The church of Panagia Podithou is situated in a central area of the Troodos mountain range, in the upper Solea valley. It is built in a narrow and fertile valley of the river Klarios/Karkotis, a few hundred meters to the north of the village of Galata. In 1985 it was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List which includes nine other painted Byzantine churches of the Troodos range.
Panagia Podithou used to be the katholicon (monastery church) of a monastery bearing the same name. According to the dedicatory inscription on the external part of the western wall, it was built in 1502 with the donation of Demetre de Coron and his wife Helen. Demetre, a captain of the barony of Pentageia, is known to have been involved in the political disorder of 1461. The monastery functioned until the beginning of the 19th century but like many other monasteries of the island it then fell into decline and was finally abandoned after the tragic events of 1821 when the Archbishop and other notables were executed following the Greek revolution. Around 1850 the monk Sophronios established Galata's first primary school in the monastic buildings.
The building is single-aisled with a steep-pitched timber roof. A later portico surrounds the three sides of the church. The roof shelters both the church and the portico and it is covered with flat tiles. The Russian monk Vassili Barsky, who visited the monastery in 1734, mentions that there were two monks living in an adjacent small, two-storey building made out of mud-brick. This building survived until around the middle of the 20th century.
The church was never entirely painted. The mural paintings, which are contemporary with the church, cover the apse of the Holy Bema, both sides of the western pediment, as well as parts of the north and south walls. Only the figures of the Apostles Peter and Paul, on the north and south walls respectively, date to the 17th century.
The donor is depicted as an old man with his Greek wife, offering to the Virgin Mary a model of the church. It is obvious that he is a hellenised Frank who follows the orthodox rites and speaks the Greek language.
The painter who worked at Podithou is affected, both in terms of style and iconography, by western art. Some of the scenes in this church are considered to be the best examples of the 'Italobyzantine' style of painting, which appeared and spread throughout the island during the period of Venetian domination. It combines Byzantine and Italian Renaissance elements.
Contemporary to the wall-paintings of 1502 is the wood-carved iconostasis, re-gilded in 1783, as well as a lectern. The iconostasis is one of the earlier examples of this type that appeared in many Greek lands that were under the influence of Venice, in the beginning of 16th century and it consists of late Gothic and Renaissance elements.References:
The Palazzo Colonna is a palatial block of buildings built in part over ruins of an old Roman Serapeum, and has belonged to the prestigious Colonna family for over twenty generations.
The first part of the palace dates from the 13th century, and tradition holds that the building hosted Dante in his visit to Rome. The first documentary mention notes that the property hosted Cardinal Giovanni and Giacomo Colonna in the 13th century. It was also home to Cardinal Oddone Colonna before he ascended to the papacy as Martin V (1417–1431).
With his passing, the palace was sacked during feuds, and the main property passed into the hands of the Della Rovere family. It returned to the Colonna family when Marcantonio I Colonna married Lucrezia Gara Franciotti Della Rovere, the niece of pope Julius II. The Colonna"s alliance to the Habsburg power, likely protected the palace from looting during the Sack of Rome (1527).
Starting with Filippo Colonna (1578–1639) many changes have refurbished and create a unitary complex around a central garden. Architects including Girolamo Rainaldi and Paolo Marucelli labored on specific projects. Only in the 17th and 18th centuries were the main facades completed. Much of this design was completed by Antonio del Grande (including the grand gallery), and Girolamo Fontana (decoration of gallery). In the 18th century, the long low facade designed by Nicola Michetti with later additions by Paolo Posi with taller corner blocks (facing Piazza Apostoli) was constructed recalls earlier structures resembling a fortification.
The main gallery (completed 1703) and the masterful Colonna art collection was acquired after 1650 by both the cardinal Girolamo I Colonna and his nephew the Connestabile Lorenzo Onofrio Colonna and includes works by Lorenzo Monaco, Domenico Ghirlandaio, Palma the Elder, Salviati, Bronzino, Tintoretto, Pietro da Cortona, Annibale Carracci (painting of The Beaneater), Guercino, Francesco Albani, Muziano and Guido Reni. Ceiling frescoes by Filippo Gherardi, Giovanni Coli, Sebastiano Ricci, and Giuseppe Bartolomeo Chiari celebrate the role of Marcantonio II Colonna in the battle of Lepanto (1571). The gallery is open to the public on Saturday mornings.
The older wing of the complex known as the Princess Isabelle"s apartments, but once housing Martin V"s library and palace, contains frescoes by Pinturicchio, Antonio Tempesta, Crescenzio Onofri, Giacinto Gimignani, and Carlo Cesi. It contains a collection of landscapes and genre scenes by painters like Gaspard Dughet, Caspar Van Wittel (Vanvitelli), and Jan Brueghel the Elder.
Along with the possessions of the Doria-Pamphilij and Pallavacini-Rospigliosi families, this is one of the largest private art collections in Rome.