Hosios Loukas (Ὅσιος Λουκᾶς)

Hosios Loukas



Location: Distomo, Boeotia


History of Hosios Loukas Monastery

Hosios Loukas or Saint Luke is a medieval Greek Orthodox monastery near Distomo, Boeotia region in Greece. It was placed on UNESCO World Heritage list. Hosios Loukas Monastery was found in the 946 AD by a hermit monk Saint Luke who lived on a western slope of Mount Helίkon. The oldest structure in this religious complex is the Church of the Theotokos Panagia erected here in the second half of the 10th century during reign of Emperor Romans II (959- 963 AD). A second church of Katholikon that is adjacent to the previous was constructed in the early 11th century. During Frankish period Hosios Loukas Monastery was transferred to the Catholic Church. During Ottoman Turkish invasion it was looted by the Turkish troops. Despite this is remained an important religious and spiritual sanctuary for the Greek people. During the Greek Uprising of 1821 Hosios Loukas served as a secret base for the "armatoloi" and "klephtes" or freedom fighters.


The monastery of Saint Luke is located on a picturesque slope of Elikon in a location where once stood the temple of Steritida Dimitra and is surrounded by a plateau covered by an olive grove. The natural landscape has not been altered by residential or other activity and retains its authenticity. Information about the history of the monastery is taken from the life of Saint Luke, anonymous work of 962, and the Sequences of the Assumption and Resurrection of his relic, sources that are considered reliable by archaeologists. According to these data, the founder of the monastic life in the Monastery is Osios himself, who practiced there for the last seven years of his life (946-953). He was born in Kastri, Fokida, in 896 to refugee parents from Aegina. Monasticism followed early on and at the end of 910 or 911 he was a monk in Athens, then in various sanctuaries of Fokida and the opposite Corinthian coast in Korfos, Corinth. The movements of Osios were dictated by the threat of the Bulgarians of Symeon. 946/947 is installed on the site of the current monastery and dies in 953.

Osios was a figure beloved by the local population but also by the officials of the Greek issue whose seat was Thebes. He practiced philanthropy and healing while he had the gift of prophesying the future. In fact, in 941 he had predicted the recapture of Crete by General Nikiforos Fokas during the reign of Romanos II (961) with the attributed words: "Romanos is handling Crete". These abilities of the saint and his fame after his death contributed to the area gaining pilgrimage interest and in fact the general of the Krinitis theme financed the construction of a church during the saint's lifetime in 946, St. Barbara, which was completed after the saint's death. Osios was buried on the floor of his cell and in 955 monks built a cruciform building around his tomb as well as the first cells of the monastic community.

Information on the construction of a new majestic temple to house the relic diverges. However, the resurrection is placed in 1011 and the construction of the new katholikon is considered to have taken place at the time when the abbot was a Philotheos. In 1014 the monastery flourished and had two estates in Evia, Antikyra and Agios Nikolaos in Kampia, Boeotia. According to the discussion that wants the monastery to enjoy imperial favor (either Romanos II or Basil II or Constantine the Gladiator) due to its monumental architecture and rich decoration, the prevailing version is considered to be the mixing of imperial workshops under Constantine IX. (Gladiator), which coincides with a more general renaissance of the arts in Byzantium. Archaeologists disagree on the dating of the older buildings: Hatzidakis claims 1011 (during the reign of Basil II), Stikas in 1042 (during the reign of Constantine IX).

After 1204 and the Frankish occupation in Greece, Latin monks settled in the monastery, while with the Turkish occupation it returned to Greek hands. Over the centuries it has suffered destruction and looting, yet it preserves very rare architectural and decorative wealth. Restoration work began in 1938 by the Archaeological Service and the Archaeological Society and continues to this day with great success.

The church of Panagia, the oldest in the complex, is the only one known to have been built mainly in Greece in the tenth century.

It follows the architectural type of the complex four-column cruciform inscribed church with a dome, which distinguishes the architectural school of Istanbul. A spacious narthex was added to the main temple, the simple one. To the west of the simple idiosyncratic exonarthex consists of an open porch with two closed compartments at both ends which protruded from the outline of the main temple. The southern part of the exonarthex was incorporated into the later church, the catholic of the monastery. During the restoration works, under the orthomarbling of the katholikon, an exceptional fresco was revealed, which once decorated the east wall of the southern part of the exonarthex. The only fresco that survives from the original decoration of the church of the Virgin Mary tells the story of the appearance of the archangel Michael in Jesus of Navi before the fall of Jericho. Murals are preserved in both the southern part of the cross and the deaconry. There are a total of five forms of hierarchs that have been dated to the end of the 12th century.


The Katholikon, built to house the relics of the saint, is the largest church in the complex and is located south of the church of Panagia. It belongs to the architectural type of the cruciform octagonal temple, in which the dome (approximately 9 m in diameter) rests on eight pillars instead of the four of the normal registered cruciform church. These pillars are placed closer to the walls, enlarging the central space of the main temple. This type is especially known as a complex octagonal or continental, as the cruciform arrangement is kept in the roof arches and between them are inserted half-walls. Characteristic of the type is the configuration of a peristope around the central area of ​​the main church.

Of the chapels that frame the square core, the northeastern one is of special importance because the marble reliquary of the saint has been placed there, at the point of contact with the northern antenna of the cross. It is the part of the katholikon that is connected to the church of Panagia, facilitating the passage of the pilgrims in front of the relic and their entrance to the church of Panagia. Simultaneously with the katholikon, the crypt was built, which has in its plan the shape of a cruciform four-column temple. The crypt houses the original tomb of Saint Luke, located on the north wall, just below the katholikon, where the relic of the saint was placed. Two more tombs in the crypt belong to prominent abbots of the monastery.

Other buildings that have been restored are the bordonareio (stable), which exhibits walled frescoes of the 18th century. from the church of Agios Spyridon, part of Saint Luke in the area of ​​Sterio, the lighting with the characteristic chimney and the bank, which since 1993 operates as a museum and includes architectural members from various building phases and finds from the surrounding area.

The prophecy of Osios about the recapture of Crete is honored by the image of Jesus Navi on the outer wall of the church of Panagia (revealed during the restoration in 1964), Jesus was considered a "fighter of the faith", whose help was effective in wars against the Arabs. The Katholikon contains the most well-preserved sets of mosaics from the period of the Macedonian Renaissance. But the whole is not complete: the original image of Christ the Almighty in the dome is missing, as are the figures of the archangels usually placed between the upper windows.

There is evidence that the monastery was famous throughout Byzantium for its luxurious decoration, which spread to all surfaces. Apart from the walls, the sculpture, the gold and silver paintings, the frescoes and the mosaics (extremely impressive on the concave surfaces, the interior was adorned with icons, chandeliers, silk curtains and altar fabrics (anti-menses). Despite the losses, the Katholikon "gives the best impression one can get anywhere today on the shape of the interior of a temple in the first centuries after the end of the Iconoclasm".

In particular, the rich interior decoration of the Katholikon includes:

"Compositions of colored marbles [that] cover the floor of the temple, as well as the vertical surfaces of the walls. The brilliant mosaics that adorn the upper surfaces of the katholikon, are one of the most important mosaic sets of mid-Byzantine art. They date back to around the second and third decade of the 11th century, ie they are earlier than the other two large mosaic ensembles in Greece, those of the New Monastery of Chios and Daphni. In the niche of the sanctuary is depicted the Virgin enthroned Infant, while in the low dome above the sanctuary is represented the Pentecost. The large arch above the entrance of the sanctuary depicts the two archangels Michael and Gabriel. The Christological cycle is represented by four scenes in the semicircles (the Evangelism that is not saved, the Nativity, the Epiphany and the Baptism) and by four scenes from the cycle of the Passion (the Holy Wash, the Crucifixion, the Resurrection and the Psalm) . Two Old Testament scenes are preserved in the deaconry, Daniel in the Lions pit and the Three Children in the furnace. The mosaic decoration is completed by representations of a very large number of saints, mainly monks, hierarchs, military saints and holy doctors. The two chapels, northwest and southwest, a small part of the northeastern part and the crypt are decorated with frescoes dating to the third quarter of the 11th c."


Castle of Saint Luke
At the top of the hill of the monastery of Saint Luke there is a castle, built on the site of an older fortification. The four sides of the wall are preserved, the masonry of which includes plaster and bricks.