In early October 2001, the Department sponsored a one-day trip to the island of Chios (Sakız Adası), principally in order to see the important Middle Byzantine mosaics in the monastery of Nea Moni. Twenty people took part; the trip proved particularly popular with American exchange students here last fall semester. After an overnight bus ride to Çeşme, we encountered some confusion because a group of 250 Turkish and Greek accountants were sailing that same morning to Chios. Eventually, though, we embarked on a ferry and made the one hour trip. On Chios, we toured the island in a van, with a English-speaking Dutch woman, a resident of the island, as our guide. First we headed south to medieval towns in the mastic-growing area. Mastic, a plant resin and specialty of Chios, is the basis for local lokum and rakı, and for turpentine.

Sorting mastikha

Street cat

Older women were sitting on their doorsteps sorting the clear, hard lumps from the leaves and twigs. The houses were set close together, a sort of fortification system, and in one town fantastic geometric designs were incised and painted on the exteriors. After lunch outdoors under awnings in a picturesque plateia (meydan), we headed north and then up into the mountains to our main destination, Nea Moni.

The eleventh century building has the wonderful patina of age, like Byzantine monuments in Istanbul. The mosaics high up in the nave were under restoration, so we could admire only the room and the lower wall decorations. The narthex mosaics, however, were gloriously visible. Some of us bought guidebooks and lit votive candles. An elderly nun offered us lokum.We then drove down to the port town of Chios, did some quick shopping, then returned to Çeşme and continued our separate ways for the rest of the weekend.

Decorated building

Wall decoration

(photos:M-H Gates 2001)
Charles Gates

Newsletter No. 1 - 2002, Pg. 18

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Bilkent University - Department of Archaeology and History of Art
Maintained by
Charles Gates and Jacques Morin
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Last Updated: November, 2002.