At the area of the village of Vounaina in Larissa and near the borders of the prefecture of Karditsa, at a beautiful location with elm trees, is one of the most important pilgrimages of Thessaly, dedicated to Agios Nikolaos the Young, who attracts flocks of believers from all over Greece.
The church is built at the location where the osios Nikolaos the Young became a martyr, who lived in the end of the 9th – beginning of the 10th century and he was an official at the Byzantine army in the area of Larissa. During the period of the Arab raids in Thessaly, he came into conflict with the Arab armies and, after they prevailed, he sought refuge to this area living next to the ascetics. He died as a martyr together with several of his soldiers and he was declared a saint sometime later. At the place where he died, at the roots of an oak tree, they buried him and initially there was a small church, built of local stone. At a later period, probably in the middle of the 18th century, they constructed next to it a larger church, which was destroyed by fire in 1880. During its construction, they added the four columns on its exterior and the roofed area alongside the side wall. This church was also destroyed by fire in 1962 and was reconstructed in the following year with donations and fund raisers, incorporating the area of the initial church.
The present day church is a modern building, and at its interior is the cenotaph of the saint and part from his sacred relic. The cenotaph is on the right of the entrance, a bit lower than the level of the church’s floor. At a nearby location, at the point where the oak tree stood under which the saint died, a small pilgrimage has been built. At the complex there have constructed modern, spacious hostels and auxiliary areas.
The traditional chapel of Agia Paraskevi is built in the rock, in the Tempi Valley.
The chapel is one of the most important pilgrimages in the area, with thousands of visitors each year. Particularly intense is the presence of pilgrims, on the 26th of July, during the feast of Agia Paraskevi, the protector of the eyes and the gypsies. In the same area there are two springs, “Daphne” and “Aphrodite”. There is the well-known church of Agia Paraskevi, built around 1910 by O.S.E. and the financed by the National Railway staff.
Next to the church exists a small cave, where is the original pilgrimage, and at the end of the cave from a hole in the rock springs the holy water of Agia Paraskevi. The cave is so small, that a single person can barely fit.
The iron pedestrian bridge you must traverse to visit the church was built in 1960, until then the believers were transported to the opposite side of the Pinios by boat or by a small wooden bridge.
OLD MONASTERY’S HISTORY
The Holy Monastery was founded by its founder as Patriarchal and Stavropegic and was dedicated to the Holy Trinity, following Divine revelation. Later on, the name of its founder predominated. St. Dionysios created a monument of rare architectural and aesthetic beauty, ideally integrated into the natural environment; built as a fortress, from stone and wood, on a natural fortified plateau
ARCHITECTURE OF THE OLD MONASTERY
The main church (Katholiko) is a cruciform Byzantine church of the Athonite type. It is surrounded by four chapels, creating an aesthetically functional ensemble. St. Dionysios΄ grave is located in the northwestern one, while the southwestern one is dedicated to St. Nikanor, a contemporary friend and co-ascetic of St. Dionysios.
The wings of the Holy Monastery΄s buildings and the watch tower complement its handsome architecture.
At the entrance of the Monastery, on the lintel, there is an extant fresco depicting St. Dionysios. On the ground floor of the northern wing, was housed the dining room and the kitchen, while on the floor, one can find cells and two chapels. On this floor was also housed the library and the abbot΄s quarters. To the northwest, there is still today a drinking fountain.
On the destroyed three-storey western wing, there were monks cells and on the southwestern corner, the bell-tower, with a clock on its upper part. The southern wing has two storeys and a basement. On this wing are preserved cells on the storeys. The cells are vaulted spaces of small dimensions, with low entrance.
Thanks to St. Dionysios΄ blessings, despite the numerous destructions, the Monastery has been enjoying continuous life and monks΄ presence for about 500 years. Due to St. Dionysios΄ personality, it soon became widely known and developed great spiritual activity, in line with its founder΄s pattern.
Centuries ago, the reputation of the old Monastery surpassed the boundaries of the Greek territory reaching Tsarist Russia.
Even today, thousands of people, coming from both neighboring and distant areas, come to worship and pray to the Saint.
The Monastery of St. Dionysios became integral part of Greece΄s long history, society and education. There was an organized icon painting workshop and manuscript transcription center, thanks to which many old texts have been preserved. The Monastery΄s school was attended by many pupils, including the areas΄ great chieftains, perhaps even Rigas Fereos.
The Monastery however was destined to be afflicted, suffer the price for its contribution to the education of the faithful, to the protection of traditions. In 1821, it was set afire by Veli Pasha, son of Ali Pasha. After a three-day battle, Hegumen Methodios Paliouras was hung along with another 12 monks at the central square of Larissa.
During the Olympus Revolt in 1878, the Monastery took again active part; by providing shelter to the women and children of Litochoro, it disrupted for the first time the entrance prohibition for women. The Metochion of Skala was used as replenishment and disembarkation station for the Greek fighters. During the Macedonian Struggle, it constituted again shelter for the fighters and replenishment station.
Despite all the successive natural or volitional destructions and the ceaseless pillages, the Monastery kept on protecting the inhabitants of Mt. Olympus under its sacred shadow.
RECONSTRUCTION AND MAINTENANCE
On April 29 (1943), a Thursday of the Easter week, a walking section of Germans climbed up to the Monastery and destroyed it, using explosives.
Today, after decades of desertion, the monks΄ and believers΄love for the Saint embrace the Monastery anew. The main church, the Katholikon, has been restored according to its initial plan.
The main concern of everybody, though, remains the full reconstruction of the wounded monastery; to become the same as it was in the past.
NEW MONASTERY’S HISTORY
Today, the visitor will find the new Monastery, at a height lower than the initial building, at the location of the old Metochion of Skala, built in 1650, at 3 km from Litohoro and 15 km from the old Monastery.Its main church is dedicated to the Assumption of the Mother of God. Its temple is adorned by the icons, painted in 1955 by the brilliant hagiographer Fotis Kontoglou.From 1989 on was restituted the Monastery΄s entrance prohibition for women, in line with the tradition bequeathed by St. Dionysios. Only men are allowed in the prohibited area. Here are located the monks΄ cells, the workshops, the dining room and the main church, where are celebrated the daily services.In the remaining area, where all believers are allowed, a new spectacular church, dedicated to St. Dionysios, was built, where the Divine Liturgy is celebrated every Sunday.
MUSEUM – LIBRARY
Amongst the new buildings of the Metochion of Skala stands out the Monastery΄s Museum, in the recently renovated old Abbot΄s quarters, which was inaugurated in 1999 by the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.
Its first floor operates today as Library and Study, with many remarkable publications. On the ground floor valuable heirlooms are exhibited. Hidden for three years, in a vault of the old Monastery, they were also preserved thank to the monks΄ provision.
An epitaph of 1579, many holy relics in elaborate silver cases, carven crosses, icons dating back to the 16th century or later, patriarchal sigilliums, a Russian imperial golden bull of 1692, canonicals of the 18th & 19th centuries, twenty manuscripts (1 parchment and 19 paper) and about one hundred inculabulars and printed books from 1574 to 1900 speak eloquently of the Monastery΄s past and brilliant history, for the tireless works of men that prove in the coming centuries the brilliance of the Christian Orthodox art.
The Monastery of Timios Prodromos of the Skete of Veria is built on the green foothills of Pieria mountains and it has a view of the wonderful Aliakmonas river. It is 20kms away from Veria.
It is one of the most historic monastic centres of Macedonia. It has been working as a skete since 9th century, while it started working as a Monastery in the 14th century. It had a special splendour as very important Saints of our Orthodox church became hermits there or passed from the Monastery, like Grigorios Palamas, Dionysius of Olympus, Theonas, Kosmas Etolos, Athanasios Parios, Saint Antonios (the Patron Saint of Veria) and Saint Theophanis (the Patron Saint of Naousa).
In 1822, the Monastery was set on fire and was completely destroyed by the Turks. The only building that survived was the chapel of the Metamorphosis of Jesus Christ on the rock. The Monastery was being restructured until 1835. It was restored lately and now there are 4 monks.
In the Monastery, a lot of holy relics are kept like Ioannis Prodromos’ (his fingers), Saint Ioannis Chrysostom’s, Charalambos’, Trifon’s, Barbara’s, Kosmas’s and Damianos’, Dionysius Areopagitis’, Artemios’ Luke the apostle’s etc…
aint Klimis, the bishop of Ohrid, (27/8) was born and bred in the Monastery. His holy head has been located here since the 12th century, according to his own wish. It also exudes myrrh.
The famous pilgrimage of Panagia Soumela is found in the village of Kastania which is on Vermio mountain (in Veria, Macedonia). It was founded in 1951 as a continuation of the abbey that had the same name and for 16 centuries it was the symbol and the spiritual center of Pontiac Hellenism.
The Monastery, which was meant to be a spiritual center for the Pontic Greeks, was founded in 386 AD by two monks, after the revelation of Virgin Mary, in a cave of the steep mountain Mela of Trapezounta, at an altitude of 1063m. We will climb “sou Mela your Panaian”, said the Pontiacs and that is why this name of Virgin Mary prevailed. Her miraculous icon, which was drawn on wood by Luke the Evangelist, the water with healing properties from which the Monastery irrigated and the gushes through a granite rock were sign marks for the Monastery.
The help which the Emperors of Byzantium offered to the Monastery was great. At the same time, during the Turkish occupation, the Sultans respected it and helped it. The barbaric and disrespectful behavior of the young Turks and Kemalists to the Monasteries of the Pontiacs resulted in the complete destruction of the Monastery in 1922, while the Monks fled away.
Before the uprooting and forced Exodus (sortie) of 1923, they hid the icon along with the priceless holy wood cross of Manuel Komninos III and a hand-written Gospel of Saint Christoforos in the chapel of Saint Varvara. In 1931, after the intervention of Eleftherios Venizelos, the two remaining living monks of the historical Monastery left from Thessaloniki and went to Pontus, exhumed the relics and brought them to Greece.
In 1951, the construction of the new Panagia Soumela monastery at Vermio started. This Monastery is the symbol and the lighthouse of the Pontiacs in Greece. In this, there is also the icon along with other relics. In the Monastery, there are ten guestrooms, a restaurant, a square, a parking lot, tourist kiosks etc.
Every year, on August 15th, on the day of the Dormition of Virgin Mary, thousands of visitors (Pontiacs or not) from all over Greece, flock at Panagia Soumela in order to worship and attend events held in the area.
The Monastery of St. Anastasia is located at the southern foot of Mount Omvrianou, in Hortiatis area, near the town of Vasilikon, Thessaloniki.
It was built in honor of St. Anastasia who was martyred in 304 AD during the persecutions of Diocletian.
According to tradition founded by Empress Theophano, wife of Leo StSofou (866-912), 888 AD. In 1522 the monk Theonas (later Metropolitan of Thessaloniki St.) founded the present monastery, on the site of old ruins.
During the second half of the 16th century it reaches its peak, hosting about 300 monks, but was destroyed in 1789. It was established in 1522 by Saint Theonas, Metropolitan Bishop of Thessaloniki, on the position of an older church, probably belonging to the Monastery of Chortaitos which is said to have been founded by Emperor Leon VI, The Wise, in the 9th century.
There was a significant contribution of the monastery in the Revolution of 1821 and was destroyed again along with other villages in the repression of the revolution on June 12, 1821.
The Monastery of St. John the Theologian is situated in the village Souroti, 20km away from the airport of Thessalonica. On July 12th 1994, Elder Paisios reposed and was buried at the Monastery, next to the church of St Arsenios the Cappadocian.
The convent is dedicated to Saints John the Theologian and Arsenios the Cappadocian, whereas it is popular to the whole world because in it, next to the Catholicon, lies the grave of Saint Paisios the Athonite.
The nuns of the monastery had Saint Paisios as their spiritual leader. Saint Paisios fell asleep in the Lord on July 12, 1994. Since then, every year on 11 and 12 of July, on the saint’s memory, a vigil is conducted with the participation of thousands of believers from all Greece and even from abroad.
In the impressive Catholicon lie the holy relics of Saint Arsenios the Cappadocian. The monastery was founded in 1972 and has approximately 60 nuns.