Charalampos Pennas: The Byzantine church Panagia Krena in Chios. History, Architecture, Sculpture, Painting (late 12th century)

Charalampos Pennas, The Byzantine church Panagia Krena in Chios. History, Architecture, Sculpture, Painting (late 12th century), Leiden: Alexandros Press 2017, 388 pp., 256 pp. text, 305 illus., most in color. (ISBN: 9789190387082)

The author gives an exhaustive presentation of the Byzantine church Panagia Krena ιn Chios, discussing its history, architecture, sculpture and painting.

Krena is a key monument for our knowledge of the architecture and painting of the late twelfth century, shortly before the Sack of Constantinople by the Latins of the Fourth Crusade, in 1204.

The main architectural type of the church has its roots in a much earlier architectural form, that of the octagon type, imitating the katholikon of the nearby Nea Moni, dated in the mid-eleventh century. However, the monument employs new features, which stress the plasticity of the exterior, making it a forerunner of the Laskarid period and consequently of the Palaiologan period. Characteristic are the concealed-brick technique and the rich ornamental brickwork.

The decoration of the interior of the monument with wall-paintings is dated to 1197, on the basis of epigraphic testimonies and the donor portraits of Eustathios Kodratos and his wife Pagomene, in the narthex, as well as of Metropolitan Stephanos Pepagomenos, the founder’s uncle, in the sanctuary. The iconographic programme in the sanctuary, naos and narthex is preserved in full and includes iconographic particularities which in many cases seem to have been established in Byzantine painting after the twelfth century.

The completeness of the painted decoration and the exact dating of Panagia Krena to 1197 are two basic factors which a priori allow a comprehensive artistic assessment of the Chian monument’s frescoes in the broader context of Late Komnenian art. In addition, these factors make Krena a reference point for the study of mural painting in the eastern Aegean and, by extension, the Asia Minor coast, including understanding the social background of this activity in the region and determining its formative influences.EndFragment