The church of the Panayia Parigoritissa, dedicated to the Annunciation, was built at the end of the 13th c. by the despot of Epirus Nikiphoros Komninos Doukas and his wife Anna Palaiologina. It was formerly the katholikon of a large monastery, of which 16 cells and the Refectory are also preserved.
The katholikon has dimensions of 20,30x22 m and was built following a fairly original model. On the ground floor its plan is similar to that of Greek-cross octagon churches, while at first-floor it follows the type of the cross-in-square church. The nave is square and has no internal supports. The distinctive feature of the church is the manner in which the dome is supported, which does not seem to have been used to other Byzantine monuments, as far as we know. The dome rests on eight pilasters, on which stand three rows of columns, leaving the interior space undisturbed. At ground-floor level, the church is flanked on the north and south sides by chapels (of the Taxiarches and St. John the Baptist), which communicate with the narthex at the west, creating the appearance of a peristyle arrangement. The gynaikonitis on the first floor (not open to the public) has a similar arrangement.
Five apses project on the east side of the church, which is adorned with decorative brickwork in several motifs. Maeanders, crosses, and lozenges, combined with blind arcading, phialostomia and stone plaques, lend the monument an impressive polychrome appearance.
The church of Parigoritissa was built on the site of an earlier church of smaller dimensions, parts of which are still visible on the north side of the nave. The walls of Parigoritissa are now adorned with wall-paintings dating from a variety of periods. They originally had luxurious marble revetment, a few fragments of which are preserved above the main entrance on the west side. On this same side there is an arch with elaborate relief decoration and an inscription mentioning the founders of the church, Nikiphoros Komninos Doukas, his wife Anna Palaiologina and their son Thomas. The mosaic depictions of the Pantocrator and the Prophets adorning the main dome are contemporary with the monument. They were probably executed by two teams of craftsmen, who are believed to have come from Constantinople or Thessaloniki.
There was sculptural decoration at the base of the dome, on the large arches of the barrel-vaulting. All that survives today are the groups of the Nativity and the Agnus Dei, flanxed by figures of Evangelists and Prophets. The subjects of the sculptures and the technique in which they were executed clearly reveal western influences, and are believed to have been created by craftsmen from the West (possibly from neighbouring Italy).
The wall-paintings in the Sanctuary are by the monk Ananias and date from 1558. Those in the nave were probably executed in the late 17th or early 18th c., while the paintings in the narthex are even later. The present built iconostasis replaced the original marble one, of which only a few reliefs are preserved. The royal icons of the Virgin and Christ are of considerable importance. Near the icon of Christ is a wood-carved prie-dieu, on which is the icon of the Virgin Parigoritissa, which was renovated in 1792 according to an inscription.
The ruins of a smaller earlier church, possibly of the 12th c., are preserved outside the south west corner. This was built in the type of the cross-square church with three apses at the east, and is believed to have been used as funeral chapel after the erection of the Parigoritissa.
The Refectory is to the south-east of the katholikon. It is a rectangular, barrel-vaulted building, whose present form is the result of restoration work carried out by A. Orlandos. It now houses a collection of sculptures originating from significant monuments of byzantine Arta. To the west of the Refectory the ruins have been located of a row of cells that originally stood here. The 16 cells preserved on the east side are now used by the Archaeological Service. Restoration work on these cells is expected to be completed in the near future, when they will be used to display finds of the Byzantine period.