The church of Elkomenos Christos: The church-symbol of Kato Polis
The church of Elkomenos Christos has always been interconnected with the history of Kato Polis in Monemvasia. The church does not only comprise the benchmark of the city, but it also stands out as its symbol. It is characteristic that the population of the area settled on the Rock around the end of the 6th century, a period of time, which coincides with the date of the first phase of the construction of the basilica of the church.
The church, actually, constituted the very “heart” of Kato Polis, while a settlement developed around it. Its position has never changed since its inauguration. Initially, the church was consecrated to Agia Anastasia of Rome. Therefore, the creation of the icon depicting Elkomenos Christos on the Cross caused the initial consecration to change. Although, the exact time when the icon was created and placed in the church is unidentified, it is possible that the restoration works, which took place around the 11th century, were related to the time when the icon was actually placed in the church.
While the fame and impact of the icon kept growing, the church attracted more and more pious, religious believers, making the initial consecration of the church (to Agia Anastasia) sink into oblivion. The impact that the icon had caused was so great that even the emperor Byzantios Isaakios II became obsessed with it himself.
The emperor begrudged the icon so much, that he finally removed it deceitfully; he took it to the temple of Anaplou, near Constantinople. Therefore, this was not the last time the icon would be removed from the church of Elkomenos Christos.
The icon of Elkomenos Christos was not the only one removed.
The byzantine icon of the Crucifixion, a piece of art of exquisite artistic value created in the 14th century was also removed from the church by antiquity smugglers in January 1979.
In 1980 the icon was eventually located by the Greek police and after it was exhibited at the Byzantine Museum, the icon was brought back to Agios Ioannis’ chapel in 2011 safely. The chapel dates back to the 11th-12th centuries with the icon set at its southern part. The TV serial “Sacrilegious” broadcast at the national television in the 1980s was inspired by this very taking of the icon,.
On top of that, the church of Elkomenos Christos celebrates an extraordinary imperial, byzantine flair.
According to local tradition, there were two wooden thrones, up to the end of the 17th century used by the emperor Andronikos II and his wife, during their visit in Monemvasia, which seems to have taken place in 1300 A.D.
Therefore, up to the end of the 17th century, the church suffered great damage. During the 1770s attacks by Turks and Albanians, the church was partly destroyed and as a result, it did not officiate.
Restoration works took place before 1821, as well as before Kapodistrias’ visit in 1827. In 1901 new restoration works took place, in which the wooden carved screen was replaced by a marble altar screen.
Nowadays, the church of Elkomenos Christos is still the gem of Kato Polis and an important part of the history and continuity of Monemvasia throughout the centuries.