The Pantanassa, the katholikon of a monastery, is a foundation of the protostrator and mesazon John Phrangopoulos, a high-ranking functionary of the military and administrative hierarchy in the despotate. The name and position of the donor are mentioned in an inscription in the western gallery, and in monograms carved on the impost of a column of the nave. The date of the church’s construction, 1428, was recorded in a dubious lost inscription that had been read by the abbot Fourmont in 1730.
The design of the Pantanassa Church follows the Mystras architectural type, which developed in the churches of Mystras after its inaugural use in the Hodegetria of the Brontochion Monastery. While the architecture imitates that of the Hodegetria, the corner domes barely project above the roof. Festoons decorate the apses, pointed arches frame some windows; and further signs of Frankish influence can be seen in the prominent bell tower. As is common for most Mystras churches, some of the reliefs are reused, while others are works contemporary with the construction of the building.
The organization of the iconographic program and the choice of the individual figures are modeled after those of the church of the Hodegetria, while the iconography of the Christological scenes is related to those of the Peribleptos. Participating in the decoration were at least three painters, most likely of metropolitan origin, for their works exhibit exceptional quality. They brought their knowledge of the most up-to-date trends in the capital to their painting in Mystras’ major fourteenth-century monuments, the Hodegetria and the Peribleptos churches.
If the exterior of the church of the Pantanassa shows an acceptance of Western decorative elements on a Byzantine structure, the wall paintings adhere to a purely Orthodox tradition. With solid roots in the classical past, and in accord with the humanistic tendencies of the era, the painters of the Pantanassa experimented with the rendering of landscape and space and gave essential roles to color and light, revealing their preoccupation with innovations also found in the contemporary art of the West. This Renaissance spirit and innovative questioning indicate the potential of an art form whose development was abruptly halted by the Ottoman conquest.
Section under construction
Plan by Millet
Mistra, A Fortified Late Byzantine Settlement by Sophia Kalopissi-Verti
Les monuments byzantins de Mistra by Gabriel Millet