Day 3 Update: Fotis Kontoglou’s Connection to the Village of Geraki’s Artistic Heritage

Published: June 29, 2023

The village of Geraki continues to surprise us with its rich artistic heritage! Residents have attributed two painted ceilings in two houses in the village of Geraki to the renowned writer, artist, and hagiographer Fotis Kontoglou (1895-1965), who arrived in Greece as a refugee from Aivali in Turkey due to the population exchange that ensued after the Asia Minor Catastrophe.

The hagiographer’s interest in Geraki first appears in his book Ταξείδια (Taxidia, 1928), in which Kontoglou narrates the travels he undertook in Greece and the Byzantine, Frankish, Venetian, and Turkish architectural remains that he encountered. In Ταξείδια, Kontoglou mentions the castle of Geraki, which the French baron Guy de Nivelet built in 1209. The castle includes several late Byzantine churches constructed after the Franks left. Kontoglou––who is considered one of the main artists of the neo-Byzantine revival––a little over 30 years later, in 1962, published a description of the castle. He writes “Στὴ μέση λένε πὼς γκρεμίσανε πρὸ χρόνια τὸν τοῖχο ποὺκοιτάζει κατὰ τὸ βασίλεμα, γιὰ νὰ βλέπουνε ἀπὸ τὸ χωριὸ τὸ χορὸ ποὺκάνουνε κάθε χρόνο μέσα στὸ Κάστρο” (They say that years ago, they tore down the wall in the middle [of the castle] that looks towards the sunrise, so that the village could see the dance that they do every year inside the castle). Kontoglou highlights the village’s connection to the castle of Geraki and its Byzantine history.

At the moment, the painted ceilings have not been studied by art historians nor have they been dated. For more information on the Generation of the 1930s, for which Kontoglou was a critical figure, join us at the conference “Reconsidering the Generation of the 1930s: The Roots and Breadth of Greek Modernism” taking place at the University of California, Los Angeles on November 18-19, 2023.