Archangel Michael Church


Michael the Archangel (Rotonda) church in Episkopi Kissamos
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The church of Archangel Michael is one of the most imposing Byzantine monuments of Crete, located at village Episkopi, Kissamos province, since the 6th century AD, where it operated as a diocese (episkopi) during the second Byzantine Period. The yard housed a Byzantine cemetery (7- 8th century) and today we see traces of the episcopal buildings. Here lived the bishop of Kisamos Melchizedek, who was hanged by the Turks in 1821 in the Square of Splantzia in Chania.

The church is best known as Rotonda as it has circular mastoid dome, like the temple of the Rotonda in Thessaloniki. There is still only a third temple of that type in the Balkans. The Rotonda of Kissamos dates back from the 6th century and its floor is decorated with mosaics with various plant, animal and geometric representations.

The archaeologists have identified five (!) layers of frescoes. The first layer (7th century) depicts the Ascension, some saints in the dome, the Evangelist in the narthex, Saint George in southern pastoforio and Archangel in the conch of the apse of the sanctuary. The second layer bears frescoes of the period of Iconoclasm (Fight against icons) with non-iconed crosses. The third layer (Byzantine Era) has characteristics of Comnenian art of Constantinople and is connected with the fact of the transfer of the seat of the Diocese of Kissamos to the temple of Archangel Michael. The last two layers date to the end of the 13th and the beginning of the 14th century and were essentially the restoration of damaged frescoes of the 12th century by the workshop of Michael Veneris.

On the first Sunday of August Rotunda celebrates by blessing the fruits of the lands.

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Additional Info

  • Location: Chania Prefecture
  • Type: Church
  • Accessibility: Paved road

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