I have just finished reading L. Nixon's Making a Landscape Sacred: Outlying Churches and Icon Stands in Sphakia, Southwestern Crete. (Oxford 2006). She deals precisely with some of the issues that I am exploring with my work on Dream Archaeology (which is now far enough along to deserve capital letters). Her book has numerous interesting observations, many of which articulate observations that most anyone who has spent times looking at the churches in the Greek landscape might have. Her observations regarding the location of churches and their relationships to communities are perhaps overly schematic, but nevertheless helpful (see particularly, pp. 14-31). She notes the churches often represent boundaries of villages, access to resources, liminal locations, earlier important structures, or places of contact with supernatural forces. The final category, of course, draws upon the four previous -- the boundary between humans and the divine tends to be the thinnest at the borders of habitation and, as I have begun to articulate elsewhere, near earlier structures.
Reading Nixon's book sent me scrambling back through some of my field notes from a walk around the village of Korphos in the Summer of 2001. (For the most recent work in this area see: Saronic Harbors Exploration Project) These notes were recorded "on the fly" or during a short "cookie" break in my perambulations so they are clearly not the final word on this church and its landscape, but nevertheless evokes many of the same themes that appear in Nixon's work. I've added some notes in brackets:
"The small and relatively unremarkable church of Ay. Anna serves as a good example for expression of community in the ecclesiastical landscape. According to the lengthy inscription in fresco on the west wall of the church, the impetus for its construction was the appearance of the Theotokos and her mother Anna to a farmer from the village of Sophiko who had come to the vicinity of Korphos to work his fields. The village of Sophiko is some 5 km inland from the site of the church, but is a much more sizable settlement with many things Korphos lacks – such as an abundant supply of water, large stretches of arable land, and relatively easy lines of communications to the Argolid, communities in the western Korinthia and, the fertile plains of the Isthmus. The Panayia appeared two or three more times to the farmer and demanded that he build a church for her mother, Anna. The farmer did this and with a large group of priests from Sophiko, he dedicated the church in 1744. The painter of the walls hailed from the town of Adami in the Argolid. [For the text of this inscription see: T. A. Gritsopoulos, "Χριστιανικά Μνημεία της Περιοχής Σοφικού" Πελοποννησιακα (1975), 161-171]
The church sits outside of the village of Korphos, but its founder hailed from the larger settlement of Sophiko. The clergy associated with the church came from Sophiko and the inscription described the entire community of Sophiko as responsible for the churches construction. The painter of the fresco, however, declared his village of origin as Adami in the Argolid, thus associating himself with that community. The church is tied in spatial terms to the villages of Korphos and Sophiko, and in human terms to the villages of Sophiko and Adami. Other communities receive definition and realization here as well. On the exterior wall of the church an inscription offers the church for the salvation of the inhabitants of Sophiko. Also the priest Ioakim Nikoloas is mentioned and defined as the archpriest in the bishopric of Damala (Troezene) near Methana. [This part of the Korinthia was closely tied to the greater Saronic community of which Damala and Adami were part].
The role of the Virgin, interceding on behalf of her mother works to demonstrate the order of heaven and express it in human terms. The reference to the Virgin would have also almost certainly invoked an association of the small church of Hag. Anna with the more significant church of the Panayia of Stiri some two km distant on the opposite side of the village of Korphos. This elaborate cross-in-square type 12th century Byzantine church was clearly linked to a large and probably wealthy monastic community. The local villagers even today attest to the relationship between the church of Hag. Anna and the Panayia of Stiri*, and the latter church is further associated with the important monasteries at Chiliomodi and Agnountas in the northern Argolid. A single poorly maintained and unstudied 18th century church might hardly warrant even a passing notice in a traditional study of the ecclesiastical architecture, wall painting, or epigraphy of the region. When placed within the physical, human, and spiritual landscape of the region, however, this church, and others like it, opens an important window into the web of interconnected communities represented by the material culture of the Eastern Korinthia."
* [The story in rough outline: There is a story about the bells of Ay. Anna ringing incessantly one day and no one understood why. Eventually they figured out that the bells of Ay. Anna rang when the candles at the Panayia at Stiri went out -- a touching gesture of motherly affection between St. Anne and her daughter. For the Panayia at Stiri see: Orlandos, ABME 1 (1935), 1ff., M. Dixon, Disputed Territories: Interstate Arbitration in the Northeast Peloponnese, ca. 250-150 B.C., Unpublished Ph.D. Dissertation, Ohio State 2000, and Two New Byzantine Churches in the Corinthia?]
Here's a Google Earth kzm file with the location of these the two church mentioned above. Ay. Anna is along a route that ascends the northern side of the rugged valley inland toward Sophiko. This route was probably never the primary route between the two areas (for a long description of the routes in this region see Dixon, Disputed Territories).
I have more to say about this book... but I will save it for another post.