The village Pramata near Tzoumerka Mountain

Arta

Arta, the capital town of this district. is built along the banks of the Arahthos River and at the foot of Peranthi hill on the site of ancient Amvrakia, a Corinthian colony.

In 295 B.C. King Pyrrhus transferred the capital of his kingdom to Amvrakia, which he used as a base from which to attack the Romans. The town is not mentioned under the name of Arta until 1082. In 1204 after the fall of Constantinople to the Crusaders, it became the capital of the Despotate of Epirus. The Turks conquered it in 1449 and it was liberated from them in 1881.

A town with its own personal atmosphere, modern Arta has much to attract the visitor, including many Byzantine churches and the 13th century castle that overlooks it.

Church of Agios Vassilios: A small 13th century edifice, whose facade is decorated with enamebled tiles and bricks set in a hound' s tooth pattern. The important frescoes and icons in the interior are of equal interest.

Church of Agia Theodora (Arta' s patron saint): This 13th century basilica has three narthexes and a vestibule. The capitals on the columns in the sanctuary originally belonged to an Early Christian building of the 5th or 6th century. Here too the frescoes are of great interest.

Church of Panagia Parigoritissa (the former Cathedral): Built in I 295 by Anna Pataiologos, it is notable for the bold and innovative method used to support its dome. The vault is covered with mosaics, the sculptures are Italianate, and the icons (13th - 16th century) on the iconostasis and the frescoes in the narthex are superb.

Ancient Amvrakia: Recent excavations (1976) brought to light the theatre - of which the small orchestra and four rows of seats have been preserved - the foundations of the Doric temple of Pythian Apollo (5th century B.C.), sections of the ancient walls, and the base of a 6th century B.C. monument.

The Amvrakian wetlands

The Parigoritissa Museum houses some of the archaeological finds from the region, the rest are in the museum in Yanina.

Arta, Panagia Parigoritissa church

The bridge of Arta: Arta' s most famous landmark, this bridge lies on the road between Arta and Filipiada Yanina. Its reputation derives not only from its architectural elegance but also from the romantic legends associated with it and immortalized in folk songs and novels, including The Bridge of Arta by Kazantzakis.

While its foundations date from Early Christian times, it was completed under the Despotate of Epirus. The most recent additions and repairs took place around 1612.


Sightseeing in the region

The district of Arta abounds in Byzantine churches (ask for the guidebook published by the Municipality), of which the most important are:

Agios Vassilis of the Bridge (tis Gefiras): A little church northwest of the bridge. For many centuries, it was half covered in earth; removal works were completed in 1972. Scholars date the construction of the church to the 9th century. It has an impressive dome, which is disproportionately high in relation to the size of the rest of the building.

The bridge of Arta

- The Monastery of Kato Panagia (3 km. from Arta): There are interesting frescoes on the facade of the narthex and in the interior of this 12th century church. The bases and capitals of the columns that separate the aisles were taken from Late Roman buildings in Amvrakia.

Agios Dimitrios Katsouris (5 km. from Arta, at Plisii): This is a cruciform church built in the I Oth century with a dome and three semicircular apses. The most recent layer of frescoes dates to the I 7th and 18th century.

Panagia of Viaherna (directly opposite Arta at the village of Viahema): A three aisled vaulted basilica erected in the 12th century with important frescoes painted in the 13th century. The fresco in the narthex depicting the procession of Panaoa Odigitria is a unique composition, mainly because of its treatment of detail in its portrayal of the faithful in attendance.

Panagia of Brioni (near the village of Neohoraki): This II th century church was once part of a large monastic cornmunity dedicated to the Virgin. Of major interest is the ceramic ornamentation both in the lunettes of the cupolas and on the eastern facade.

Agios Nikolaos of Rodia (near the village of Vioa): A 13th century church with 14th century frescoes.

The red church (near the village of Voulgareli): Dedicated to the Nativity of the Virgin, this Ilth century cruciform church has no dome and only a few of its frescoes are still visible.

Panagia of Koronissia (in the village of the same name): Built in the 10th century, this church is all that remains of a once flourishing monastery. The exterior of the church is rather unusual in shape: The eastern part is cruciform, while the western part is covered by a continuous inclining roof. Its frescoes are much later, dating from the 17th century.

Apart from the Byzantine churches and monasteries, the scenery of the Arta district is very varied, the wildness of its mountain ranges contrasting with the tranquillity of the broad plain of Arta. We leave it up to you to discover the charms of both.