The Church of Saint Panteleimon in Gorno Nerezi, is a small 12th-century Byzantine church located in a monastery complex. The church and monastery are dedicated to St. Panteleimon, the patron saint of physicians. The church was constructed in 1164 as a foundation of Alexios Angelos, a son of Constantine Angelos.
The church has a domed cruciform core, three apses, and a rectangular narthex. It is built of irregular stone blocks and brick embedded in thick layers of mortar. The surrounding monastery complex is enclosed by walls.
The frescoes in the church are famous examples of Komnenian-era Byzantine art, depicting scenes from the Passion of Christ and various hagiographical illustrations. Similar compositions appear in the Latomou Monastery in Thessaloniki. The church was damaged by an earthquake in the 16th century. In the restoration that followed, some of the frescoes in the upper middle region have been repainted. The original marble iconostasis survived the earthquake, but lost its decorative plastic art.
In another restoration attempt in 1885, the larger part of the frescoes in the naos were painted over rather ineptly. During cleaning in 1923, some of the original 12th-century frescoes were restored.
The coloring, dramatic composition and purity of expression displayed in the frescoes are outstanding examples of Byzantine medieval monumental painting in the later 12th century.References:
The Abbey of Saint-Etienne, also known as Abbaye aux Hommes ('Men"s Abbey'), is a former monastery dedicated to Saint Stephen (Saint Étienne). It is considered, along with the neighbouring Abbaye aux Dames ('Ladies" Abbey'), to be one of the most notable Romanesque buildings in Normandy. Like all the major abbeys in Normandy, it was Benedictine.
Lanfranc, before being an Archbishop of Canterbury, was abbot of Saint-Etienne. Built in Caen stone during the 11th century, the two semi-completed churches stood for many decades in competition. An important feature added to both churches in about 1120 was the ribbed vault, used for the first time in France. The two abbey churches are considered forerunners of the Gothic architecture. The original Romanesque apse was replaced in 1166 by an early Gothic chevet, complete with rosette windows and flying buttresses. Nine towers and spires were added in the 13th century. The interior vaulting shows a similar progression, beginning with early sexpartite vaulting (using circular ribs) in the nave and progressing to quadipartite vaults (using pointed ribs) in the sanctuary.
The two monasteries were finally donated by William the Conqueror and his wife, Matilda of Flanders, as penalty for their marriage against the Pope"s ruling. William was buried here; Matilda was buried in the Abbaye aux Dames. Unfortunately William"s original tombstone of black marble, the same kind as Matilda"s in the Abbaye aux Dames, was destroyed by the Calvinist iconoclasts in the 16th century and his bones scattered.
As a consequence of the Wars of Religion, the high lantern tower in the middle of the church collapsed and was never rebuilt. The Benedictine abbey was suppressed during the French Revolution and the abbey church became a parish church. From 1804 to 1961, the abbey buildings accommodated a prestigious high school, the Lycée Malherbe. During the Normandy Landings in 1944, inhabitants of Caen found refuge in the church; on the rooftop there was a red cross, made with blood on a sheet, to show that it was a hospital (to avoid bombings).