Greece/Chios: Nea Moni Monastery

The biggest historical attraction on the island of Chios is the UNESCO-listed Nea Moni Monastery. The monastery was built in the mid 11th century during the Byzantine times and has some of the most stunning and well-preserved Byzantine mosaics in the world. The large monastery is located deep inland on the island, tucked away in the valley and surrounded by mountains. The monastery was built under the direct orders of emperor Constantine IX, first the main church in 1049 and then the rest of the walled complex by 1055. The monastery had a lot of preferential taxing rights granted to it and over the next 250 years became one of the richest monasteries in the Aegean, at one point it owned more than half of the land on Chios and had 800 monks in it. The prosperity however came to an end when Ottomans conquered Chios, laid siege to the monastery and eventually killed more then 2,000 people who had sought refuge in it. Many frescoes were destroyed, but quite a few have survived to today and are truly spectacular.