SCY346 : Politiko Ayios Mnason

Monastery

Grid reference: 521600/3876430
Cadastral plan: XXX/57, plot 478
References: Given 2000: 221, Fig. 6; Given and Knapp 2003
SIA: SIA 6

 
Monastery ruins and church from the northeast
Photograph: Karen Ulrich

Mapping the monastery ruins.
Photograph: Michael Given

The ruins of the monastery were mapped at a scale of 1:100 using theodolite and EDM. This exercise also constituted the standing building survey done as part of their portfolio for Glasgow University by Lara Proctor, Jackie Smith, Rob Suttie, and Natalie Swords. The main points were put in with theodolite and EDM, and minor measurements such as wall thicknesses were done with hand tape. Thanks to the EDM only three theodolite stations were necessary. Several walls were now only lines of rubble, and some interpretation was needed to work out the original line, or even the presence, of the wall. Minor inaccuracies were evident, but small adjustments were made, and our overall accuracy rating is probably something like 10-20cm across 10m.

The plan of the structures turned out to be much more complex than expected. Rather than being a single row of rooms along a portico, the monastery building was two rooms deep, often with no apparent doorway leading into the inner room. The size of the rooms also varied considerably. It is possible that there was a portico along the front of the South wing, though most traces of it have been cut by the bulldozer clearing a platform round the church. One marble column, presumably from Roman Tamassos, lies at the East end of the South wing, and may have been brought in for a portico. The buildings themselves are considerably higher up than the church platform, and the base of them has been scraped by the bulldozer. The courtyard round the church would probably have been fairly level, with steps up to the buildings.

The Western wall of the monastery is of considerable interest. At the south end it is built of large rough chunks of the local limestone with no packers, very different from the masonry of the other walls of the monastery. Immediately south of this is a stretch where it has been cut from the bedrock, formed by the same limestone. This cutting is as much as 50cm deep, so that the westernmost room is lower than the top of the bedrock ridge to its west. Further south the line is continued in more standard masonry but at a thickness of 75cm rather than 50-55cm, as most of the other monastery walls are. The wall continues through some Palinurus spinochristi bushes to the north end of the west wing. It seems very likely that much of this wall predates the current monastery building and was reused. There is a large two-chambered Roman tomb 10m to the west of it, and block survey shows more tombs in the area and significant amounts of Iron Age and Classical material, including what is probably a rural sanctuary. Neighbouring units show a certain amount of tile, but not much; there seems to be no way of identifying for sure the date or nature of this earlier wall.