BEMA DOORS WITH REPRESENTATION OF THE ANNUNCIATION, PROPHETS AND SAINTS
According to the Christian worldview, the church comprises the earthly and the heavenly world, which corresponds spatially to the holy bema, with perceptual and physical boundary between them the templon. Access from one space to the other was through the bema doors, the use of which was introduced in the tenth century and became widespread from the eleventh-twelfth century onwards. Decisive factor in the development of bema doors was the introduction, from the fifteenth century, of wood-carving, which resulted in their more complex form. In addition to their practical use, the bema doors had a highly symbolic, doctrinal and soteriological content, which defined also their iconography. Thereis an obvious preference for figures who pre-announced the Kingdom of God, while the Annunciation has pride of place. This representation is linked par excellence with the Incarnation and is encountered consistently from the twelfth century onwards. The impressive pair of bema doors formerly in the Velimezis-Makris-Margaritis Collections, today in the Collection of Aikaterini Laskaridis Foundation, with the bipartite arrangement of their painted decoration and the domination of wood-carving on the body, is classed in the category Ε6. It has a low-arched top with lavish vegetal decoration of succulent acanthus leaves, executed in openwork technique, and a twisted polychrome astragal. Below the wood-carved decoration of the top is the painted representation of the Annunciation and four hierarchs. Particularly impressive are the high
arches of Gothic inspiration, inside which is a globular vase from which sprouts a stem with palm leaves. In the general disposition and organization of the surfaces, similarities are observed to bema doors in mainland Greece. However, in the kind of wood-carved decoration a particular affinity is ascertained in a numerous series of works from Epirus and Bulgaria.
PhD, Archaeologist, Head of the Department of Educational Programmes and Communication,
Directorate of Museums, Ministry of Culture and Sports
Μember of the Collaborating Educational Personnel of the Hellenic Open University