The Byzantine Church of Aghios Vasilios

The Byzantine Church of Aghios Vasilios is almost 800 years old and according to the researchers it was built during the second half of 13 th century. The exact year of its inauguration has not yet been defined, since the evidences and documents are insufficient. For many years, 14 th century was considered as the period of construction. Orlandos had also agreed with this period, but with some doubts. The temple can be found on Vasileos Pyrrhus street, where the old flee market took place, known as ‘tourkopazaro’ (Turkish flee market).

The Byzantine Church of Aghios Vasilios

Initially, the church had Basilican type of architecture with one main aisle and with a wooden roof, while later on –probably during 14 th or 15 th century- two more aisles/churches were added communicating with the main temple. The two small churches were dedicated to Aghios Grigorios and Aghios Ioannis Hrisostomos respectively and researches believe that that 30 th January (Three Hierarchs) was the festive day for the temple.

The exterior of the church can be best described as...unique! Made out of stone and beautifully decorated with ceramics in all sorts of shapes, the temple retains its symmetry, rarely met in any other monument of Arta. Wavy lines, spiky and other decorative elements, along with the two friezes made out of small coloured stones, mostly green and orange, decorate the northern and eastern part of the temple.

On the frieze that stands on the eastern part of the temple there are two eye-catching, bottled icons made out of clay. The one depicts the Crucifixion and the other the Three Hierarchs, this fact reinforces the belief that 30 th January is the festive day for the temple. The Corinthian type columns that decorate the windows of the temple can only add to the aesthetics and the symmetry of the temple.

Unfortunately, the interior of the church was not accessible due to restoration works. The Iconographies of the temple have been damaged significantly from the exposure to the weather conditions, since the temple remained without a roof-due to a fire- for many decades.

According to historical sources, from 1662 to 1821, the yard of the temple –which was probably bigger at the time- operated as The Higher Greek School, founded by a rich fur trader from Kastoria, Philippos Manolakis. He was the main provider of furs for Sultan Mehmet IV.

The church of Aghios Vasilios is one more link in the long chain of Byzantine monuments in the city of Arta. Since the 1204 crusades in Constantinople, when the family of Aggeloi Komninoi Doukes were established in Arta, the city became the capital of Epirus and many of these Byzantine monuments were built during this golden era.