The Byzantine church of “”Saint Nikolaos of Rodia”” is located 4 km away from the city of Arta, in the Kirkizates village. The temple’s nickname “”of Rodia”” had remained from the period it became the metochion (dependency) of Panagia Rodia or Rodon the Amaranton (Everlasting rose in Greek) monastery, which lied near Vigla village.
Research and dating: The historical evidence for the monument is sparse. The earliest reference was found in the 1884 “”Historical Essay on Arta and Preveza”” by Seraphim Xenopoulos, Metropolitan of Arta, in the 19th century. According to the research data, the temple’s foundation dates back to the beginning of the 13th century, and according to the excavations, it was founded on an older temple of the 9th or 10th century, as is the case with many other monuments in the area.
Until 1959, the monument was embedded for the most part, which contributed to its preservation. The church was thoroughly dealt with by the architect, Anastasios Orlandos, who gave the first design representation in 1936 and, after its excavation, proceeded with the restoration works. A new 2020 excavation outside the monument revealed the space between the temple and the perimeter to be a burial site.
Architecture: Agios Nikolaos of Rodia church is picturesque without having imposing volume or elaborate exterior decoration due to its small size and unique architectural elements. The monument has floor plan dimensions of 5.25 x 5.67 m. and is created in the two-column cruciform inscribed with a dome type. There are other parallels of this type in Arta’s monuments, such as, for example, the Red Church.
The three-part sanctuary is divided with walls that have arched openings adjoining the three spaces. The sanctuary’s eastern arch is rectangular, and the niches of the deaconry and the Prothesis are formed within the thickness of the wall. The main church roof consists of two arches that form a cross with an octagonal, high dome rising at the intersection of their antennas. An arch also houses the narthex, and double and single-pitched roofs externally cover the ceiling elements.
The church’s floor was embanked and located at a depth of 1 meter in a recent excavation carried out by the Ephorate of Antiquities.
The temple had an ambulatory and was entered by three gates, one on each side, west, north, and south. Today only the western entrance is used, as the rest have been walled up.
Sculpture decoration and Frescoes:
Both the sculpture and the painted decoration of the church of Agios Nikolaos of Rodia church are of particular interest, as they bear more similarities with monuments of the earlier, mid-Byzantine period than with those of the late Byzantine period of the establishment of the Despotate of Epirus.
The capitals of the columns inside the church are shaped like a conical frustum. All sides are richly decorated with embossed plant and animal motifs and crosses.
The painted decoration of the church is one of the rare painting sets that have survived from the beginning of the 13th century, the early period of the Despotate. Apart from its archaic, stylistic features, the iconographic program is also exceptional since the depicted subjects are found only on Mount Athos and the Vatican. The representation of the famous miracle of Agios Nikolaos, during which he calms the turbulent sea and saves the ship with which he traveled to Jerusalem, is rare. Other depicted scenes are the enthroned Virgin and Child in the sanctuary and the community of the Apostles that extends on its north and south walls. The Ascension of Christ in a medal held by four Angels, the Archangels Michael and Gabriel, the Old Man of the Days, the Presentation of Mary, etc., are illustrated on the same area. In the main church, we can see scenes from the Passion of Christ, the Dormition of the Mother of God, full-body saints, etc. The two representations with the seven children in Ephesus and the three children in the furnace that can be seen on the sides of the temple are rare in monumental painting. The life of Saint Nicholas is depicted on the narthex, while a griffin was revealed in the recent 2014-2015 exploratory works.
The scenes are projected in the deep-blue background, the inscriptions are written in capital letters, and the tall figures are strongly outlined and make restrained gestures.