The katholikon of the Peribleptos Monastery was founded by the first despot of Mistra, Manuel Kantakouzenos and his wife Isabelle de Lusignan. At the southeastern edge of the city, it was constructed as a two-column cross-in-square church between the years 1365 and 1374. The Helladic cloisonné masonry system is employed in the church’s wall construction, while the appearance of Western decorative elements on its eastern façade (fleurs-de-lis) and on the tower of the refectory makes it clear that Isabelle must have played an active role in the design of the monastic complex. Nevertheless, the painted decoration follows the Orthodox tradition faithfully and unconditionally.
The image of the Pantokrator dominates the dome, surrounded by prophets. The attributes held by the prophets and the contents of the biblical passages in their scrolls herald an iconographic subject that would become popular later, depicting the hymn “From above the prophets have heralded Thee,” addressed to the Theotokos as bearer of the Incarnation. The scene of the divine liturgy in the prothesis is interesting, as is the rich Marian cycle comprised of 25 scenes. The wall paintings of the Peribleptos church are works of high quality, ecclesiastical probity, and spirituality, on which many painters collaborated. The sculptural decoration is composed in part of reused elements and new ones.
The careful defacing of all the emblems and family crests of the Lusignan and Kantakouzenos families (upright lion) on the exterior of the monastery’s church was an act of damnatio memoriae, undertaken immediately after the Palaiologan family assumed the leadership of Mistra. A patron couple depicted on the western wall offering a model of the church must be associated with this second phase, clearly presenting the new owners and renovators of the church after the removal of the Kantakouzenos family. Indeed, this has been associated with the local lord Leon Mavropappas, whose monogram was placed in the entrance to the post- Byzantine narthex.
Section under construction
Drawings and Plan from Millet
Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium
Mistra, A Fortified Late Byzantine Settlement by Sophia Kalopissi-Verti
Les monuments byzantins de Mistra by Gabriel Millet