Churches & Monasteries
The photograph above is of the New Voulkano Monastery near Ithome before it was renovated
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The Church of Saint Theodora can be found just outside the village of Vasta near Megalopoli. It was built between the 10th and 12th centuries. According to tradition, the construction of the church is linked with the martyrdom of Theodora who was an 11th century Byzanite citizen born in the area of Ancient Melpeia.
When the area was raided by bandits, Theodora was determined to help defend her village, but as a woman she could not do so. Not to be deterred, Theodora secretly disguised herself as a male soldier in order to join the defence. Unfortunately, Theodora did not survive, and as she lay dying she spoke the following words:
"Let my body become a church, my hair a forest of trees, and my blood a spring to water them."
This small church supports 17 large trees that emerge from the roof and the walls of the church. Each tree weighs close to a ton and stand over 20 metres high. For hundreds of years, the roots have not been visible. Locals could not find a scientific explanation for this phenomenon. Many researchers have spent years studying the structure, even X-raying the walls, but had no explanation for the roots of the trees. In 2003, a geophysical report was presented at the 4th Symposium of Archaeometry in Greece. The results of this investigation proved that the roots follow the gaps existing inside the stone wall of the church creating avenues between the stones and thus reaching the ground.
The entire building is under considerable pressure due to the large load of the trees and it is a miracle that after hundreds of years, the chapel survives with no damage to the structure or to the trees. A spring comes out from underneath the chapel and irrigates the trees.
This ancient little church sits on the top of some huge unexplored caverns. About 40 years ago, a local land owner, Mitsios Papakostantinou, found three small statues in the unexplored caverns. The statues were claimed by the museum of Sparta.
The stone church of Agios Giorgios is in the area between Valira and Mavromati on the side of a mountain. It was built and is still being built with great care by George Kalogeropoulos, a master builder, on older church ruins in an wonderful landscape. As young man George, saw in a dream St. George the Triumphant who led him to a place which was the old village during the Turkish occupation, and showed him the ruins of the old church that was St. George. St George said in the dream" I want you to make this my home."
George says to him: "How can I do this? The field is not mine and I have no money." The saint replied:" He will help me. " In the morning George asked his mother if there had ever been a church in that area. At his mothers suggestion he found the ruins of the old church with difficulty because the place had become a forest.
One day he went to the house of the owner of the estate, where the ruins were located and asked the lady if she wanted to sell the field so that he could repair the church. The lady replied that if it was for the church she would donate the field.
After clearing the ruins George was thinking of building with concrete blocks or brick on the old foundations. Then St. George appeared again and said, "we will build it in stone." We bought material and in the morning began building."
Since that time over the years George the Master Builder has had many dreams of St George telling him what is to be built next. Cypress trees were planted, 10 in all but one did not grow, then came paving around the church, then 2 mosaics, a tower with 4 bells, and many other structures. The work is ongoing to this day.
The Church of Ypapanti - Kalamata
The Church of Ypapanti in the square with the same name is the Metropolitan Cathedral of Kalamata. It was founded in 1860 and inaugurated in 1873 very close to the location of the old church that was there until 1770 when it was burnt.
According to the legend the icon of the church was found in the ruins of the temple that was destroyed in 1770, when the groom of the Turkish Pasha had a stable there for his horses. He had a dream and in it he saw a woman telling him to dig in the stable to find the icon. Which he did.
This is why there is a stone cross to the southeast of the Church of Ypapanti at the point where it is considered to be the original altar with the inscription: "this plaque is reminiscent of sacred and sanctum".
The church belongs to the cruciform type with a dome and large narthex with two bell towers. It was severely damaged by earthquakes in 1886 and 1986 but was restored twice.
Agioi Apostoloi - Kalamata
Agioi Apostoloi is a Byzantine church, built in 1317 by the Emperor Andronikos in March 23 Square in the centre of Kalamata. On Wednesday, March 23 1821, Theodoros Kolokotronis, together with the other leaders and Greek warriors liberated Kalamata from the Turks and assembled with the population and the clergy in the square of Agio Apostoloi, where the first Christian mass was said on free Greek territory after 400 years of slavery. In this church the Greeks took an oath of loyalty to the revolution.
The church actually consists of two temples built five centuries apart as the two domes show. The first one in the eastern part of the church with free cross style was built in the late 11th to early 12th century and the second one with cross single room dome dates back to the Venetian rule of the late 17th to early 18th century. In the oldest part of Agioi Apostoloi are frescoes dating back to the 16th and 17th century, which have been preserved despite the extensive damage due to the earthquake in 1986. Agioi Apostoloi suffered considerable damage twice in its history: in 1884 when part of the bell tower collapsed because of an earthquake and in 1892 when the Byzantine frescoes were covered with lime. After the earthquake in 1986 the church was restored back to its original form.
Agios Nicolaos Flarios - Kalamata
Agios Nicolaos Flarios is located in the center of Kalamata. It is believed that it was founded in 1859 and its inauguration was in 1865. According to historians, the church was founded on the ruins of the older church of Agios Nicolaos Xenon.
The church has been deemed a building requiring special protection, it is a cross-shaped construction and a wonderful example of neoclassical architecture from the second half of the 19th century. As mentioned in the General State Archives the marble of Agios Nicolaos Flarios was brought from the island of Tinos.
The Kalograion Monastery - Kalamata
The Catholic Monastery of Kalograion is a vital part of the history of Kalamata and Messenia since for more than 200 years it had been a spiritual refuge for many young girls who chose the monastic life, and a warm and benevolent home to many orphans and abandoned children, especially after the German Occupation of Greece. After the earthquake of 1986 the nuns of the Monastery prepared food in the monastery's yard for over a year for hundreds of the city's inhabitants who had lost their homes.
The nuns are still active in the production of silk products, which gave both the nunnery, and Kalamata as a town, a reputation in the past. A walk through the peaceful courtyard and a look into some of the ground floor rooms reveals the looms still used to weave silk. Many items made in silk by the nuns are available in the shop of the monastery.
The Monastery maintains a treasury and museum where many Holy Relics of various Saints are kept, along with vessels, vestments, precious Icons and part of the old Templon, while its rich library contains many theological and other books.
Agios Athanassios - Kyparissia
The beautiful, stone laid church of Agios Athanassios is located at the entrance to the city of Kyparissia. It is a clean church with modern architecture, which is laid with beautiful stone. The architecture of Agios Athanassios blends the modern style with the local cultural one, creating a wonderful contemporary style church.
Church of the Annunciation of Virgin Mary
The Church of the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary is found on the road going down to the beach in Kyparissia. It is a beautiful, impressive church. Unfortunately the gates to the grounds were locked so I could not get any closer.
Agios Nikolaos - Kyparissia Harbour
The church of Agios Nikolaos was built by the fishermen of the harbor at the port of Kyparissia. It is a small rustic Greek church. Though small in size it in no way fails to impress with its architecture and interior decoration. It is one of the smallest churches I have ever seen but is very beautiful.
New Church of Stoupa
Until recently Stoupa's parish church was Agia Triada, however the the Orthodox Church felt that they needed something a bit more grand. Many locals argued that the money would be better spent on improving local amenities, such as the school, but what they have is a miniature concrete cathedral, which looks very like other new churches in Greece. It is floodlight at night even though it is not yet finished.
Agia Varvara - Kambos
The main church in Kambos is along the main road in the village. It is very impressive with a beautiful dome. Local associations present traditional dances and offer local dishes on December 4th, in celebration of the patron saint of Kampos, Saint Varvara.
Tseria is a mountainous village in the municipality of Western Mani at the foot of Mount Taygetos, 36 km southeast of Kalamata.
The main church is that of the Taxiarches - an eighteenth century building with many interesting folk-carvings over its external surface. The inside is whitewashed but there is a fine 18th/19th century carved iconostasis with icons including a full length depiction of the Archangel Michael.
The oldest houses in Tseria are dated after 1800 and are monuments to stone craftsmen. Indeed, the village was the centre for well known builders and stone masons. Today we can still see the places where the stone was mined. The main products of the region, apart from the extraordinary olive oil, are fine cheeses, sheep and goats
In Tseria is the church of the Archangels, built in 1836, with its splendid tower, which was built by Panagiotis Karamaneas in 1844 with its carved iconostasis.
The village ends at the edge of the Viros gorge. Tracks go along the gorge and there is a spectacular view over the higher reaches of the chasm and across to Exohori, which can be reached, on foot, by a footpath looping across the Gorge.
Agios Stefanos - Vasiliko
This small church has been here for a very long time and was build to honor Agios Stefanos. Locals claim that Kolokotronis was born on that specific location and that he was baptised on a font made of stone, somewhere beyond where the church stands. The path that leads to that font was unknown, even to the local people.
Agios Athanasius - Ano Melpeia
In Ano Melpeia is the stone church of Agios Athanasius, and the bust of a chieftain of the Greek Revolution. Mitropetrovas was born in 1745 (by other sources in 1738) in Garantza (today Melpeia) Messinia. He took part in the War of Independence, despite his advanced age, at the side of Theodoros Kolokotronis who he brought up after the death of his father. Kolokotronis called him "uncle". Mitropetrovas died on March 12, 1838.
Church of Saints Constantine and Helen in Androusa is a large stone built church. It is difficult to find out any information on this.
Agia Marina - Argos
The monastery of Agia Marina is located on the south side of the beautiful castle of Larissa near Argos. The small chapel was completely destroyed during the years of occupation by the Turks, but it was rebuilt and became a convent in 1972
The temple is a small basilica with icons of folk art from 1830-1870. The western wall of the temple is a partition wall of another building that was added later which serves as a refectory. New cells have been built to the southwest of the temple. Today four nuns live in the monastery headed by nun Blessed Mother Makaria .
Agios Giorgos - Nafplio
The Nafplio Cathedral has a long and colorful history. It was probably built sometime in the beginning of the 15th century, when the Venetians ruled in Nafplio. When the Turks took control, it was converted into a mosque. The Venetians came back, rebuilding it again to a Christian church, before the Turks once more changed it to a mosque. In 1822, when Nafplio was liberated, Agios Giorgos was converted to serve as an Orthodox church.
The church has beautiful frescoes and also a genuine royal throne. Otto, Greece's first king, who ruled the country from Nafplio in 1832 to 1834, used it when he attended mass here.
Agios Spyridon - Nafplio
This church built in the early 1700's, is not much to look at on the outside and the inside is plain, but distinctive and almost mysteriously dark. There is a small brass frame with a plaque above it to the right of the entrance door . It encases one of Greek history's most famous bullet holes. One Sunday in 1831, Ioannis Kapodistrias, Greece's first govenor, was on his way to mass in this church. Outside he met two of his opponents, the brothers Mavromichalis from Mani, known for its war loving inhabitants. The president and the brothers greeted each other then they picked up, respectively, a gun and a knife and killed Kapodistrias. And the bullet that allegedly shot him got stuck in the church wall.
Count Ioannis Kapodistrias, first head of state of newly liberated Greece, set foot on the Greek mainland for the first time in Nafplio on 7 January 1828 and made it the official capital of Greece in 1829.
Both brothers were executed, but the incident led to chaos in the newly created state of Greece. This is one of the reasons it was decided that a king would be able to calm tensions, and young Otto (1815 - 1867) was brought from Bavaria to do the job in 1832.
Agia Sophia - Koroni
In the centre of the castle of Koroni, next to the monastery of Saint John the Baptist are the ruins of a small cruciform basilica, the church of Saint Sophia. This church was built during the twelfth century on the foundations of the ancient temple of Apollo. Within the ruins, you can see the baptismal font, the stone steps of the pulpit and a niche of the Bema.
The name of the church, according to the the nuns and many locals is dedicated to Saint Sophia, the martyr, while according to others, to the Divine Wisdom (Sophia in Greek). In 1927, under the fortress walls of the town an icon was found with an image of Byzantine art, a representation of Saint Sophia of the 14th century.
Church of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary - Kalavryta
The Cathedral of Kalavryta stands in the central square and is called the Dormition of the Virgin Mary. It celebrates it Saints Day on August 15th. The church was built between 1730 and 1750 but on May 5th 1826 Ibrahim's army burnt down the town of Kalavryta and together with it the church. A serious effort to repair and improve the church took place after 1853 so is has been totally renovated, both inside and out, until it was destroyed again in 1943 by the Germans.
Right after the Liberation the town was rebuilt together with the Cathedral which was reopened as quickly as was possible. The new church is magnificent.
On the front of the church, to each side of the entrance are two bell towers with a large clock on each. The one on the south-side is functioning while the other one, on the north side has stopped at 2.34.
It has been stopped ever since the 13th of December 1943 at exactly the time when the destruction started. The people from Kalavryta choose to do this so out of respect. Below the historical clock in the middle of the bell-tower the Church Committee placed a marble inscription in Greek and English to inform the visitors to this town of the great disaster of 1943.
More will be written about this on the Out & About page.
Samarina - Kalogerorrachi
Church of the Virgin Zoodochos Pigi Samarina (Life Giving Source).
The church is one of the most beautiful Byzantine monuments of the Peloponnese, dating back to the 12th century, in the village Kalogerorrachi in an open area of a beautiful valley.
It was originally a Catholic church of the nunnery of Osia Mary of Egypt, but today the church of the village is dedicated to Zoodochos Pigi. It has been proven that the church was built over an ancient temple dedicated to the goddess Rhea.
It is a two-column domed cross-in-square building, it has three apses to the east while a bell tower was built later to the west. The choice of masonry and decorative brickwork make it an extremely artistic complex.
The wall paintings of the naos, which are partially preserved, reflect the so-called "academic" trend of the late 12th century. The outstanding marble sulpture of the emplon screen dates back to the second half of the 12th century and include the architrave which is decorated with animals and geometric motifs.
These are connected with the famous 'Samarina sculpture workshop' that has sculptures in the areas of Laconia and Arcadia also. Two elabrate marble shrines surmount the fresco representations of the Enthroned Christ and the Virgin with Child. The floor of the church is made of large marble slabs and marble inlays.
The restoration of the church was carried out from 11.11.2011 to 31.12.2013 and was financed by the NRF (National Strategic Refererence Framework) at a cost of 170,000E. The project incuded the recovering of the tiled roofs, the restoration of the decorative brickwork and the installation of new wooden doors.
The wall paintings were entirely restored and the marble templon screen was cleaned to restore its white colour and to preserve the traces of inlaid wax and mastic gum.
Not far from the church to the north and west stand the ruins of other buildings, presumably monastic cells, as well as a vauted Byzantine cistern, (photograph of the ruins of the cistern to the left). Nothing is known about the monastery's history, which in itself is remarkable.
The Church of the Transfiguration of the Saviour - Pylos
The Church of Transfiguration of the Saviour occupies a central position within the Pylos Fortress (Niokastro).Taking into account that the fortress was built around the year 1573, it seems that the church under discussion was initially erected as an Ottoman mosque during the reign of sultan Murad 111 (1573-1595).
However, in the period of Venetian rule (1685-1715) and during the short-lived ventures of the Orlov Revolt, in 1770, the Ottoman mosque functioned as a Christian church. According to new evidence, five construction phases can be identified.
The portico of the church stands on a platform and it is composed by a row of six piers supporting arches; the south pier was damaged. Arches connect the piers not only with each other, but also with the west wall of the monument, where they rest on pilasters.
Nowadays, a courtyard lies at the south, north and west side of the church, which is composed by a portico, the central nave; the base of the minaret is preserved at the southwest corner.
There are two external mihrabs and two windows on either side of the entrance; the windows had been walled-up, but they have been reopened.
At the southwest corner of the portico there is the facade and the entrance of the minaret, whose base merely survives nowadays. The minaret is built of neatly trimmed poros blocks. The church is square in plan (15x15m) with walls 2.15m thick. The building is 14m high measuring between the floor and the central dome.
Within the building, four large pillars support the central dome as well as four barrel vaults that radiate cruciformly from it. Over each compartment stands a blind dome that is lower than the central dome.
The project "Rehabilitation of the Church of Transfiguration of the Saviour" was introduced into the Operational Programme "Competitiveness and Enterpreneurship"of the National Strategic Reference Framework (NSRF) 2007-2013.
It was financed by Greece and the European Union and the budget was 1,400,000 euros and took 60.5 months. The project started in the second half of 2011 and was completed in the second half of 2015.
The project included the following tasks: covering the trial trenches, demolition of the building that was attached to the portico, dismantling of later alterations and removal of concrete and mortar coating, joint-filling and grouting, application of new mortar coating at interior, filling, using poros stones, rehabilitation and retiling of the roof, confinement of the central dome's drum.
Installation of: two 'repo crosses, wooden frames, rectangular metal frames and railings, metal and wooden beams, rehabilitation of the portico, which included the restoration of the south pier and the south blind dome, rehabilitation of: the belfry; the floors inside and outside the monument; repair and restoration of the minaret and the underground cisterns, preservation of the mihrabs and altarscreen, installation of poured floors along the north and east side of the monument, access for people with disabilities at the monument and electrical installation and installation of lamps.
Ipapanti the Saviour - Andania
Finally we come to our little village church which was built, (or maybe rebuilt) in 1886. The saints day of the church is celebrated on the 23rd August. This photograph was taken on the 27th December 2014.
There are many beautiful churches in the Peloponnese that I have not yet visited. Also it is difficult to see the interiors of a lot of the churches as most of them are locked unless there is a service taking place.
I have recently been made an honorary member of ecotourism-greece.
You can visit their page on the Church of Agia Theodora here. ECOTOURISM-greece.com
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