The Area of the Prespes Lakes: Megali and Mikri Prespa which includes Byzantine and post-Byzantine monuments
Ministry of Culture, 20-22 Bouboulinas Street, 10682 Athens
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A. History The area of Prespes is a large basin at an altitude of 850m which contains two lakes, Mikri and Megali Prespa. Megali Prespa is today located in FYROM, Albania and Greece while Mikri Prespa is entirely located within the latter two countries. The area is characterized by outstanding natural beauty and has been inhabited without interruption from antiquity (with traces of ancient inhabitation in the area of "Lemos" and on the island of Agios Achilleos) to the present day. The Prespes Lakes area flourished at the end of the 8h century both under the Byzantine Empire and during the intervening periods of Bulgarian domination under the kingdom of Syrneon and Samuel. The area also flourished during the 10th and 11th centuries in particular with the establishment of the Archbishopric of Achrida by the Basil B II. During the 12th century Prespes was a Byzantine "Theme". During the 14th century the area of Prespes was incorporated in the Serb state of Stefan Dusan while in 1386 AD it was conquered by the Turks. Throughout the entire duration of the Ottoman Empire the population recouped and dedicated itself to Orthodoxy and religious tradition. In the 19th and 20th centuries the area followed the general historical developments and acquired particular importance at certain historical moments. The local population, and Orthodoxy in general, have closely associated the area, its history and its natural beauty with myths, legends and traditions. The Prespes region contains the highest degree of species biodiversity in a corresponding surface area in Europe. It is a unique limnetic landscape of outstanding natural beauty that includes a wealth of monuments from the Byzantine and post-Byzantine period. The uniqueness of this monument lies in the interaction between man and nature and in particular in the use of natural caves to construct hermitages by the monastic community which settled here between the 13th and 18th centuries. B. Monuments The area is scattered with Byzantine and post-Byzantine monuments with characteristic architecture and painted decoration. The following monuments can be found around Mikri Prespa: 1. The island of Agios Achilleos. Basilica of Agios Achilleos (circa 10th century), Church of the Twelve Apostles (three-aisled basilica from the end of 10th century with ancient spolia), Church of Agios Dimitrios (ruins of a 10th-11th century Basilica), Katholikon (central church) of the Monastery of Panagia Porfyras (1524 AD with remarkable wall paintings which come from three phases), Church of Agios Georgios (single-aisled church from the 15th century), ruins of a post-Byzantine church inside the Konstantion Fortress. 2. Vidronisi: ruins of a church from the time of the Paleologos Emperors 3. Village of Pyli: Church of Agios Nikolaos (ruins of a false three-conch church inscribed with a square (end of 13th century) 4. Village of Plati: Church of Agios Nikolaos (single-aisled church with important wall paintings (1591 AD). The following monuments can be found around Megali Prespa: 1. Village of Lemos: Church of the Presentation of our Lady in the Temple (Ipapandi) (single-aisled church with 15th century wall paintings) 2. Village of Agios Germanos: Church of Agios Germanos (inscribed cruciform church with dome from the beginning of the 11th century with important wall paintings from three phases) 3. Village of Psarades: rock painting of the Virgin Blachernitissa (1455-56 AD), Rock painting of the Virgin Eleousa (1373 BC) and rock painting of Agios Nikolaos (1827 BC) 4. SW shores: Metamorphosis Hermitage (skete) (single-aisled arched-roof church with 13th century wall paintings), Mikri Analipsi Hermitage (single-aisled arched-roof church with 15th century wall paintings), Virgin Eleousa Hermitage (single-aisled arched-roof church with wall paintings from 1409-1410 AD). C. Natural environment The area which covers the Mikri and Megali Prespes Lakes and the neighbouring slopes of Mounts Triklari and Varnunda is the largest National Park in Greece with a core area of 4,900 hectares and a surrounding zone of 14,750 hectares. It is also that with the highest biodiversity levels. It begins at an altitude of 850m and contains oak, beech, deciduous, fir and cedar forests. More than 1500 plant species and 12 forest types can be encountered in the area in which 46 mammal species live, including some of the rarest in Europe such as the wolf, bear, wild ibex and otter. Moreover, the area is one of the most important biotopes in Greece with 260 species of birds. The grey goose (Anser anser) and the goosander (Mergus mersander), cranes (Ardeidae), cormorants (Phalacrocorax carbo sinensis) and pygmy cormorants (Phalacrocorax pygmeus) nest here, as well as quite a few species of duck, terns, birds of prey, woodpeckers, etc. It is the only area in Europe other than the Danube Delta and the former USSR where two species of pelican reproduce, the White pelican (Pelecanus onocratulus) and the Dalmatian pelican (Pelecanus crispus). The water meadows surrounding the lakes are home to significant amphibians and reptile populations.