OSIAS LUKAS – Monastery
The Monastery of Osias Lukas, one of the most significant Byzantine monuments in Greece, is in Boeotia. It lies on a turning off the road between Delphi and Levadhia, about 152 kilometres from Athens, on the slopes of Mt. Elikon. On an adjacent hill the ruins of the ancient city of Steirios are preserved and it is said that the two churches of Osias Lukas were built on the site of and with material from the temple of Demeter. The monastery was founded in the 10th century and consists now of two large churches with crypt, refectory, bell-tower and cells with ancillary rooms. The main church was built on the model of St. Sophia’s at Istanbul, and contains valuable frescoes, mosaics and brilliantly coloured marble work. ‘On the upper parts of the walls, in the arches, the cross vaults etc. there are mosaics. In the side chapels, the dome and Gynaikonites there are wall-paintings. On the other surfaces of the walls there is a dado of large marble slabs of various hues’.10 The Blue Guide to Greece states that ‘the foundation walls (of the Katholikon) are of stone with stone and brick above. Columns of cipollino, Hymettian marble, and bigo antico divide the windows, each of which is surmounted by a large impost bearing a Greek cross’.11 These columns would presumably have been reused in the church, taken perhaps from the earlier temple of Demeter. However a friend who visited in 1999 said that she could not find any cipollino columns at Ossias Lukas (although she found one piece on the floor between the early and middle period churches). I do not remember finding columns either. There is a reference, however, to cipollino saying that ‘in many of the more important panels of the walls the marble which has been employed is undoubtedly Carystian cipollino’.12
Lying in a graveyard of stones behind the main church there are four or five pieces of cipollino, varying in size from .50 m. /1.6 RF to 1 m. /3.3 Rf long, and with a diameter of approximately .26 m. /.87 Rf, but there are no complete pieces. There is one slightly bigger piece lying in the grass behind the Katholikon which is approximately 2 m. /6.75 Rf long and .26 m. /.87 Rf in diameter (Plate 3.20).
10 Lazarides P., The Monastery of Hosios Lukas, Editions Hannibal, Athens.
11 The Blue Guide to Greece, Ernest Bell Ltd., London, 1981, p.396.
Maps and Plates
Plate 3.20 Fragments of cipollino in the garden of the monastery of Osias Lukas.