas the Turkish Outposts (coolies), Port and Environmental Center Koprena, the Old Church of St George and the Holy Dormition Monastery are some of them.

East of the municipality one finds the beautiful Photino, while the south-southwestern part of the municipality that is crossed by Arachtos, there are many scattered rural settlements.

These are just some of the many places you can visit in the historic City of South Skoufa.

Apart from the points of interest and cultural-historical-cultural and natural interest, the visitor will be able to take advantage of the impressive, huge, mountains, which surround the area, and the crystal clear rushing rivers, in the context of alternative tourism. Focusing on Tzumerka , Arachtos, the Amvrakiko, a wide range of choices unfold in front of all interested parties.

Such choices are the water routes and Canoe Cayak Rafting, the pond holly of Pournari, Neochori in the municipality Arahthos and Arachtos respectively. Other activities, such as horse riding, cycling, climbing routes, hiking trails, hand gliding, paragliding, and participation in health tourism visitor (Spas Chanopoulos) and numerous local traditions and customs (festivals, celebrations, etc.), complete the range of activities of alternative tourism, offering new experiences in the nature, as disclosed in its most primitive form.