Today was a big day for this art historian as I got a chance to climb the scaffolding inside the 11th century Byzantine church here. The monastery and church, which stand on the site of an ancient sanctuary of Apollo, were severely damaged during an earthquake in 1999. The site had been closed until recently. Even now the hours are strictly limited: Tuesday and Friday from 9-2. As we headed back to Athens from the marina at Piraeus our lovely taxi driver made a detour (and happily accompanied us inside) to Dafni (Daphni, Dafniou). Photography is forbidden, this is no longer a surprise, but the plasma screen television that runs through a collection of photos captures the details of the Byzantine mosaics. These are photos of the screen.
We were able to see many of the mosaics, including the famous Crucifixion, but not the pantocrator Christ in the dome. I suffered a temporary heartbreak, but again this is something I'm getting used to. On one of our first days in Rome we raced to see Borromini's spectacular dome only to find that we could not enter. That first disappointment sent me into overwhelmed tears, but I'm seasoned now! We finally got in after the third attempt and it was stunning. Finding my way to certain works of art has often been, sadly, unsuccessful. I long to meet these. Later I plan to talk more about the things I didn't see, and the reasons why.
But here, notice the depiction of John baptizing Christ. It's a nude Christ! Very rare and beautifully done. Also, here is the dome mosaic and this new way of showing Christ, as a judge looming disapprovingly over the earthly realm. The detail work in the mosaics is incredible and loaded with gold!
The experience of climbing some unsteady steps to peek through support systems, discovering only bits of these mosaics, was a terrific thrill. All the while we could hear workers continuing the restoration process.
I am just now figuring out how to post remotely as I only have my iphone with me. Please forgive any irregularities while I learn more about posting from afar. I'm hoping to write a little now and then along the way. We've already been in Italy for two weeks and Greece for 12 days so there have been many, many remarkable things. I'm keeping track in my hand written Odyssey journal and I want to share here as well.
Tomorrow we travel to Mycenae and then Crete.