Church of Panagia Koumbelidikis
The church of Panagia Koumbelidikis is a symbol of the city of Kastoria and one of the most important Byzantine monuments. It is located inside the acropolis of the Byzantine castle. The name “Koumbelidiki” dates back to the times of the Turkish occupation because of the particularly high dome, which in Turkish is called “koumbes”. It is a three-nave church built in the middle of the 11th century with a narthex to the west and an exonarthex added in the 15th century.
A particular source of information about the church is the dedicatory inscription in verse at the base of the dome drum. It refers to the dedication of the church to the Virgin Mary “Skoutariotissa” and “Akatamachito” (Invincible). The first name connects the monument with the monastery of the Virgin Mary in Chrysopolis of the Byzantines (Skoutari), while the second name connects it with the status of the Virgin Mary as the protector of the Byzantine army. Moreover, the characterization of the dedicatee as “all-generous” probably links him to the military aristocracy of Constantinople. Most of the monument’s painted decoration dates back to the 13th century. Among the themes, the most notable are the depictions of the life of the Virgin Mary, her Assumption and the rare depiction of the Holy Trinity. In the exonarthex, the frescoes date back to the 17th century and some individual ones to the 15th century. From the external frescoes of the 15th century, the Virgin of the “Passion”, scenes from the beheading of the Baptist, the Symposium of Herod with the dance of Salome are barely visible.
The church suffered extensive damage during the Greek-Italian war, when the dome of the monument was bombed. In the 1950s, restoration work was carried out and in 2002-2008 the conservation of the frescoes was completed.