Stole of Grigorios of Vella, 18133 November 2011
Dimensions: 152.5 x 34.6 cm., panels: 18.5 x 9 cm., inscription: 27.5 cm.
This has a depiction of the Root of Jesse, with the Annunciation, the Nativity, the Homage of the Shepherds and the Magi, and the Temptation of Joseph.
On the hem of the vestment the righteous Jesse rests his head on his right hand. From his back and chest rise branches on the two sides of the stole which form themselves into oval frames separated by two cherubs each. Within these frames are depictions of prophets, at full length and full-face, holding the symbols of the Theotokos, in the following order:
The two last frames at the top are occupied by the Annunciation. The yoke is embroidered in miniature with the Nativity in the middle, the Homage of the Magi and the Shepherds on the right, and the Temptation of Joseph on the left, with the angel who reveals to him the truth about the birth of Christ.
In the lowest band there is a verse dedicatory inscription, divided into two by the date: “MARCH 1813 B”:
“SEEKING PROPITIATION FOR HIS SINS FROM GOD, AS A MEMORIAL OF HIS DEVOTION, THE PRIEST OF CHRIST GRIGORIOS OF VELLA FROM MELENIKO DEDICATED THIS SACRED VESTMENT TO THE HOLY MONASTERY OF VATOPAIDI”35.
The bottom of the stole is trimmed with seven tassels, in between which hang small bells.
Built in the 18th century, probably on the site of an earlier building, the Vella Monastery flourished in the years before the Greek Revolution and enjoyed considerable prestige in its region, as can be seen from many dedications. An inscription of 1745, on the lintel of its katholikon, records the name of Bishop Germanos, who paid for its building and its wall-paintings, which were the work of the artists Constantinos, Anastasios and Ioannis. The Monastery possessed considerable property and had a rich metochi in Romania. Bad management, in the middle of the last century, ended in the abolition of the Bishopric of Vella. The Monastery was awarded the status of a stavropegion* in 1863. The promotion of the Bishopric of Vella and Konitsa to the rank of a metropolitical see contributed to an improvement in the fortunes of the Monastery. A letter of the Patriarch of Constantinople Ioakeim (1885) orders that a sum of 230 Ottoman pounds derived from the leasing of the Monastery’s estates should be used on a school. This fact and the setting up of the Vella Seminary (1911) indicate that the intellectual and spiritual tradition of the Monastery was continuing36.
In the design and delicate technique, Western influence on the stole is obvious. The embroiderer has used high-quality gold thread and bright silks, as well as canetille.
The stance of the Blessed Virgin in the Annunciation, standing before the prayer desk on which her prayer book lies open, and kneeling with Joseph before the Infant in the manger (the Holy Family), with the column behind them where Christ was tied to be scourged, and the Virgin holding the Holy Child in the Homage of the Magi are borrowings from Western art.
Meleniko was one of the chief centres of Greek life in northern Macedonia. It was important as a commercial centre and had local industry; it also maintained trade relations with Vienna, where large numbers of Melenikiots had settled since the 16th century. We can, therefore, with considerable certainty ascribe the vestment to a Vienna workshop where Zefar’s commissions were also embroidered.