Pallium of Neophytos of Arta, 1723

3 November 2011

Dimensions of the cross-shaped appliqués: 23 x 23.5 cm., of the potamoi: 23.8 x 3.4 cm.

This pallium has sewn on to it, on sea-blue silk which is of a later date (because of wear and tear to the original), four cross-shaped appliqués, two pairs of bands, the potamoi, and one polos at the neck with a depiction of Christ the Great High Priest. Each of the four cross-shaped appliqués has in its middle, in a circle, a symbol of an Evangelist. Of the potamoi, the lower ones are decorated with a spiral tendril, as are the arms of the four appliqués. On the upper bands the tendril is interrupted so that the following (metrical) inscription can enter the surrounding decoration: “AND THIS IS THE SACRED MAPHORION / OF NEOPHYTOS MAVROMATIS ARCHBISHOP OF ARTA WHO WENT INTO RETREAT / IN THE YEAR OF SALVATION, ã AæK°ã (1723)”.

Neophytos Mavrommatis (1656-1740) was an important figure not only as a bishop, but as a benefactor of the Greek nation. He was born on Paros, graduated from the Patriarchal School, and in 1691/2 was consecrated Archbishop of Santorini. He resigned on a number of occasions in favour of other clerics. He was appointed Metropolitan of Nafpaktos and Arta in 1703 (1703-22). He was in Constantinople as a member of the Holy Synod at periods in 1708, 1717-18, and 1722. In 1714, he was put forward by a section of the clergy and laity as a candidate for the patriarchal throne, but he resigned and withdrew to the Iveron Monastery, to which he left his rich library. From his own fortune he carried out important improvements at the Monastery. In 1729, he left Iveron for the Megiste Lavra, where he died in 1740. The most important work of his life was his ministry to the Turkish-speaking Greeks of Asia Minor.

He lived for many years in Constantinople, where he came to realise the need to support the Turkish-speaking Christians. It was for this reason that he published his Anthology of the Christian Faith, Constantinople 1718, in Turkish and Greek, a work which contributed to the preservation of Christian and national consciousness. The Turkish-speaking Greeks, with the support provided by this text, flourished remarkably for two centuries (1719-1922)19.

As to the iconography, this pallium has the established subjects with a symbolism which had been standardised for centuries, but these depictions of the Evangelists are of secondary importance compared with the highly-developed floral border, which takes up the greater part of the space. The same decorative good taste inspires the arrangement of the inscription, which is rendered calligraphically and is incorporated in the decoration as an element of it, in accordance with the old custom of the Byzantines. The embroiderer has used top-quality materials, a wealth of gold and silver wire, which is bright and mostly twisted, and canetille*. The faces are rendered in a painterly manner with a very fine riza stitch whose direction changes with the flow of the design to produce the flesh background colour. The kavaliki stitch is used on the symbolic beasts.

The figure of Christ on the polos of the neck is art of exceptional quality; its effect is produced by the use of various stitches on the garments and of canetille on the mitre. The nimbus of the Pantocrator and of the symbolic living creatures is emphasised by small semi-precious stones. The whole of the workmanship presupposes a workshop with advanced techniques.

The Western influences on the iconography with the wealth of floral decoration, a comparison with other pallia (that of Kallinikos of Heracleia in the Sacristy of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, of Kallinikos of Anchialos in the Cathedral of Hydra, of Serapheim of Nicomedea in the Monastery of St John on Patmos), the style of the poetical inscription, which seems to have been written by its owner himself, point to the climate of the Constantinople of that time, and more specifically to the workshop of Mariora. The fact that Neophytos was frequently resident in the city gives strength to this view20.