Against Gravity

Olga Vassi

A Special Kind of Dome in Late Byzantine Chios: Type and Building Techniques, Tradition, and Innovation
In the southern part of the island of Chios, in the rural district of the Mastic villages (near Kalamoti, old Katarraktis, Mesta and Nenita), there are five churches that form a group displaying the same architectural features. They are single-naved, barrel vaulted churches, of medium size. Their specificity can be identified in their square narthexes, which are covered by a hemispherical blind dome roofed by an elevated pitched roof. The morphological and typological analysis of the five churches in combination with the information provided by the donor portraits, the akidographemata and the inscriptions found in every church, showed that it is an original architectural idiom that was created in the environment of rural populations in the early 14th century on the island and was absolutely in harmony with the spirit of the monumental architecture of the first Palaeologan emperors. Churches of the type examined had been built on the island until late 15th century. It was an invention of local master builders who combined ways of the high architecture of Constantinople with morphological details borrowed from the architectural tradition of Asia Minor, along with local, Chian, practices, and types of the Aegean church architecture.