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 original Cochem Castle, perched prominently on a hill above the Moselle River, served to collect tolls from passing ships. Modern research dates its origins to around 1100. Before its destruction by the French in 1689, the castle had a long and fascinating history. It changed hands numerous times and, like most castles, also changed its form over the centuries.
In 1151 King Konrad III ended a dispute over who should inherit Cochem Castle by laying siege to it and taking possession of it himself. That same year it became an official Imperial Castle (Reichsburg) subject to imperial authority. In 1282 it was Habsburg King Rudolf’s turn, when he conquered the Reichsburg Cochem and took it over. But just 12 years later, in 1294, the newest owner, King Adolf of Nassau pawned the castle, the town of Cochem and the surrounding region in order to finance his coronation. Adolf’s successor, Albrecht I, was unable to redeem the pledge and was forced to grant the castle to the archbishop in nearby Trier and the Electorate of Trier, which then administered the Reichsburg continuously, except for a brief interruption when Trier’s Archbishop Balduin of Luxembourg had to pawn the castle to a countess. But he got it back a year later.
The Electorate of Trier and its nobility became wealthy and powerful in large part due to the income from Cochem Castle and the rights to shipping tolls on the Moselle. Not until 1419 did the castle and its tolls come under the administration of civil bailiffs (Amtsmänner). While under the control of the bishops and electors in Trier from the 14th to the 16th century, the castle was expanded several times.
In 1688 the French invaded the Rhine and Moselle regions of the Palatinate, which included Cochem and its castle. French troops conquered the Reichsburg and then laid waste not only to the castle but also to Cochem and most of the other surrounding towns in a scorched-earth campaign. Between that time and the Congress of Vienna, the Palatinate and Cochem went back and forth between France and Prussia. In 1815 the western Palatinate and Cochem finally became part of Prussia once and for all.
Louis Jacques Ravené (1823-1879) did not live to see the completion of his renovated castle, but it was completed by his son Louis Auguste Ravené (1866-1944). Louis Auguste was only two years old when construction work at the old ruins above Cochem began in 1868, but most of the new castle took shape from 1874 to 1877, based on designs by Berlin architects. After the death of his father in 1879, Louis Auguste supervised the final stages of construction, mostly involving work on the castle’s interior. The castle was finally completed in 1890. Louis Auguste, like his father, a lover of art, filled the castle with an extensive art collection, most of which was lost during the Second World War.
In 1942, during the Nazi years, Ravené was forced to sell the family castle to the Prussian Ministry of Justice, which turned it into a law school run by the Nazi government. Following the end of the war, the castle became the property of the new state of Rheinland-Pfalz (Rhineland-Palatinate). In 1978 the city of Cochem bought the castle for 664,000 marks.