Saint Vassilios Church lies in the city of Arta, in the market district, and a little north of Agia Theodora church. The church received the nickname “”tis agoras”” (of the market in greek) due to its location. Also, to be distinguished from the church of Saint Vassilios “”tis gefiras”” (of the bridge in Greek).
In 1662, a higher Greek School, the so-called Manolaki school, was founded in the church’s precinct. It was named after its founder Filippos Manolakis, a wealthy Kastorian fur merchant. The school was built at the urging of Nektarios, Patriarch of Jerusalem. It operated until 1821 when the church was burned down. Famous scholars of the time were teachers there, such as Sofronios Leichoudis, Paisios Metaxas, and Gerasimos Palladas.
A. Orlandos studied and restored the church in 1936.
Dating: According to the latest research and similarities it presents with Byzantine monuments of the time, the church is dated at the end of the 13th century.
Architecture: The church, measuring 9.38×4.08m, was originally a single-room, wooden-roofed basilica. A little later, probably in 1,300, wings were added on its long sides with the chapels of Saints Chrysostom and Gregory at their eastern ends. Thus, the original simple building acquires the form of a three-part division. The arch of the central, initial space is three-sided with blunt sides, while the niche of the deaconry is formed in the thickness of the wall. The east pediment and the west wall protrude above the level of the pitched roof. This architectural peculiarity is found in monuments of this era, such as the church of St. Theodora. There was an old portico on the west side of the temple, probably with a wooden roof.
The wings that surround the temple are divided by transverse walls into three spaces. The middle ones are housed with arches and the outer ones with lower, single-pitched roofs. Their eastern niches are pentagonal and apparently smaller than the central.
The entrance to the church is from the west. In the interior, doors allow the communication of the main church with the chapels.
Exterior decoration: The masonry is built in the Byzantine cloisonné system (carved stones surrounded by plinths) and has a rich ceramic decoration, mainly on its east and north side. The east side is decorated with brick bands with meanders and herringbone. Jagged bands and zones with colorful glazed tiles adorn the north side. Works of the 14th century AD, both glazed clay icons on the east pediment, are exceptional. They depict the Crucifixion and the three Hierarchs with dimensions 39X42cm.
Sculptural decoration: The sculptural decoration of the temple is limited. Corinthian capitals adorn the colonnades in the bifora windows that open on the far sides of the main temple. There is a reused marble capital on the east side of the north chapel with a relief cross and thorn leaves. It probably comes from an early Christian building of the area.
Painting decoration: The church is decorated in the interior with a rich iconographic program organized in four zones. The niche of the sanctuary depicts Panagia Platytera and evangelical scenes such as the meeting of Christ with the Samaritan woman, the Ascension, and Pentecost, but also symbolic representations, such as the Angelic Liturgy. On the church walls, representations of saints, full-body or in medals, many scenes from the Christological cycle, the Passion cycle, and the Virgin Mary’s life are depicted.
The frescoes date back to the 17th century and are severely damaged. The apparent preference for naturalistic traits and the intense, realistic features of the faces reveal influences from the West.