The Legend of Parigoritisa

According to the historians, the church of Parigoritissa was built during 1260, funded initially by Michael II Aggelos Komninos-Doukas and Queen Theodora –known as St. Theodora- and religious symbol in the city of Arta. The completion of the building probably took place during the reign of Nikiforos I Aggelos Komnino-Douka –son of Michael II Aggelos Komninos-Doukas and Anna Palaeologina Katakouzinou.

Their names can be clearly seen on the sign, usually placed on the marble arch of the Royal Gate, on the main side of the temple. They were carved on 11 marble wedges, out of which 7 are the original ones, while the rest were added later on, in a rather unstructured way.

According to Dr. Anastasios Orlandos, professor and specialist on the byzantine monument legacy of Arta, it can be read as following:

"Κομνηνοδούκας δεσπότης Νι[κηφ]όρος, Άννα βασίλ[ισσ]α Κομνην[οδούκαινα]

Κομνηνόβλαστος δ[εσπότης Θ]ωμάς μέγας, Κομνην[ών κ]λάδος α[γγελωνύμων]"

Observing closely the architecture of the temple, it seems that the temple is actually built in two different parts, joined just above the height of the windows. This fact, partially, justifies some of the rumours about the temple being completed by Nikiforos I Aggelos Komnino-Douka and not his father.

The alternative history of the temple seems legendary and it is directly connected to the origin of the name Parigoritissa.

The construction of the church was commissioned to a chief engineer, who was also the architect. While the construction was midways, the engineer was invited to build another church.

Considering that the construction was already half way there, he appointed his assistant as the main engineer. Being away for a considerable period of time, his assistant had the chance to entirely modify the original plans, motivated either by his sense of aesthetics, or by his ambitions.

His initiative was proven to be the work of a genius, since the new plans were rather imaginative adding a higher sense of aesthetics and promoting artistic creation.

At some point, the engineer returned to the temple, only to see that the temple was completed in his absence, but more important, his plans were surpassed by those of his assistant. On the one hand he was admiring his assistant and on the other hand he knew that he was surpassed, an emotional conflict.

His envy for his young assistant, lead him to take revenge for his displacement. He called the young engineer on the roof, to indicate him a serious mistake on the construction. The youngster naively followed him on the top of the church, only to get pushed off the roof by his jealous master. In his effort to keep his balance, the young assistant grabbed his rival, ending both dead from the fall.

The legend has it, that the two men were turned into stones the moment their bodies touched the ground. Believers of this legend indicate the two red stones at the back yard of the temple as a proof, since these stones are unique in the area of the temple.

The legend goes on and recounts that Virgin Mary (Panagia), descended on earth to give comfort (‘Parigoro’ in Greek) to the young assistant’s mother for her loss. As a result the Temple was named Panagia Parigoritissa.