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by Archaeology Newsroom

The catholicon of the monastery of Varnakova and the architect Andreas Gasparis Kalandros

The Monastery of Varnakova was built in the 12th century AD and prospered greatly during the Byzantine period. Its decay, beginning during the years of the Turkish occupation, was completed by the fire of 1826 set by the army of Ibrahim Pasha. The monastery was rebuilt in the years following the liberation. A. Orlandos, who studied the monastery in 1911, reached the conclusion that the early church also displayed a central dome but he had doubts whether the new dome perfectly corresponded to the older structure. He also determined the location of the outer and inner narthex, both mentioned in old codices, and considered the two pilasters adjacent to the colonnade and facing the bema to be the continuation of the dividing walls once existing between the prothesis and the diaconicon. Furthermore, he believed that the bema apse had a hemi-hexagonal shape and that the new church was equal in width to the older, but unequal in length. However, a series of documents from the National General Archives cast new light on the reconstruction of the catholicon. Reconstruction work commenced in 1831 according to the plans made by the architect Andreas Gasparis Kalandros, an army lieutenant. In the spring of the same year the monks of the monastery signed a contract with three Epirot craftsmen and applied to Governor Kapodistrias for financial support based on the budget made by Kalandros. Mentioned in the contract are the proportions of a new church, determined on the basis of the old foundations, the roofing of the edifice with three series of domes and with a central, dominant one and the building materials as well as the addition of a bell-tower. The information provided by the aforementioned documents leads to the conclusion that Kalandros, who was appointed supervisor of the construction works, had never visited the monument, therefore certain mistakes he made in the plan seem natural. The terminology employed in the contract, the form of the bell-tower and the close relations of Kalandros with the commissar of Eastern Greece, Metaxas, indicate that the architect of the Monastery of Varnakova originated from the Ionian Islands. The reconstruction of the monastery complex was completed in 1838, which is also the date of the execution of the wooden templon of the catholicon.