A Golden Byzantine Treasure: Greece’s Hosios Loukas Monastery

Larger Than Life: Art that inspires us through the ages
May 2, 2021 Updated: May 3, 2021

Since the 10th century, monks have lived at the Hosios Loukas Monastery in Distomo in central Greece, where they make a living by farming the land and selling souvenirs to pilgrims, who eagerly visit the crypt of St. Luke the Younger, the monastery’s founder.

A hermit, Luke of Steiris founded the monastery in the mid-10th century. He was celebrated for performing many miracles and, in particular, correctly prophesying the conquest of Crete by Emperor Romanos.

A Greek Wonder

The walled monastery of Hosios Loukas is one of the most important examples of Middle Byzantine art and architecture. The complex, as it stands today, is from the 11th century.

The main church was damaged during the Greek War of Independence (1821), but in a strange way, this was fortuitous. A subsequent 20th-century restoration not only repaired the damage but also ensured that the church was sympathetic to Byzantine design by removing newer additions.

The square layout of Hosios Loukas consists of an octagonal central space surrounded by chapels and galleries.

The church walls are made of a mixture of brick, stone, and marble called “opus mixtum.” At first glance, Arabic script adorns the walls, but the script is actually Pseudo-Kufic, a false Arabic script used for decorative purposes.

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Hosios Loukas in Greece. (yiannisscheidt/Shutterstock)
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The historic walled monastery of Hosios Loukas in Greece is a masterpiece of Middle Byzantine art and architecture. (Karl Allen Lugmayer/Shutterstock)
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Hosios Loukas in Greece. (bayazed/Shutterstock)
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Distinctive, ornate window grilles are a feature of Byzantine architecture. (nelev/Shutterstock)
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The dome and arches in the interior. (Bayazed/Shutterstock)
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The majestic columns and arches evoke a feeling of peace for contemplation and prayer. (Joaquin Ossorio Castillo/Shutterstock)
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A myriad of golden mosaics feature icons. (Heracles Kritikos/Shutterstock)
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One of the many highlights of the church are the golden Byzantine mosaics. (bayazed/Shutterstock)
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One of the many stunning mosaics. (PD-US)
Epoch Times Photo
On a lunette, a semicircular recess, in the nave is a mosaic of St. Luke the Younger, who founded the Hosios Loukas monastery in the early 10th century. (Public Domain)
Epoch Times Photo
Frescoes in the crypt show portraits of the apostles, martyrs, and holy men. (Public Domain)