The Monastery of “Nea Moni” of Chios is a world heritage monument and since 1990, it has been protected by UNESCO, mainly because of its set of mosaics. It is the most important byzantine monument of the medieval times on the island of Chios and probably in all over the Aegean Sea.
The Monastery was founded in the middle of the 11th century and it was sponsored by the Emperor. Zoe and Theodora, who were the daughters of the Byzantine emperor Constantinos the VIII and the nieces of Vasilios II Vulgaroktonos, as well as the Emperor Constantinos IX Monomachos (Gladiator), who was Zoe’s third husband, gave money for the construction of the Monastery.
The founding of the Monastery is associated with monastic traditions, according to which, at the place where the Catholicon was built, three hermits from Chios found the thaumaturgical icon of Virgin Mary, hanging from a myrtle branch. The hermits, whose names were Nikitas, Ioannis and Iosif, prophesied that Constantinos Monomachos, who was living in exile on the island of Lesvos, would become the Emperor of Constantinople. In return for their prophecy, they made the future Emperor promise that he would give a lot of money for the construction of a temple at the place where the myrtle was found.
After Monomachos ascended to the throne, he kept his promise, the Catholicon was rebuilt and decorated with mosaics. In 1049, the temple was inaugurated and the works finished after the death of Monomachos in 1055, during the reign of Theodora (1055-1056).
Monomachos provided the Monastery with special annuities and estates. Also, he gave the Monastery the right to have its own ship, he exempted it from paying taxes and he gave it the right to be free and independent. These privileges were ratified and multiplied by later emperors. As a result, “Nea Moni” had been one of the most famous and rich Monasteries of the Aegean until the times of the Greek Revolution. After that, it started to decay.
During the almost 100 years of its existence, the Monastery had been suffering from disasters a lot of times. The worst of them were in the 19th century, first in 1822, when the Monastery was burned and plundered by the Ottomans and then in 1881, when a strong earthquake destroyed the buildings of the complex.
From the initial complex of the 11th century, the only ones that have survived are the Catholicon, the tank, the tower, a part of the Refectory and the temple of Saint Lukas, in the cemetery, out of the walls.
The Catholicon is dedicated to Virgin Mary and its feast day is on 23rd August. It consists of the main temple, the inner narthex and the outer narthex which were built in the 11th century. In the main temple and the inner narthex there still exists a small part of the marble cladding that covered the vertical parts of the walls. There also exists almost the whole of the mosaics that decorated the temple in the 11th century, except from the dome and the eastern apse.
In the main temple, the best well-preserved mosaic representation is Christ’s Baptism, which, together with his Crucifixion and Resurrection, is probably the most artistic triptych.
The mosaics of the Catholicon of “Nea Moni” are representative of the strict Byzantine art and they are invaluable. Here, the artist mixed the early Renaissance art, that came from the Greek regions of Asia Minor, with the priestly byzantine art and he created the monumental byzantine painting and tessellation of the Macedonian dynasty. The tesserae that are used are small and polyhedral in order to reflect light. They are also made of natural stone or glass. Today, “Iera Moni” is a convent.
Telephone number of the Monastery: 2271079391