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Zoodochos Pighi Monastery, Poros -

  • Monastery on Kalavria Island, Poros.
  • Built in 1726-1732 by Bishop Jacob B' of Athens.
  • Sacred Source / Spring near Monastery.
  • Funded by wealthy Greeks, possibly Hydriote.
  • Seminary, now largely retirement home for monks.
  • Chapel has remarkable altarpiece and Icons.
  • Graves of Admirals Tombazi and Apostoli and Miaoulis family.
  • Concealed Greek resistance fighters in Second World War.
  • George Seferis's 'Finest Walk in Poros'.
  • Excellent monastic souvenir shop.
  • Regular buses from Poros and Askeli.
  • Beach and Tavernas a short walk downhill.


Introduction...

This page on Zoodochos Pighi Monastery summarises the writer's research, but is likely to be added to as more research takes place. Visitors are strongly recommended to visit this Monastery but must be prepared to cover their arms and legs, in keeping with Orthodox traditions. Please note that services are only open to communicants of the Greek Orthodox faith.

Founding of the Monastery :

The exact date is uncertain, but the tradition was that the Metropolitan (Bishop) of Athens, Jacob B' (Metropolitan 1713-1734) visited Kalavria and was cured of a gallstone by drinking water from a local spring. In gratitude, he used some of his own wealth - and that of local Greek Christian families - to endow the Monastery. Apparently the monastery has records as early as 1739 of the monastery's existence. Documents issued by Patriarch Paisios B' (Patriarch 1726-1733) that subordinate the Monastery (stavropigiaki) to Athens. The style of construction and the references in documents indicate that the likeliest foundation date was 1726-1732.

Construction and Funding...

The layout of the monastery is a rectangle with the cruciform chapel in the middle. The basement windows are slits or loopholes, indicating that ventilation and safety from attack were important, with windows on the upper levels. Although the basement and ground floor are built of fairly heavy masonry, the upper section is mainly of local cedarwood, indicating that weight may have been a consideration. The actual roof timbering is a mixture of fir and chestnut. There is a walled cemetery to the east of the monastery, with its own small chapel. The entry gate and passageway to the monastery is flanked by stone benches, in the past used by the poor seeking alms at the monastery.

Funding for the monastery may have been partly by a grant from Jacob B', but the main part may have come from wealthy merchants, mostly based in Hydra or Spetses. The evidence for this is the graves in the porch of the monastery chapel, some dating from the early to mid 1800s. At that time, the merchants of Spetses, Hydra, Aegina and Psara, were making a lot of money from shipping goods either to and from the area or through it to elsewhere. A mixture of piety and display may have made it worthwhile to sponsor Monasteries, which was one of the few expressions of Greek culture permitted under Ottoman rule. A key piece of evidence is an 1804 dedicatory tablet set in the black and white marble floor, which was paid for by the shipowners and sailors of the island of Poros. The Byzantine double-eagle in the floor is a very definite cultural statement, showing that the Church felt confident enough to display it.

Although at one time the monastery was a seminary for monks and priests, since the start of the twentieth century it has gradually declined, now being mostly a residence for retired monks and priests.




The Chapel :

The chapel is more recent than the rest of the Monastery, but it contains an icon of the Holy Source (Zoodochos Pighi) dating from 1650 - well before the monastery's date of foundation.

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Miaouli Family Grave
Miaouli Family Grave
Admiral M. Tombazi Grave
Admiral M. Tombazi Grave
Admiral N. Apostoli Grave
Admiral N. Apostoli Grave

Revolution and War :

Zoodochos Pighi does not appear to have had as turbulent a time as did some other Greek religious foundations, possibly because of its position at the heart of the area controlled by the Rebellion's naval forces; it is notable that the attempt by Egyptian and Algerian forces to depopulate the Morea (Peloponnese) concentrated on areas further south and west. The grave of Admiral Apostoli who survived the massacre of Psara, and the grave of Admiral Tombazi of Hydra, are two notable relics of the Liberation of Greece.

The 1831 Battle of Poros is a disturbing event and it has left its mark. The family of Admiral Miaoulis have their grave in Zoodochos Pighi chapel porch, although the largest monument to the renegade/hero Admiral is in Hydra itself. Much later, the Second World War saw Greek resistance fighters running a radio station on Kalavria. It is said that the huge cypress beside the Chapel hid partisans when the Germans came to unsuccessfully search the monastery.

Byzantine Double-Headed Eagle,Zoodochos Pighi Church
Byzantine Double-Headed Eagle
Sacred Source Fountain
Sacred Source Fountain
The Fountain and the Aghia Anastasia
The Fountain and the Aghia Anastasia

The Sacred Source and the Aghia Anagiri (Anastasia)...

Visitors to the Monastery may wonder where the Sacred Source spring is, the answer being that it is about a hundred metres uphill from the road opposite the monastery. The spring survives still, either trickling or gushing from a lion's head spout at the roadside opposite the Monastery; the monks apparently closed in the source further up the hill and piped the water to a more convenient location. During early June 2006 the Poros water supply was briefly contaminated, so the canny locals turned up with water-carriers and loaded up from the Sacred Source.

A small chapel to Aghia Anagiri stands to one side of the lion's head fountain, whilst on the other there is a small cafe with a polite proprietor. The little chapel, according to the helpful priest in the souvenir shop, is dedicated to Saint Anastasia. It is not clear why it was needed, but presumably local people could worship there when the monastery was kept closed to the laity.

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© 2006 Richard Edkins, Dalbeattie Internet.