06 May 2021

Praying in Lent and Easter 2021:
79, the churches of Piskopianó

The new Church of Aghios Ioannis towers over the village of Piskopianó in Crete (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

(Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

During the Season of Easter this year, I am continuing my theme from Lent, taking some time each morning to reflect in these ways:

1, photographs of a church or place of worship that has been significant in my spiritual life;

2, the day’s Gospel reading;

3, a prayer from the prayer diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel).

Sunday (2 May 2021) was Easter Day in the Calendar of the Orthodox Church, and this week is Easter Week. I miss the opportunity of being in Greece at this special time of year, so my photographs this week are from churches in Crete.

Until the pandemic lockdown, I have been visiting Crete almost every year since the 1980s. My photographs this morning (6 May 2021) are from the modern Church of Aghios Ioannis (Saint John) in the village of Piskopianó, in the mountains above Hersonissos, and the older Church of Eisodia Theotokou (the Presentation of the Virgin Mary).

I first visited Piskopianó in 1994, spent weeks on end there in the 1990s, and have stayed there often since then. Today, a new church towers over the stepped, narrow streets of Piskopianó.

Piskopianó is a parish within the Diocese of Petras and Cherronisou, and, for a short time, Piskopianó was the centre of a diocese. When Arab pirates started attacking Crete in the seventh century, many early Christian churches and basilicas were destroyed. At this time, Hersonissos was abandoned, and the see of the diocese was transferred to Piskopianó, and remained here until the ninth century, when the diocese was relocated to Pedialos.

The name of Piskopianó may hint at its earlier, historical, episcopal importance, or it may describe the village’s location looking out as a balcony over this stretch of the north coast of Crete.

The old basilica in Piskopianó was a three-aisled basilica built in the sixth century. It was 45 metres long and 20 metres wide, it had an interior arch that was 9.4 metres in diameter, and its floor was covered with marble.

While the Bishops of Cherronisou were seated in Piskopianó, they are mentioned in official documents from the eighth to the tenth centuries, and the Bishop of Cherronisou took part in the Seventh Ecumenical Council in Nicea in 787 AD.

The diocese was relocated to Pediados in the tenth century, and in the 19th century it was seated in the Monastery of Agatathos.

Meanwhile, the Church of Eisodia Theotokou, a small single-nave, barrel vaulted church, was built in the 16th century, and has been renovated a few times since then. The iconostasis is woodcut, with gold encrusted leaves, and the icons on the iconostasis date from 1863. The marble in the sanctuary probably comes from the earlier Basilica of Pikcopianó, which has not been excavated yet.

The neighbouring large parish church, the Church of Aghios Ioannis, was built in 2009 and stands above the village with the mountains as a stunning backdrop. Two 19th century buildings between the old and the new church have been renovated and serve as the priest’s office and as a guesthouse. The parish priest is Father George Kokkiadis

Inside the Church of Eisodia Theotokou in Piskopianó, built in the 16th century (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

John 15: 9-11 (NRSVA):

[Jesus said:] 9 ‘As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.’

Inside the Church of Aghios Ioannis in Piskopianó (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary:

The Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary today (6 May 2021) invites us to pray:

We give thanks for the scientists and researchers who have worked to produce vaccines for Covid-19. Let us pray for the equitable distribution of these vaccines around the world.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

A fresco depicting Saint John the Baptist in the Church of Aghios Ioannis (Saint John) in Piskopianó (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org

The earlier Church of Eisodia Theotokou in Piskopianó, with its Byzantine-style doorframe (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

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