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Aug 11
Last Updated on 22 September 2011

Taxiarchis

Location: Mesta

The church is dedicated to Taxiarches - Archangels: Michael and Gabrielle. The villagers usually called it "The Big Taxiarchis" so that they would distinguish it from the other church of Taxiarchis that is more ancient and smaller in size. This one is named "The Old Taxiarchis".

The new church of Taxiarchis is located in the area where the central circular tower of the castle used to be. After the Genoans' withdrawal, the tower was deserted. During the Turkish Occupation the only ones that lived inside it were night birds, ravens and kinds of serpents. The tower was thought to be a symbol of submission because the villagers considered all those creatures as something evil. That's why they decided to demolish it and to rebuild the church.

The demolition lasted for two years (it began in 1858). The construction of the church began right after the demolition and finally the church was completed in 1868. The whole work lasted for 10 years and the workers received 3,500 sovereigns for payment. The ones who carried the material from the capital received 120 sovereigns. However, the villagers participated in the construction voluntarily. According to statistics, the necessary materials were:10,000 quintals of lime (1 quintal = 57 kilos), 163 quintals of iron, 55 quintals of lead and 60 shiploads of a special kind of stone.

The church of Taxiarches is the biggest in Chios and one of the biggest in entire Greece. It is a monumental work and it was admired even by those who contributed in its construction. That's why it inspired the villagers with many stories. Some of these stories derive from reality and some others do not. However, there is a really tragic story about an "unfortunate" worker who was crushed by the stones of the tower during its demolition and it is one of the stories which has been considered as real. This incident caused a lot of worries and problems to the villagers because, since due to a local custom they couldn't continue their work as the foundation of a church is not permitted where human blood has been shed. Villagers of all ages, according to testimonies, were digging for days and nights in order to take the buried worker out. In the end, fortunately, they found him alive, and then, having an amazing feeling of happiness and relief, they continued with the construction of the church.

The church has a two-way double staircase outside, on the top of which the bell-tower rises. The big bell-tower is very recent. Both the staircase and the bell-tower are made of stone from Thymiana, where the villagers produce a special kind of stone. The steps were replaced by new ones made of local stone later when there were signs of wear at them. There were remarkable patterns in the churchyard which was made of black and white pebbles. Pebbly yards is something very typical of the architecture of Chios. The stairs lead to a place which is set apart for women on the right side of the courtyard. A remain of the tower can be noticed in the narthex: it is the cistern for water, which in Mesta it is called fountana.

There are 3 aisles inside the church, the central of which is elevated. The pillars that support this aisle are monolithic but have unfortunately been covered by lime mortar and paint due to more recent repairing. Each of the three aisles are dedicated to different persons: the central aisle is dedicated to Taxiarches, while the North one is dedicated to St. Charalambos and the South one to the Apostles. In the beginning, the icon screen of the church was wooden. The present one, that has been constructed in 1895, it is made of brick. Part of the icon screen of "Old Taxiarchis"is the two icons of Taxiarches which adorn the icon screen. Many votive offerings are remarkable and complement the prompt of the church. Faithful villagers who come from all corners of earth have offered all these.

The present ones have been donated by some villagers who dwell in Athens, Thessaloniki, USA and Australia, sacerdotal vestments, icons and Holly Books of great historical importance. However others have been either brought by the villagers from Russia in the beginning of the century, or sent from Egypt by members of the Mesta community there.

They used cement for the construction of the altar and a massive monolith for its upper part. According to some written sources many people had to work in order to bring the stone from Limenas to the village for a whole night. It is really worth mentioning some income of the church since there would be many people who may wonder how a village with so few residents could build and maintain such a big church in an excellent state: the villagers and foreigners in the form of votive offerings offered some amount of money. Besides that, the villagers offer the church an amount of money, a traditional "tribute", which is called "Katathesimo".

In the beginning a childless resident made the offering of a fertile field. This process was followed at the beginning by himself through his will or by his relatives after his death. Gradually other people started also to offer katathesimo, people who were willing to donate something to the church. Especially those who did not possess land property or did not wish to give a field, replaced the katathesimo by volunteering to help in any way. Nowadays it is really strange to find a villager who has not offered Taxiarchis either a piece of land, an amount of money, or some voluntary work.