|Collection||Byzantine Research Fund|
Weir Schultz, Mr Robert
Barnsley, Mr Sidney Howard
|Scope and Content||Ground plan. This is a preliminary drawing. It is annotated in pencil.|
|Further information||Mistras, one of the most important medieval cities in Morea, lies four miles north-west of present-day Sparta on the summit of a Taygetos hill. The first building to be erected by William II Villehardouin, the Frankish Prince of Achaea in the location was the castle (1249). Soon, a settlement was established outside the citadel- most of the churches and chapels stand outside it too. After the recapture of Morea by the Byzantines in 1262 Mistras became the headquarters of the Byzantine general and, later, the seat of the Lakedaimonian bishopic. During the 14th c. it was the capital of the Despotate of Mistras and flourished under the Kantakouzenoi and the Palaiologoi reign until its fall to the Turks in 1460.
Pantanassa church, the best preserved of the major Mistras monuments, lies on a platform on the steep east slope of the mountain. According to surviving inscriptions, it was founded by John Phrangopoulos, chief minister of the Despotate, in the first decades of the 15th c. In terms of architecture the monument combines the three-aisled basilica in its lower parts with a five-domed cross-in-square church (upper part of the church). Particularly impressive and sophisticated is the exterior decoration of the building: no other Mistras church bears such strong western influences in the walling.
Open and blind windows with pointed Gothic arches and a masterfully executed garland of fleur-de-lis enlivens the polygonal three-apses on the east side. The fine cloisonné masonry of the substantial bell-tower, the most obviously Gothic part of the church that houses the tomb of grammarian Constantine Kavratzakes, is decorated with three-lobed windows surrounded by pointed arches the tympanum filling of which consists of three large rosettes.
Smaller towers flank the slender dome. The composite capitals, however, of the aches in the open low-roofed portico on the north side clearly belong to the Byzantine tradition. Worth noting is the varied sculptural decoration of the church: Corinthian capitals, spear-shaped leaves, rinceaux elegantly executed, low-relief eagles which are now kept at the Museum.
Poorly preserved post-Byzantine paintings decorate the lower part of the church while remains of the original fresco programme of the monument still survive in the cross arms of the upper storey. Pantanassa church is now used as a convent. All Mistras churches were restored in 1930 by A. Orlandos.