#289. Photographing Byzantine Churches in Greece’s Mani Peninsula

By pascaljappy | Travel Photography

Oct 23

This is a guest post by Stephen Goulden, a retired biological scientist, life-long mountaineer, and avid photographer slash traveler who calls the Welsh Marshes home. We hope to hear more from Stephen in the future!

Think Greece in summer, and one thinks sand and sea. But there is lot more and we have been enjoying Greece as an escape for the last 30 years. For 20 years we had a small yacht there, for periods of up to 7 weeks a year, in either late spring or early autumn. Having done all the coasts
and islands, and that is a lot, and finding revisits not as pleasant as we found them earlier, we sold the boat and bought a motorhome, to explore inland Greece. But the coast continues to pull, so we make regular 2 weeks flying visits. These photos from our recent stay in the Mani illustrate the many sides of this remarkable peninsula, whose southern tip is almost the most southerly point of Europe; only Cape Tarifa, SW of Gibraltar, is further south.

The Mani is the middle peninsula of the southern Peloponese, the part of Greece going south from the Gulf of Corinth. Not noted for its holiday resorts because there are none, it has many small villages, some with pleasant beaches. These have a faithful clientele and a growing number of new visitors, who find the quiet calm and the delightful locals attractive enough to keep coming. But beyond the coastal villages is another world, of mountains and gorges, of olive groves and ancient Byzantine churches, and in spring, the most fantastic display of flowers anywhere in Europe – we plan to visit again next year for that, in our motorhome; this will be our third Greek tour in it.

We have found that a rental apartment and rental car serve us best; this year\s apartment looked straight out to sea and was a short walk from the beach, where the water temperature early in September was warm enough to cause no discomfort.



The mountains rise directly from the coast, up to approaching 10,000 ft, and there are villages scattered on the mountain sides up to 2000 ft where there is a more level area; above that forests and scree slopes.




Walking the the lower slopes is easy, as there is a network of old donkey tracks, many still maintained for the many wakers who come here, at all times of the year. The Greek large scale maps are much improved in recent years, so walks of all degrees of commitment can be planned in advance. Many of the maps are available in digital formats which allow route planning for GPS equipment.


The gorges are the focus of many of the walks, some extremely taxing, some needing ropes.
There are local guides who will lead such walks if needed.


Everywhere there are villages, there are Byzantine churches, most extremely small, but beautifully exquisite. Many have religious wall paintings inside, some dating back to the 1400’s. Some have been carefully restored but many that haven’t show the dedication of the people of the period. If you know the bible stories, and even if you can’t interpret the captions, you can spend hours of study in these churches, which remain remarkably cool even at the height of a Greek afternoon.

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The decorated interiors are quite extraordinary; photographing them demands some care, as it is easy to over-illuminate the sometimes delicate painting.


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A car is necessary to visit all these churches, as many are remote and the local buses, although wide spread, have an infrequent service timetable. Make sure you get a car with functioning air conditioning. At the end of the day, you can relax in the afterglow and remember the remarkable things you have seen, and done, watch the sun set and drink a cooling ouzo…………


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At the end of the holiday, visit your favourite taverna and plan your next visit to Greece.

Technical notes

These photographs were all taken with my new Sony A7R, either the Zeiss 24-70 zoom, or the Zeiss 32mm prime. I have sold my Nikon 300S and its associated load and appreciate the lighter weight on my back! I am truly impressed by the quality of these images and have seen no sign of the well-documented camera shake at low shutter speeds, even with a 70-300 Nikon zoom, using an adapter and manual focusing.


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