NEA MONI MONASTERY
The Nea Moni monastery of Chios, located just 12 km from the island’s city, is an old monastery, founded in 1042 AD and is dedicated to the Assumption of the Virgin Mary. The Monastery is included in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites since 1990 and is known worldwide for its exceptional mosaic art. The mosaics of the New Monastery of Chios are one of the top three ones in Greece during Middle Age period. The other two are the mosaics of the Monastery of Osios Loukas in Viotia and the Daphni Monastery in Attica.
According to tradition, the monastery was built at the point where the ascetics Nikitas, John and Joseph find out the miraculous icon of Virgin Mary hanging on a branch of myrtle. The three ascetics prophesied that Constantine the Monomachos, who was then exiled in Lesvos Island would ascend to the imperial throne of Istanbul, and for this reason the later emperor promised to donate money to them in order to build a temple where the icon of the Virgin Mary was found. When Constantine the Gladiator ascended to the throne, he kept his promise and so the temple was built and afterwards it was decorated with mosaics. In 1049 the temple was inaugurated and the building was completed after Constantine’s death in 1055, during Theodora’s reign (1055-1056).
Monomachos generously offered many tax exemptions and rights to Nea Moni monastery, a tactic followed also by the following emperors. This resulted in Nea Moni being one of the richest and most important monasteries up to the period of its decline, during the Revolution of 1821 and thereafter.
The monastery was hit by two major disasters: the Massacre of Chios in 1822 and the big catastrophic earthquake in 1881. During the Massacre of Chios in 1822 the Ottomans slaughtered all the monks, looted everything methodically, enslaved all women and children who had been hidden in the monastery and at the end set fire and burned the monastery. During the earthquake of 1881, the dome was demolished, the bell tower (which was rebuilt in 1900) collapsed, as well as most of the church, resulting in the destruction of many mosaics.
The compound of Nea Moni covers an area of 4,3 acres and consists of the temple located in the central part of the Monastery with octagonal type of building (seen mostly in islands) with a dome. Today the only examples of this architecture type can be seen in Chios and in Cyprus. It also consists of: the church of Agios Panteleimonas, the Museum of the monastery, as well as the temple of the Holy Cross, in which there are the remaining bones of the martyrs and the fighters of Chios Massacre. The entire complex is protected by a perimeter stone wall.
It is a monument that will surely impress you and it is definitely worth to spend some time there during your tour to central Chios by combining it with a visit to the nearby villages, Avgonima and Anavatos.