Panagia at Yallou
Panagia at Yallou
The all-white small single-naved church of Panagia at Yallou (Fig. 2, 3) is located in the almost deserted bushy area of E. Naxos, in the region of the village Filoti, not far from the coastal site of Agiasos. (The locality has perhaps taken its name from the ancient female daemon Yello — even in our days fairies are called Yalloudes).
Built of undressed stones, the church measures in the interior 7.32*2.79 m. (2.90 m. near the apse). The sanctuary is surmounted by a low dome, of conical shape on the exterior, with a cylindrical drum which had four small lights.
Four arches, of which the two lateral ones are blind, support the dome (Fig. 2). The part of the church beyond the west arch is probably a later addition with a barrel-vaulted roof. There are low benches running along the two lateral sides. With the exception of the apse and the tympana of the blind arches, the interior of the church is covered with a coating of lime. No preservation works were carried out in the church, and only the crumbling wall painting of Christ on the S. tympanum was consolidated by N. Kailas, the former conservator of the Archaeological Service.
The notable dedicatory inscriptions accompanying the surviving wall paintings are carefully written and record the family names of inhabitants of Naxos in those times. In the apse, to the left of the Archangel Michael, we read: (“Invocation of Michael”), and higher (Fig. 2): (“In the year 6797, Indiction B’”). The year 6797 from the creation of the world corresponds to A.D. 1288/89, when the Indiction cycle was actually the second one.
On either side of the Virgin Platytera the inscription records.
(“Invocation of the servant of God George Pediasi- mos and his wife Maria and their children”), and below the representation, on the brick-coloured band (Fig. 3):(“Invocation of Kale Chionou”).
Next to the Sts. Mamas and Michael: (“Invocation of Michael T(?)iaketas and his wife Leontou”), and below St. Demetrios: (“Invocation of George Kalapodis and his wife Maria”).
Lastly, to the right of the Virgin Pausolype: (“Invocation of Anna Koutinou and her son Epipha- nios”).
On the half-dome of the sanctuary apse the Virgin Platytera is portrayed with a very long.nose, holding with both hands a medallion containing a picture of Christ Emmanuel. The Archangel Michael, to the left, and the Forerunner, to the right, bow to the Virgin. St. Mamas, the unknown St. Michael of Miletus and St. Leontios the Younger are painted frontally on the curved wall of the apse. A band separates them from the hierarchs St. Polycarpos and St. Eleutherios. The holy figures painted on the tympana of the blind arches are possibly replacing the icons of a templon since the original church probably did not extend beyond the area surmounted by the dome. St. Deme- trios wearing chain mail of a western type, the Virgin Pausolype and Child, and the Sts. Kyriake and Paras- keve (Fig. 6) are shown in frontal attitudes on the N. tympanum, and on the S. tympanum, St. John the Theologian, turned three-quarters to the left, and near him, frontally, Christ (Fig. 5). The few decorative motifs are confined to the intrados of the blind arches.
The wall paintings are quite damaged. Those that have survived, or more correctly those that are visible, depict single figures. Scenes from the Evangelical cycle or from the life of the Holy Mother of God are missing. The available space, of course, is very small. The archaism of the iconography is remarkable. The curved wall of the apse has other saints in addition to the frontally pictured hierarchs, whereas not many years before, on the same island, the apse of the church of St. Nicholas at Sangri (1270) was painted with co-officiating hierarchs. The iconographic archaism and the representation of various holy figures other than those usually painted in the apse is not a unique instance in Naxos. The same occurs in the E parecclesion of the church of Panagia Drosiani (13th century), where an angel in frontal attitude is depicted to the left and a soldier saint to the right (partly unpublished wall paintings), and later, in the church of St. Constantine at Vourvouria (1310), where we have the frontal figures of the Sts. Constantine and Helena in addition to the hierarchs.
The similarities in the style of the wall paintings lead to the conclusion that they were all done in 1288- 89, together with the decoration of the half-dome of the apse. The Virgin Platytera is of the Nikopoiostype, encountered since the 7th century in the N. conch of the Drosiani. This composition on the halfdome of the Panagia at Yallou, with the Archangel Michael and St. John the Baptist (Fig. 7), the principal representatives of the invisible and the visible world, constitutes a kind of Deesis.
It has been suggested that St. Leontios the Younger may be identified with the Abbot of the Monastery of the Theologos on the island of Patmos, who after an abbotship of twenty years became Patriarch of Jerusalem and was later exiled to Constantinople where he died at a very old age, probably in 1190. One cannot easily accept this identification, for here, in a non-monastic church, this saint is depicted young and beardless (perhaps malebarbis?) wearing an ascetic’s habit. The representation of St. Mamas, the patron saint of shepherds held in great reverence on the island, is not unrelated to the pastoral character of the region. The facial type of the full-length Christ with the forked beard (Fig. 5) resembles that of Christ on the half-dome of the apse in the church of St. George at Lathrinos, even though the paintings are of a different style and quality.
The figures of saints in the church of Panagia at Yallou are rather linear, two-dimensional, dry and fleshless. Lacking in expression but not devoid of nobility, they are distinguished for an occasional attention to minor details. The wall paintings are a provincial work of good quality and the hagiographer, although influenced by great art, has retained traits of popular art. This is evident, for example, in the clumsy rendering and the disproportionate size of the neck and head of the Christ Child held by the Virgin Pau- solvpe, and in the mediocre painting of the Archangel Michael which shows, however, a certain grace in the inclination of the head and in the flat-painted long and delicate face.
Nicos B. Drandakis