All posts tagged: travelblog

Monasteries and Churches of Greece

With 97% of the country comprised of Greek Orthodox members, it’s no wonder there’s an abundance of historic monasteries and churches with generations of monks, nuns, and priests who have preserved the Greek language, culture, and religion. Greek Orthodox monasteries stretch across the countryside in some of the most beautiful locations imaginable—some balanced atop steep rocks with others burrowed in lush, green valleys and olive groves. Many of these monasteries were built centuries ago by hermits and monks in an effort to escape religious persecution. During Greece’s most troubling times, monasteries offered safety and comfort to the people of Greece. In addition to the monasteries, visitors will find countless Orthodox churches, packed with holy icons and whose architecture reflect particular regions of Greece and the period in which they were built. Some of the oldest date back to the Byzantine era (330-1453 A.D.). The architecture and the earthly tones of the churches on the Ionian Islands like Corfu, Lefkada, and Zakynthos were heavily influenced by the Venetians during the 15th century. Santorini, Tinos, Milos, and …

Monastery of St. John the Baptist, Megara

The first Greek Orthodox Monastery I ever visited was the Monastery of St. John the Baptist, above Megara, Greece. I was traveling through Greece with my family in the summer of 2003, just a 12-year-old with her mind preoccupied with thoughts of home and concerned about what I would wear for my first day of junior high school upon my return from Greece. When my family got to the Monastery of St. John, we were invited to stay overnight, a rare treat offered to very few people. That night is forever cemented in my memory, and sparked my interest in monasteries. It was at St. John’s where I learned to live in the present. During our stay, I learned the monastery was founded in 1960 by a nun who was first drawn to the site over two decades prior. This nun would spend her Sundays visiting and praying at local churches in the hills throughout the Megara region, walking great distances from her home and back each week. By the time my family visited, the monastery …

Agia Lavra and Mega Spileo Monastery

“EIPHNH”—Peace. “OXI PIA POLEMOI”—No more war.  I pause, frozen, for what seems like eternity whenever I stare at these words cast in huge white letters on a quiet hillside in the Northern Peloponnese region of Greece. At the top of the hill, a large cross overlooks the city below, and a date reads 13-12-43. All serve as messages of peace and symbols of the martyrdoms that took place there.   On December 13, 1943, Kalavryta experienced one of the worst atrocities of World War II. On that day, Nazi soldiers locked women and children in the town’s school and set it on fire. Soldiers took over 500 males from Kalavryta and surrounding villages to that quiet hillside. German soldiers lay in wait in the surrounding brush. On command, the soldiers fired at the unarmed mass of men, killing all but 13.  Today, a stone monument stands tall in memoriam and lists the names and ages of the dead. The first time I visited Kalavryta with my family, both my brothers wept as they stared up at the monument, seeing …

Holy Trinity Monastery, Aegina

Saint Nektarios, the patron saint of Aegina, was recognized as a saint in 1961, making him one of the most recently canonized saints in the Greek Orthodox church. A philosopher and writer, Saint Nektarios became widely known as a healer and was particularly sought out by persons suffering from heart disease and cancer. Having lost my own Yiayia (grandmother) Metos to cancer in 1996, visiting this monastery has always held special meaning for me. Saint Nektarios is now considered a “walking saint,” meaning a saint who appears regularly to the faithful in dreams or visions, and continues to do so today. Until his death in 1920, Saint Nektarios lived in the Holy Trinity Monastery, which he established, and where many nuns continue to reside today. The monastery sits high on a hill, overlooking the more modern Saint Nektarios church at the base of that hill. The panoramic views from Holy Trinity Monastery stretch all the way to the sea. Start your visit at the monastery, where you can explore the very room where Saint Nektarios …