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Monastery of Virgin Mary of Vella in Vourgareli (Red Church)

The Red Church

From the decoration

The Red Church is at the location of Palaiochori, close to Drosopigi (Vourgareli) of the prefecture of Arta, at a distance of 56 km. from the city of Arta. Its building dates back in the end of the 13th century, when Nikiforos I was the Despot of Arta (there is a sign about it inside the Church). The Red Church λis said that took its name from the colour of the bricks that the outside walls are built. It is also called “Basilomonastery” but also Virgin Mary of Vella, because close to it there was probably an ancient town named Vella or by the fact that it became later a glebe of the Monastery of Vella of Ioannina.

It is an exceptional sample of Church archtitecture of Byzantine art, dedicated to the Birth of Virgin Mary and is maintained in an excellent condition until nowadays. It is a double columned church wirh a cross-shpaed roof and a plastering iconostasis. The outside decoration is similar to this of the church of St. Vasileios which is in the city of Arta. It is lightened by big arched windows.

A sign mentions that the wallpaintings of the main church were painted in 1295 and 1296. Νowadays are saved only a few wallpaintings. In the main part of the church they are maintained in better condition, and there is also saved a very interesting wallpainting which shows Virgin Mary holding Christ surrounded by two couples of the founders of the church, of the couple of Theodoros Tzimiskis and his wife Maria who donated the wallpainting of the church and the couple of Ioannis Tzimiskis and his wife Anna. These portraits especially are considered to be the most ancient ones in Balkans. The byzantine door of the main part of the church is wooden and is still saved.