During the years of Ottoman rule in the Balkans, religion was an important part of people’s identity and everyday life. Social events surrounding birth, marriage and death as well as eating habits, mentalities and behaviours were all inextricably linked to religion and explain why churches in Metsovo played such a central role.
The Ottoman state allowed Christians and Jews to restore their churches and synagogues but forbade them from building new ones. Any restoration required a permit from the Ottoman authorities, issued both from the local civil judge (kadi) and from the central government in Istanbul.
In practice however, the Ottoman state proved to be quite pragmatic and flexible and often allowed the construction of new churches and synagogues, despite the official ban.
On May 17, 1617, Nikolaos Basdanis or Vlachonikolas from Metsovo, who had converted to Islam, was executed in Trikala for converting back to Christianity. He was given the title “New Martyr” and in 1800 a small chapel attached to the Monastery of Aghios Nikolaos was constructed in his honour.
In 19th century Epirus, woodcarving was practiced by small groups of carvers who travelled around looking for work. Metsovo carvers (taliadouroi) are famous for their elaborate iconostases that can be found in churches throughout the Balkans.