Temple of the Birth of the Virgin Mary of Kassandria


Dedicated to the memory of the Birth of the Theotokos, the church of Valta (Kassandreia) has been celebrated since ancient times and is now also on the day of the Birth of the Virgin Mary (8 September). From the information we have in place of the church and before the catastrophe of 1821 it was shorter and had a length as much as two thirds of the present. It was rebuilt in the 1860s without a splint, and later and perhaps in the same decade, a splint was built with arched openings. In the 1920s, the arched apertures of the narthex were closed to expand its interior, and later a large horizontal roof was built over it, which was an expansion together with a balcony of its female.

During the years after the church was built, its outbuilding was built outside its area as well as its bell tower, the lower part of which is an arched entrance to the courtyard of the church. Next to the facade of the church and on its right, the “cell” or “Nursery” which was legally owned by the Primary School School Fund was probably built in 1904 or 1905.

The Epirus builders who built the church did a very good job. For information, they did not “go out” (they did not cover their expenses) and they had to sell two mules, to pay the necessary expenses to leave for Epirus.

In the post-Byzantine church of the Nativity of the Virgin Mary of Kassandria, there is a painted arc of the 5th century AD on the west gate of the temple.

The convex surface of the arc and the interior are adorned with perforated plant helices, framed by a lobster bundle. The top is crowned by a Ionic blur, while at the corners are flying angels facing the viewer. The plant decoration of the front is extremely dense, and consists of palm circles that include animals in a bust, while among the circles are interlocking branches that surround animals and birds vigorously moved. Intense is the visual impression of shadowing given by density, lively movement and depth removal. The same perforated technique is used in the decoration of the insides. Here we have a vine that forms connected circles, alternately containing toothed vines and grape bunches.

According to verbal testimony, this arc comes from the town of Table. Table or Doors was the oldest name of the site of ancient Potidea and Kassandria, where the refugee village of Nea Potidea was founded. Ancient Cassandria obviously retains its importance in Christian times as it becomes a bishop’s seat. According to Procopius, in 540 the Huns destroyed Kassandria, along with almost all northern Greece, reaching up to Constantinople. The archaeological information for the early Christian Kassandria, the episcopal seat and the tall city, are almost non-existent, with the exception of the crossing, that is, the wall currently visible on the south bank of the canal. We do not know its exact position (it must have been a continuation of the Roman city), nor its extent. The fact that it was an episcopal seat means that it must have at least one temple: the bishopric. According to one piece of information, the arched frame that comes from Agios Dimitrios of Thessaloniki and is today built in the lintel of the entrance of the church of Panagia of today’s Kassandreia comes from the area of ​​today’s Nea Potidea.

The original origin of the arch is from the temple of Agios Dimitrios of Thessaloniki. A very similar arc coming from this temple is at the Museum of Byzantine Culture and earlier in the Byzantine Museum of Athens. This second bow is double-pointed, as is the arc of Kassandria. The other side has a similar execution to the side we have already described, only that the decoration is not so dense and the corners are filled with peacocks instead of angels. However, the similarities between the two arches and the so-called small arc of the Galerian Arch (Kamara Thessalonica), depicting Galerios and the personalization of Thessaloniki, are striking. It seems that the two arches of Saint Demetrios copy the small bow of Galerius, thus proving the existence of a long sculptural tradition in the city.

The arches of Agios Dimitrios can still be compared to the Rotonda pulpit and thus be placed in the first half of the fourth century, dating to the date of the first temple of Saint Demetrius. According to the restoration of G. and Maria Sotiriou, the embossed bows should have been three, and apparently all the same to each other. They were placed in the superstructure of a barrier that encapsulated the space between the eastern and western pillars of the holy Step.