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Two Symbolic Images in the Catholicon of Panagia Peribleptos Monastery, Mystras: Heavenly Liturgy and Christ “Anapeson”

This subject is part of my ongoing M.A. thesis, “The Painting Program of Catholicon of Panagia Peribleptos,” and it is planned to be submitted in the next semester. Panagia Peribleptos Monastery, in the present-day Peloponnese in Greece, is founded by Manuel Kantakuzenos (r. 1348-1380), the first despot in the Despotate of Morea, and by his French wife Isabelle de Lusignan (d. 1390?). Historical evidence and architectural plastic support this view, so the Despot and his wife are the founders. However, within recent there are indications that emperor John VI Kantakuzenos (r. 1347-1354), father of the despot in question, might also be responsible for the painting program (especially for the Eucharistic cycle).


The catholicon of the monastery is dedicated to the Virgin Mary; both the number of the scenes depicted and their locations emphasize this dedication. Although parts of frescos did not survive, it has still an intact iconographic program which makes it an exclusive example among the seven Byzantine churches in Mistra. As a result of the stylistic and iconographical analyses, Peribleptos shows some resemblance to Hagia Sophia (c.1360) and Pantanassa (1428). The church has four main cycles: The Great Feast, the Passion and the pre-Resurrection, the Life of Virgin, the Eucharistic. The cycles sometimes overlap and sometimes interwoven into each other. However, they follow chronological, liturgical and architectural order. The painting program also has symbolic images in the apse. Such as Heavenly Liturgy, Man of Sorrow, Christ “Anapeson,” “Melismos.” Heavenly Liturgy and Christ “Anapeson,” are examples.


They show the iconographic type of Christ as the Great Archpriest, which is an important iconography in 14th century. The subject of this presentation has two symbolic images in the side apses of catholicon: Heavenly Liturgy and Anapeson. Firstly, I would like to discuss the images and their possible origins. Secondly, I’ll try to compare them which some contemporary examples in terms of style and iconography. Also by discussing the meaning of the two images in the 14th century.

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