In the south of the Mesopotam village in the outskirts of Saranda, very close to the ancient city of Finiq (Phoenice), you can visit one of the world’s pearls of Byzantine architecture.
One of the oldest and largest churches of the Byzantine era, St. Nicholas Monastery (Manastiri i Shën Kollit), also known as the Monastery of Mesopotam, is a must-visit for just about anyone, especially those who love very well-preserved ruins and byzantine art. Having withstood the test of time, the traces of the monastery’s centuries-long history along with its gorgeous mosaics are ready to be explored by the curious traveler.
History and Architecture
The church was built in the 11th century, specifically during the reign of Byzantine Emperor Constantine IX Monomachos which lasted from 1042 to 1055. The Orthodox Monastery consists of a typical Byzantine architecture, surrounded by the ruins of a former temple’s circular wall, built before the church. The exterior is constructed in bricks while the interior rooms are divided by gorgeous arches. In the monastery’s interior walls and columns, you will find spectacular floral designs as well as some beautiful mosaics depicting mostly animals and mythical creatures. Four circular roofs, built one over the other, hold the grand entrance of the church’s portico while the garden sits beautifully under the shade of century-old cypresses and olive trees. Its architecture easily places the monastery in the category of rare architectural objects and it is precisely its double apse that makes it a truly singular structure in its genre.