The Church of Ayioi Apostoloi (Holy Apostles) is located on the northeast side of the main square of Pyrgi, the largest medieval village of southern Chios. Pyrgi first appears in a 14th century (1362) document, while in 1422 it is explicitly noted as a fortified settlement in a map by Florentine traveler Christoforo Buondelmonti.

Its architectural form follows, albeit in a smaller scale, the prototype of the Katholikon of Nea Moni, which dates to the mid-11th century, and belongs to the octagonal church architecture typology. The main element of this particular typology is the octagonal structure supporting the dome; the main difference with the church of the Holy Apostles is that here the longitudinal axis is particularly accentuated with the use of barrel vaults towards the bema to the east, as well as to the west, instead of conches, as in the case of Nea Moni.

The interior articulation of the church is tripartite; it is comprised of the bema, with its projecting semi-circular apse, the main church, and the narthex, which was originally separated from the main church by a wall that does not survive today. The main entrance to the church is on the west side of the narthex, while a secondary door on the south leads out onto a courtyard that surrounds the church on three sides. A deep blind arch, with a double row of quatrefoils decorating its brick arch, is found on the north wall of the narthex. This must be an arcosolium, that is, a space specifically built to house burials, usually reserved for the patrons of the church.

Probably the most striking feature of the church is the intricate articulation of its facades and their rich decorative brickwork. Four blind arches are opened on the long facades, each crowned by a double brick arch. Dentil courses, green quatrefoils in various layouts, and glazed bowls adorn the facades, rendering them lively and colorful. The two domes of the church, made entirely of bricks, have double marble colonettes and are built employing the so-called ?recessed brick? technique.

An inscription on the northwest pilaster of the church notes that the church was erected from the ground in the year 1546 by prient-monk Symeon, and, later on, Bishop of Chios. The same date is also inscribed on the marble tintel over the entrance. Obviously, an extensive repair of the church took place in that year, though not its actual erection. The actual building date of the church, based on architectural features, must be placed in the Late Byzantine period (14th century).

The interior of the church is completely covered with frescoes. An inscription on the north wall of the main church informs us that the frescoes were executed in the year 1665, and provides the name of the painter as Antonios Kynegos from Crete. The Pantocrator, surrounded by nine angels, dominates the central dome. Scenes from the Twelve Feasts, the four Evangelists and six-winged angels cover the surfaces around the base of the dome.

The side walls of the main church are covered with scenes from the life and miracles of the Holy Apostles, Peter and Paul, to which the church is dedicated, while the west wall is decorated with the scene of the Last Judgment. The hemispherical vault of the narthex dome is decorated with the image of the Virgin Mary, of the Vlacherna type, with twelve accompanying angels. The scenes that cover the interior surfaces of the dome drum, between the windows, are antecedent images of the Virgin Mary and the Incarnation, while the arches supporting the dome retain two out of a total of twenty-four scenes of the ?oikos? parts of the Akathist Hymn.

The artwork of Antonios Kynegos, with its lively colors and rich decorative motifs that envelop the main scenes, is characterized by a strong vernacular style that also borrows elements from the Cretan School of painting. Still, western art influence is also evident in the paintings, particularly in the ?Ecce Homo? scene in the Diakonikon conch of the bema.
Olga Vassi, Archaeologist