Byzantine Times



With regard to the wider area of the Prefecture of Drama, the picture, which arises from the poor historical sources for this period, is fragmentary. It does not seem to appear significant, developed urban centres, around the city of Drama or throughout the prefecture. The economy remained basically agricultural. The land was divided into large holdings or among the dependencies of monasteries. Serfs cultivated large holdings, however, free-farmers survived, too. Residents of the area, based their prosperity on cultivation and its results, while the income from taxation of the land, was the main source of revenue for landowners or the state itself. The little, but valuable information - concerning the early Christian period - comes from archaeological findings. There are documented early Christian sites in the fertile valley, between Mount Falakro, Mount Menikio and Lekani range. Most have been found in the lowlands, at places, such as Kefalari, Prosotsani, Sitagri and Argyroupoli, while, only two sites have been found in mountainous locations: Adriani and Platania. In the lowlands around Prosotsani, at a distance of 2 km, south from the present day town was revealed an early Christian basilica, with a semicircular apse to the east and a narthex to the west. A later single-aisled chapel was built in the central aisle of the Basilica. In Platania valley, between Mount Falakro and the Mountains of Lekani - approximately 2km far from the present day village of Platania - lays the site, known as «Kales» (Small Castle) of Platania.

Inside the castle, objects, such as pottery and coins from the early Christian period were found. It was also found a marble inscribed door lintel (Archaeological Museum of Drama). In the fortified acropolis of Adriani, the picture is much clearer. Below the modern chapel of Ai Giannis (St. John), we find the remains of the apse and one can make out the layout of basilica. This was once existed here and its architectural members are now built into the walls of the chapels or are to be found scattered, around the site, which is teaming with the remains of buildings and large amounts of pottery on the surface - most of it, dating from the early Christian period.

Only one noteworthy building has been survived from the Byzantine Times and it lies, at a distance of 2,5km, west of Prosotsani. The site of the monument is marked by a clump of tall trees in the middle of the valley. It is Agios Panteleimonas church – a building of Palaeologi Empire, a cruciform one of square type, with collapsed antennas. It maintains only the east and north side – the initial brick-built masonry. The rest building with the column supportive gallery is a pre-war repair. There is different evidence to determine, when it was built – the second half of 13th century. There is one point of view, which supports the fact that the catholic of the monastery existed, which is the same with the mentioning Byzantine holding of Agios Panteleimonas – close to Panakas (Aggitis River). Remarkable monasteries with significant landholdings and treasures, which once seem to have existed in the Prefecture of Drama, have not been located yet by archaeological evidence or excavation findings - though they are claimed to have existed. Academics have suggested locations for these monasteries while for others, the sites are still being sought. Byzantine sources, for example, make reference to the Monastery of the Virgin Koriliotissa and the monastery at Vatopedino. It has been proposed that the hill of Koryvilos - which stands, overlooking the city of Drama - is the site of the latter and its remains are those of the monastery. However, the most significant monastic centre in the area was the well-known Monastery of Ikosifinissa on Mount Paggeo, which was subject to the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Drama. It was founded, during early Byzantine years, but reached its peak, some time in the 15th or 16th century. During the period of the Ottoman rule, the monks were acknowledged for their active devotion to the national cause. North of the modern village of Palaeochori in the Prefecture of Kavala - remains of an extensive monastic complex have been uncovered. The monastery of Agios Georgios is dated to the 13th century and it remained in existence until the 18th century. Some of the most interesting findings from the excavation are on display in the Museum of Drama. In the surrounding of Drama and throughout the whole prefecture, there are 33 post Byzantine churches. Most are to be found in the villages in the foothills of Mount Menikio, in the valley of Aggitis and north of Mount Falakro - in the area around Nevrokopi.

According to inscriptions on these buildings, we know that they were built between 1815 and 1890. Three distinct categories of church can be identified. The first category consists of single-aisled, long basilicas. The second consists of three-aisled, wooden roofed basilicas with different variations, while the third consists of inscribed cross-churches with domes. The most common type by far, is that of the three-aisled, wooden roofed basilica, which prevailed as an architectural style throughout Macedonia, under the Turkish rule. The post Byzantine churches of the prefecture of Drama, stand out for the simplicity of their morphology and construction, a fact, which is due to the lack of resources here, as elsewhere in Macedonia. The conch of the Sanctuary is either semi-circular or many-sided and in certain cases is decorated with simple vaulting. As a rule defines, the roof slopes on two sides with cut-offs on the short sides - is a characteristic feature of the churches of this time. On the eastern wall, there are round lunette windows or rose windows. There is no ceramic decor. On the facades, the only decoration is the carefully carved stone frames of the doors and windows. There are sporadic carved pieces of stone, set in the walls. The roofs of the interiors of post Byzantine churches are wooden with colourful decoration, while the iconostasis is wooden – of exceptional works – and the rest wooden carved fittings are interesting, such as: the Bishop's throne, the pulpit, the icon shrines, the lecterns and other ecclesiastical vessels. The bell towers, - except for a few cases - have almost all been built, during the last quarter of the 19th century. Either attached to the church or independent, they are true works of art. They are made of carved local stone and their form is castellated. They create a feeling of grandeur and majesty. They are very often located near the entrance door of the church. Their presence is certain proof of the reforms, which began to be introduced, during the later years of the Turkish rule and the general changes in the social structure and the economic life. It is interesting that all the churches can be dated with accuracy. There is useful information about the artisans and founders of the churches, but not for all. Between the years 1835-1853, there was an intense building activity – mainly due to the gradual change of the attitude in Pyli (Gate) (seat of the Ottoman Empire in Konstantinoupolis), in accordance with the regime governing of the Christian population in Macedonia, during the last quarter of the 19th century. In many cases, a school was built near the site of the church. These schools are probably linked with the Bishop of Drama, Agathaggelos (1861-1872), which was an illustrious hierarch of this era.