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Monastery of Panagia Orthokosta

LISTED historical monument by Ministerial Decree ΥΠΠΟ/ΑΡΧ/Β1/Φ30/7236/201/16-2-1996 (Government Gazette 193/Β/22-3-1996)

LOCATION – ROUTE

The monastery of Panagia Orthokosta (or Artokosta), one of the earliest and most characteristic of Kynouria’s monastic centres, retains its traditional appearance. Located twelve kilometres from Agios Andreas, 52 kilometres from Leonidio, and 21 kilometres from Astros, the monastery was built on a truly “pleasant and appropriate site”, as stated in a 1617 sigillion, surrounded by the tall mountain peaks of Stoi, Klinovas, and Schinos. Its north side faces the Vrasiatis valley, while the others overlook a lush landscape. A huge walnut tree shades the large flat area in front of the entrance.

The monastery belongs to the Municipality of Prastos. Currently under the jurisdiction of the Archbishopric of Mantineia and Kynouria, it was, in the Middle Ages, subordinate to the Archbishopric of Monemvasia and the Bishopric of Reon and Prastos.

There are two monasteries by the same name dedicated to the Virgin: the current, operational nunnery of Orthokosta (or Artokosta) and the derelict Byzantine monastery, also known as ‘Kato Panagia’, located three kilometres to the northeast, between the Byzantine town of Prastos and the modern town of Agios Andreas. The later name ‘Kato Panagia’ (Lower Panagia) was probably given to the Byzantine monastery after its monks abandoned it and moved further up the slope. Kato Panagia is located on the right hand side of the way up from Agios Andreas, in the Vrasiotis (or Vrasiatis) valley, at a site called Vrysi, after a fountain of the Ottoman period.

 

NAME

The names Artokosta and Orthokosta both exist in oral tradition. Artokosta appears on the revetment of an icon of the Virgin known by the name La Beata Vergine nelle Grazie, which has been connected to the monastery since the distant past and is now in the church of San Samuele in Venice: “Mother of God the Artokosta” (Μήτηρ Θεού η Αρτοκωστά). A dedicatory inscription celebrating the monastery’s restoration in 1424/25 also mentions the name Artokosta. A 1617 sigillion, however, refers to the site by the name Orthokotza, whereas three other sigillia use the names Orthokotza and Orthokosta – the latter being the scholarly form that prevails to this day. Artokosta appears again in a 1663 document and in a 1774 dedicatory inscription celebrating the restoration of the monastic dependency of the Evangelismos. The 1828 monastic code mentions the monastery by the names Eortakousti and Orthokosta.

Based on the study of Venetian documents, Maria Theocharis suggested that the toponym Artokosta may derive from the names Escorta or Scorta mentioned in the Chronicle of the Morea. According to a different interpretation, the name Orthokosta reflects the particularities of the landscape in which the monastery was built, namely the steep coastline (ortho+costa=vertical slope). The later epithet Eortakousti is probably the product of scholars and patriarchal scribes, who combined the words eorti (=feast, celebration) and akousti (=well known) and came up with a third, more scholarly name (Eortakousti = well known for its feasts) in an effort to explain the toponym’s etymology.

 

THE MONASTERY’S ELDERLY

When Diana Antonakatou and Takis Mavros visited the Orthokosta monastery in the summer of 1969, they found three elderly monks sitting on a bench. The report of their encounter is characteristic:

“Old age, loneliness, and illness of the body and soul made them impotent before the feeling of infinite compassion wrought by the helplessness of elderly man. It is strange but true that their inability to cope with the smallest acts of self-conservation turns old men into small children, abandoned in their incapacity. Old women are never helpless. They fight till the end for a place in the household, in the meaning of the unnecessary, in their interest for decoration. At old age, their self-sufficiency makes them the ‘powerful sex’ …  We saw elderly nuns, all alone … But they never let us pity them for their loneliness or their old age. The elderly monks at Artokosta were Jeremiah, who was over eighty years old, his legs almost paralyzed; Paisios, of the same age, half paralyzed and demented; and Sophronius, 75, who looked after the other two. The Artokosta monastery did not owe them any display of beauty … It did owe them, however, its form, which had been preserved without ‘interventions’, aged but not soul-less … We last saw Jeremiah in heavy winter. He was sitting weary by the dim fireplace in his unkempt cell, trying to cook bean soup, waiting for Sophronius who had gone up the mountain to pick wood. He was mixing the bean soup with a beautiful wooden spoon, which he had carved years earlier. He was talkative, with a resonant voice and hearty laughter, full of memories, rosy-cheeked, jolly, and pitiful. When Sophronius returned half-frozen from the mountain, he sat by the fire for a while. He began recounting his own memories of 1941 and the German occupation. In a low voice, interrupted now an then by a small untimely laugh, he told us that he was taken hostage and held with the women and children inside the church of Phaneromeni at Andritsaina … We never saw Jeremiah again. He died in 1977.”

 

HISTORICAL EVIDENCE

Panagia Orthokosta is one of the monasteries that were looted, desecrated, destroyed, and abandoned during the dramatic events that followed the fall of Constantinople and led to the establishment of the Turks in the Peloponnese in 1460. An early eighteenth century codex of the current monastery of Orhtokosta, which refers to Kato Panagia as the ‘earlier’ building, suggests that the monastery was originally built on the site of a now derelict church (on the right hand side before reaching the new monastery, three kilometres to its northeast). The original monastery was abandoned, possibly after its destruction by the Ottomans, and the monks founded a new one on the site of the current monastery in the seventeenth century.

The new monastery was founded in 1617, when Patriarch Timothy II of Constantinople issued the relevant sigillion, which even mentions the founder Nikolaos Belokas. The monastery also applied for the stavropegial privilege in that year. Patriarchal documents now in the Loukou monastery provide information on the Orthokosta monastery. The founder Nikolaos Belokas was probably from a noble family of Prastos. He became a monk, took the name Nikephoros, and died in the monastery in 1630, as mentioned in an inscribed plaque (0.45 × 0.60) built into the church’s south wall over a vernacular style decorative panel.

Patriarch Ioannikios II renewed the monastery’s stavropegial privilege in 1647-1648. According to surviving inscriptions, the upper monastery’s refectory was completed in 1701 and Kato Panagia was built in 1711 under Abbot Isaiah with donations from the Trouchanis brothers of Prastos. By the early eighteenth century, the monastery’s vast estate reached as far as Geraki and the Malevos peak. The monastery owned land with a church and houses at Gialos, both towards Agios Andreas and the coast of Tyros. In 1714, Abbot Isaiah renovated the small church of the Annunciation in the monastery’s dependency near Agios Andreas Kynourias, according to an inscription inside the church. Other inscriptions relate that the tower and cells in the same dependency were renovated in 1715, and that Orthokosta tower and cells were renovated in 1727. Albanians burnt the monastery (probably the lower one) in 1770.

During the Greek War of Independence, the Tsakonian monasteries located near the revolutionary centres (Prastos, Tyros, Sitaina, Leonidion) took part in the preparatory actions and subsequent 1821 uprising. Abbot Ioasaph Kanestras of the Orthokosta monastery equipped and maintained an armed party of fifty with monastery funds. Kanestras and his army took part in the Tripoli assault and the siege of Nauplion; three monks died in battle. Ibrahim Pasha burnt the upper monastery in 1826, destroying the church donated by Belokas. The current katholikon (main church) was built by contractor Georgios Andreou in 1864 and cost 8,800 drachmas.

In the early twentieth century, Orthokosta had twenty monks and an annual budget of 15,000 drachmas. Only three elderly monks were left by 1970. In 1982, it became a nunnery.

 

PHASES / DATE OF THE OLD AND NEW MONASTERIES 

Old monastery (Kato Panagia) – Phase A: 

Twelfth century or Post-Byzantine period: The monastery may have been founded in the twelfth century, since the icon of the Virgin Hodegetria inscribed with the monastery’s name, now in the church of San Samuele, Venice, probably dates from this period.

1380-1383: Earliest decorated silver revetment of the icon of the Virgin by John Kantakouzenos.

1424-25: Inscription mentioning the monastery’s renovation during the reign of Emperor John Palaiologos, under Abbot Theodoulos, monk and archimandrite, with donation by Antonios Sarantaris.

1460: Possible destruction of Kato Panagia; monastery closed and the icon of the Virgin transferred to Nauplion.

1540: The icon of the Virgin taken to Venice.

 

Old monastery (Kato Panagia) – Phase B (Venetian Period, 1711): 

1711: According to an inscription in the exonarthex of the new monastery’s katholikon, the old monastery was rebuilt in 1711 during the Venetian period with donations from the noble brothers Ioannis, Konstantis, and Georgis Trouchanis and the collaboration of Abbot Isaiah.

 

The monastery restored by the Paleologues is not the current one, but that of Kato Panagia, as clearly stated in the monastic codex of 1729. The remains of the old monastery (Kato Panagia) are located a half-hour walk from the current monastery, near the site of Vrysi, named for a Turkish fountain. They consist of a church and some derelict cells in the southwest corner. The inscription in the new monastery’s katholikon refers to work done on both monasteries (old and new) in 1711 under the Venetians. Various documents suggest that the Venetians took great care of the monastery, probably acknowledging like the Paleologues before them its great strategic importance. The renovated church was probably burnt by Albanians in 1770.

 

New monastery – Phase A (1617 – 1826): 

This monastery replaced the Byzantine monastery of Kato Panagia, which was probably destroyed in 1460 or later. Issued by Patriarch Timothy II, the earliest preserved sigillion concerning the monastery states that the nobleman Nikolaos Belokas from the province of Nauplion and Argos paid for the construction of a new church and wrote to the Patriarchate asking that the monastery be granted the stavropegial privilege.

The monastery and Beloka’s katholikon were damaged during a fire set by Ibrahim Pasha in 1826. Very little survived: the icon of the Virgin, now on the adoration stand; the templon icons of 1698, which were restored by the painter A. Iliou of Argos in 1872 (υπό του Α. Ηλίου, ζωγράφου εξ Άργους); and part of the paved floor, in which the central plaque bears a two-headed eagle surrounded by an inscription that dates the pavement to 1627 and mentions the artisan Ioannis, the donor Stamatios Belokas, and Abbot Dionysios (αχκζ΄ Εστρώθη ο ναός | ούτος διά χειρός Μαστροϊωάννου | διά εξόδου του τιμιωτάτου κυρ Σταμ | ατίου Μπελώκα και | ηγουμενεύοντος Διονυσίου | ιερομονάχου).

The energetic Abbot Isaiah was, according to inscriptions, responsible for the restoration of the monastery’s buildings and dependencies. The inscriptions, which date from 1701 to 1727, mention the restoration of the monastery’s tower and refectory, and the church and tower of the Evangelismos (Annunciation) dependency near Agios Andreas.

 

New monastery – Phase B (1865 to present): 

The new Orthokosta monastery flourished its foundation until the Greek War of Independence. It contributed greatly to the Greek cause before and during the Greek uprising of 1821 by providing food and shelter to the combatants and by supporting the civilians. Ibrahim Pasha’s men burnt the monastery in reprisal in 1826, as stated in the inscription inside the katholikon’s narthex.

A new church to replace the one Ibrahim burnt was put up for bids and assigned to contractor Georgios Andreou by decree of the Ministry of Ecclesiastical Affairs (n° 11337, 30 January 1864) for 8,800 drachmas. The church was completed on October 9, 1865; the early katholikon’s marble floor (inscribed 1627) was preserved.

After Greek independence the monastery contributed “300 five-drachma coins” for the construction of schools. In subsequent years, the number of monks diminished; twenty lived in the monastery in the early twentieth century, and three elderly monks remained in 1970. The monastery was revived after the establishment of a sisterhood in 1982.

 

ARCHITECTURE

1. OLD MONASTERY

The ruins of the original monastery are located on the slopes of a gorge on Mount Parnon. They comprise the katholikon (main church), an elongated building to the west, and sections of the double fortification wall that surrounded the monastery. Two hundred metres to the southeast on a bend in the modern road is a later fountain, which combines Venetian and Ottoman features.

The old monastery’s katholikon

The katholikon preserves part of its three-sided sanctuary apse, the north wall, and most of the west wall. The south wall (from the diakonikon to the southwest corner) is preserved to the height of the apse window. The apse features a type of cloisonné masonry with ashlar limestone blocks in isodomic courses alternating with bricks. The remains of cells of the earliest construction phase occupy the site’s southwest corner. These were carefully built of stone rubble and bricks with large quantities of lime mortar. A strong, tall wall surrounded the katholikon and cells, defining a large area with courtyards, terraces, and all the spaces necessary for orderly monastic life.

The column, which, according to the new monastery’s last abbess, supported the altar table, may have come from the old katholikon’s altar table. Architectural elements (doorjambs, lintels, column bases, roof tiles, bricks, timber frames, and sections of walls), preserved either in situ or in heaps of ruins, reveal multiple construction phases. Systematic excavation and study of the available material will clarify the site’s architectural history.

 

2. NEW MONASTERY

An enclosure wall surrounds the traditionally rectangular monastic complex, which consists of ground floor and two-storied buildings on all four sides with the katholikon at the centre. A vaulted passage connects the entrance on the east side with the courtyard. The monastery also featured a tower, which, according to an inscription, was renovated in 1727 at the expense of Archbishop Kallinikos Kontostavlos of Anchialos.

 

The new monastery’s katholikon

The new monastery’s original katholikon was built in 1617 and decorated with wall paintings by Christodoulos Kallergis (1698) and the monk Anatolios (1796). Ibrahim Pasha burnt down this katholikon in 1826. The new church erected on the same site a few decades later preserves its predecessor’s icons and schist floor. The latter features a central plaque (1.10 × 1.10 metres) with a relief two-headed eagle surrounded by an inscription, which mentions the date 1627. Three reliefs in the vernacular style, with hexagonal frames, decorate the north, south, and west sections of the original floor: a lion before a stylized tree, a winged feline and a bird feeding its nestlings, and a unicorn under a tree. Floral motifs fill the background on all three reliefs.

The current katholikon, erected in 1864, is dedicated to the Dormition of the Virgin. It is a four-column cross-in-square church, 13.00 metres long and 9.00 metres wide, with a hexagonal dome and a narthex. The main entrance is on the west side with a secondary arched entrance on the south. Six arched windows on the dome, two windows on each of the drums of the north, south, and west cross arms, and the small windows in the sanctuary illuminate the church. The church features a three-sided sanctuary apse and an imposing two-storied belfry with double arches and pediments rising against the southwest corner. A relief depicting a lion is built into the wall above the south door; two inscribed marble plaques flank the main door of the west façade.

Masonry pillars support the dome and divide the naos into three naves. A simple carved wooden templon separates the naos from the sanctuary. The templon features interesting icons, which were salvaged from the old katholikon; they date to 1692 but were probably repaired in 1872. Recent wall paintings depicting saints and religious scenes decorate the interior. Several inscribed plaques mentioning the various restorations of the cells, tower, refectory, etc, are built into the walls.

 

INSCRIPTIONS

A large marble plaque built into the katholikon’s west façade, north (left) of the entrance, features a dedicatory inscription, which relates that the church was built anew in 1864, after its predecessor was burnt down by the Egyptian troops of Ibrahim Pasha. The church was built under Abbot Gregorios Toupiklis Bouloukos of Prastos and Archbishop Theophanis of Mantineia and Kynouria, during the reign of King George I, son of King Christian of Denmark. The inscription reads:

 

Ο ΠΕΡΙΚΑΛΛΗΣ ΤΑΝΥΝ ΟΥΤΟΣ ΙΕΡΟΣ ΝΑΟΣ ΤΗΣ ΣΕΒΑΣΜΙΑΣ ΙΕΡΑΣ ΜΟΝΗΣ ΟΡΘΟΚΩΣΤΑΣ ΤΙΜΩΜΕΝΟΣ ΕΠΟΝΟΜΑΤΙ ΤΗΣ ΚΟΙΜΗΣΕΩΣ ΤΗΣ ΥΠΕΡΑΓΙΑΣ ΔΕΣΠΟΙΝΗΣ ΗΜΩΝ ΘΕΟΤΟΚΟΥ ΠΥΡΠΟΛΗΘΕΙΣ ΚΑΤΑ ΤΗΝ ΕΝ ΠΕΛΟΠΟΝΝΗΣΩ ΕΧΘΡΙΚΗΝ ΕΠΙΔΡΟΜΗΝ ΤΟΥ ΑΙΓΥΠΤΙΟΥ ΙΜΒΡΑΗΜ ΠΑΣΑ ΤΩ Α Ω Κ ΣΤ ΕΤΕΙ ΚΑΙ  ΚΑΤΑΠΕΣΩΝ ΟΥΤΟΣ ΑΝΗΓΕΡΘΗ ΕΚ ΒΑΘΡΩΝ ΓΗΣ ΤΩ Α Ω Ξ Δ ΣΩΤΗΡΙΩ ΕΤΕΙ ΔΙΟΛΩΝ ΕΞΟΔΩΝ ΤΗΣ ΙΔΙΑΣ ΜΟΝΗΣ ΕΓΚΡΙΣΕΙ ΤΗΣ ΚΥΒΕΡΝΗΣΕΩΣ ΚΑΙ ΔΙΑ ΤΟΥ ΑΚΑΜΑΤΟΥ ΚΑΙ ΕΝΘΕΡΜΟΥ ΖΗΛΟΥ ΤΟΥ ΤΟΤΕ ΗΓΟΥΜΕΝΕΥΟΝΤΟΣ ΙΕΡΟΜΟΝΑΧΟΥ ΚΥΡΙΟΥ ΓΡΗΓΟΡΙΟΥ ΤΟΥΠΙΚΛΗΝ ΜΠΟΥΛΟΥΚΟΥ ΕΚ ΧΩΡΑΣ ΠΡΑΣΤΟΥ ΑΡΧΙΕΡΑΤΕΥΟΝΤΟΣ ΤΟΥ ΣΕΒΑΣΜΙΩΤΑΤΟΥ ΑΡΧΙΕΠΙΣΚΟΠΟΥ ΜΑΝΤΙΝΕΙΑΣ ΚΑΙ ΚΥΝΟΥΡΙΑΣ ΚΥΡΟΥ ΘΕΟΦΑΝΟΥΣ ΣΙΑΤΙΣΤΕΩΣ ΚΑΙ ΒΑΣΙΛΕΥΟΝΤΟΣ ΕΝ ΕΛΛΑΔΙ ΤΟΥ ΘΕΟΣΕΒΕΣΤΑΤΟΥ ΓΕΩΡΓΙΟΥ Α΄ ΓΟΝΟΥ ΟΝΤΟΣ ΧΡΙΣΤΙΑΝΟΥ ΕΣΠΕΡΙΟΥ ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ ΤΗΣ ΔΑΝΙΑΣ.

 

Another inscribed plaque (0.40 × 0.60 metres) built into the west façade, south (right) of the entrance door and two metres above ground, relates that the monastery dedicated to the Virgin and called ‘Artokosta’ was renovated during the reign of Emperor Ioannis Palaiologos, in 1424/5, under Abbot Antonios Sarantaris, and again during the Venetian period, under Abbot Isaiah, with donations from the three noble brothers Ioannis, Konstantis, and Georgis Trouchanis of Prastos. The inscription (nineteen lines in capital letters) reads:

 

ΑΝΕΚΑΙΝΙCΘΗ Η CΕΒΑCΜΙΑ ΚΑΙ ΘΥ Α ΚΑΙ ΙΕΡΑ ΜΟΝΗ ΗC ΟΝΟΜΑ ΤΙΜΩΜΕΝΗ ΤΗC ΥΠΕΡΑΓΙΑC ΔΕCΠΟΙΝΗC ΗΜΩΝ Θ(ΕΟΤΟ)ΚΟΥ Κ(ΑΙ) ΕΠΙΚΕΚΛΗΜΕΝΗC ΑΡΤΟΚΩΣΤΑC ΕΠΙ ΤΗΣ ΒΑCΙΛΕΙΑC ΤΟΥ ΕΥCΕΒΕCΤΑΤΟΥ ΒΑCΙΛΕΩC ΗΜΩΝ. ΙΩΑΝΝΟΥ ΤΟΥ ΠΑΛΑΙΟΛΟΓΟΥ  ΔΙΑ CΥΝΔΡΟΜΗC ΤΟΥ ΤΙΜΗΟΤΑΤΟΥ ΚΥΡΑΝΤΩΝΙΟΥ CΑΡΑΝΤΑΡΙ ΗΓΟΥΜΕΝΕΥΟΝΤΟC ΘΕΟΔΟΥΛΟΥ ΙΕΡΟΜΟΝΑΧΟΥ ΑΡΧΙΜΑΝΔΡΙΤΟΥ ΕΝ ΕΤΕΙ ΣΤ Λ Γ΄ ΕΤΟC ΑΠΟ Χ(ΡΙΣΤ)ΟΥ = Α Ψ Ι Α ΕΞΑΝΑΚ(ΑΙ)ΝΙCΘΗ Η ΑΝΩΘΕΝ ΜΟΝΗ ΕΚ ΒΑΘΡΩΝ ΔΙΑ ΠΛΕΟΝ CΤΕΡΕΟCΙΝ ΤΗC ΑΡΙCΤΟΚΡΑΤΕΙΑC ΤΩΝ ΒΕΝΕΤΩΝ. ΔΙΑ CΥΝΕΡΓΕΙΑC ΤΟΥ ΕΝΔΕCΙΜΟΤΑΤΟΥ ΗCΑΙΟΥ ΙΕΡΩΜΟΝΑΧΟΥ ΤΟΥ ΚΑΙ ΗΓΟΥΜΕΝΟΥ ΤΗC ΑΥΤΗC ΜΟΝΗΣ Κ(ΑΙ) ΔΙΕΞΟΔΟΥ ΤΩΝ ΤΙΜΙΩΝ ΑΡΧΟΝΤΩΝ ΚΥΡ ΙΩΑΝΝΗ ΤΡΟΥΧΑΝΗ ΚΩΝCΤΑΝΤΗ Κ(ΑΙ) ΓΕΩΡΓΗ. ΤΩΝ ΤΡΙΩΝ ΑΔΕΛΦΩΝ. ΜΝΗCΘΗΤΙ Κ(ΥΡΙ)Ε ΤΑC ΨΥΧΑC ΑΥΤΩΝ Κ(ΑΙ) ΤΩΝ ΚΟΠΙΑCΑΝΤΩΝ Π(ΑΤΕ)ΡΩ(Ν) CΥΝ(ΑΥ)ΤΩΝ ΟΙ ΔΕ ΑΝΩΘΕΝ ΟΝΟΜΑC(ΘΕΝΤΕΣ) ΕΚ ΧΩΡΑC ΠΡΑCΤ(ΟΥ).

 

The inscription on the floor mentions the craftsman (Ioannis), donor (Stamatios Belokas), and abbot (Diosysios) involved in its construction, as well as the date 1627:

 

Α Χ Κ Ζ. ΕCΤΡΩΘΗ Ο ΝΑΟΣ / ΟΥΤΟΣ ΔΙΑ ΧΙΡΟΣ ΜΑΣΤΡΟΙΩΑΝΝΟΥ / ΔΙΑ ΕΞΟΔΟΥ ΤΟΥ ΤΙΜΙΩΤΑΤΟΥ ΚΥΡ ΣΤΑΜ/ΑΤΙΟΥ ΜΠΕΛΩΚΑ ΚΑΙ ΗΓΟΥΜΕΝΕΒΟΝΤΟΣ ΔΙΟΝΙCΙΟΥ ΙΕΡΟΜΟΝΑΧΟΥ

 

An inscribed plaque (0.45 × 0.40 metres) near the monastery’s main entrance on the east side relates that the cells on this side were renovated in 1780:

 

†ΑΝΕΚΑΙΝΙCΘΗ

CΑΝ ΤΑ ΚΕΛΛΙΑ ΤΗC

ΠΑΡΟΥCΗC ΠΛΕΥΡΑC

ΠΑΡΑ ΤΩΝ ΠΑΤΕΡΩΝ

ΔΙ ΕΞΟΔΩΝ ΤΟΥ ΜΟΝΑ

CΤΗΡΙΟΥ ΕΙΣ ΜΝΗΜΟCΥ

ΝΟΝ ΑΥΤΩΝ 1780

 

Another inscribed plaque (0.41 × 0.40 metres) on the tower reports that the tower and cells were renovated with funds provided by Archbishop Kallinikos Konstostavlos of Anchialos and the collaboration of Abbot Isaiah in 1727:

 

†ΑΝΑΚ(ΑΙ)ΝΙCΘΗ Ο ΠΑΡΩΝ ΠΥΡΓΟC

ΚΕ ΤΑ ΚΕΛΛΙΑ ΔΙΑ ΕΞΟΔΩΝ ΤΟΥ ΠΑΝ

ΙΕΡΩΤΑΤΟΥ ΜΗΤΡΟΠΟΛΙΤΟΥ ΑΓΙΟΥ

ΑΧΙΑΛΟΥ ΚΥΡΙΟΥ ΚΑΛΥΝΙΚΟΥ ΚΟΝ

ΝΤΟCΤΑΥΛΟΥ ΚΕ CΥΝΕΡΓΙΑ ΤΟΥ Ω

CΙΟΤΑΤΟΥ ΚΑΘΗΓΟΥΜΕΝΟΥ ΤΟΥ ΑΥΤΟΥ

ΜΟΝΑCΤΗΡΙΟΥ ΚΥΡΙΟΥ ΗCΑΪΟΥ ΙΕΡΟ

ΜΟΝΑΧΟΥ. ΜΝΗCΘΗΤΙ ΚΥΡΙΕ ΤΩΝ

ΨΥΧΩΝ ΑΥΤΩΝ Κ(ΑΙ) ΤΟΝ ΚΟΠΙΑCΑΝ

ΤΩΝ ΠΑΤΕΡΩΝ. συν αυτόν – 1727. ΙΟΥΛ.

 

Finally, an inscription (0.50 × 0.20 metres) in the current reception hall on the west side refers to the construction of the refectory in 1701, under Abbot Isaiah of the village of Prastos:

 

Ε. ΑΠΟ Χ(ΡΙΣΤΟ)Υ ΓΕΝΝΗΣΕΩΣ – 1701 – ΕΚΤΗΣΘΗ Η ΠΑ

ΡΟΝ ΤΡΑΠΕΖΑ ΔΙΑ ΣΗΝΔΡΟΜΗΣ ΗΣΑΪΟΥ ΙΕΡΩ

ΜΟΝΑΧΟΥ ΗΓΟΥΜΕΝΟΥ ΤΗΣ ΑΥΤΗΣ ΜΟΝΗΣ ΜΝΗΣΘΗΤΙ

Κ(ΥΡΙ)Ε

ΤΗΝ ΨΥΧΗΝ ΑΥΤΟΥ Κ(ΑΙ) ΤΩΝ ΚΟΠΙΑΣΑΝΤΩΝ Π(ΑΤΕ)ΡΩΝ

ΣΗΝ ΑΥΤΟ ΚΕ Ο ΑΝΟΘΕΝ ΗΓΟΥΜΕΝΟΣ ΕΚ ΧΩΡΑΣ

ΠΡΑΣΤΟΥ

 

Inside the monastery’s storeroom is a small broken canon and two fragments of ancient columns, which, according to the monk Sophronius who witnessed the event, were brought from Kato Panagia. An inscription on one of the columns refers to an Abbot Theodosios Nekta(r)akis (νΕΚΤΑ/. ΑΚΙΣ/..ιΓΟΥ/ μενος ΘΕΟ/ΔΟCΙ/ΟΚ Ιερ/μχ). A funerary plaque with a beautifully carved inscription is preserved in the courtyard. The monastery also kept a pagan funerary plaque of the third or fourth century AD, inscribed with curses.

HEIRLOOMS

1. The icon of the Virgin

An important devotional object of great artistic value, the icon of the Virgin is also a historical document, whose long history can be traced back to the fourteenth century. Known by the name La Beata Vergine delle Grazie, the icon is now kept in a glass display case above the sacred stand (altare) to the right of the sanctuary in the church of San Samuele in Venice.

The icon (0.80 × 0.56 metres) depicts the Virgin and Child in the Hodegetria iconographical type. A finely decorated silver revetment of 1424/5 probably replaced the original revetment of 1380-83. A metal frame was probably added after the icon reached Venice. It features 44 small relief panels on three sides (above, right, and left) depicting busts of the Apostles and scenes of the Twelve Feasts in alternation; the panels are separated by a floral motif. The section of the revetment over the Virgin’s head, which leaves the faces of the Virgin and Child uncovered, is also more recent. Popular tradition attributes the icon to the evangelist Luke and considers it miraculous (miracles are reported since 1664). The icon is the object of special devotion both by the Venetians and by the local community of Greek expatriates, who donated money for the icon’s oil lamp up to the nineteenth century.

This is one of the three most important Byzantine icons, which, in different periods and for different reasons, were brought to Venetian churches and remain to this day important heirlooms of the religion, art, and culture of the Byzantine East. The other two are the Panagia Nikopoios (She who brings victory), which was transferred from Constantinople and is now in Saint Marc’s cathedral, and the icon of the Virgin from the Cretan city of Chandax (modern Herakleion), now in the church of Salute. The adventures of the Orthokosta icon and its journey from Nauplion to the church of San Samuele can be traced in the archives of the Patriarchate of Venice and Santo Stefano.

During a Turkish raid on the Peloponnese, the despot’s general (capitano del detto despoto), known by the name Protocastora, took the revered icon to the church of Saint Theodore in Nauplion, where its feast was celebrated with great splendour on August 15. According to tradition, the icon miraculously transferred itself to the church of the Holy Apostles, where it stayed until 1541, when the Venetians ceded Nauplion to the Turks. Francesco Barbaro, then Venetian rector of Nauplion, took the icon with him when he and many Greeks returned to Venice.

According to the archives of the Patriarchate of Venice and Santo Stefano, Barbaro sent the miraculous icon to his sister Cassandra, a nun at the nunnery of SS. Rocco e Margherita (now known by the name Istituto Ciliota after its renovator Pietro Ciliota) through his friend Marc’ Antonio Angusciola. The icon was placed on a wooden stand at the centre of the nunnery’s church, where it stayed until 1597. During that year, Sister Serafina Buotempo, who was taken gravely ill and recovered miraculously, built a new chapel in the icon’s honour, with a luxurious marble iconostasis preserved to this day. The Orthokosta icon was placed on the iconostasis during an official ceremony on July 11, 1597, “in the presence of Cardinal Lorenzo Priuli, four bishops, the clergy, the nobility, and a large crowd”. The icon remained in the chapel of SS. Rocco e Margherita until 1808, when the monastery was suppressed by decree. Its last abbess, Sister Maria Eccelsa Indrich ceded the icon to the priest Giovanni Rossi, formerly an Augustinian confessor, with an act dated March 8, 1810, and ratified by the Patriarchate of Venice on August 4, 1810. When Rossi became a deacon at San Samuele, he donated the icon to the church and paid for its current presentation stand.

2. The library

The monastery’s library holds manuscripts of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, a sigillion of Patriarch Gregory V (1820), old icons, etc, which provide information on the monastery’s history. It also has documents and heirlooms of the Agios Demetrios Reontinou and Agios Ioannis Kleisouriou monasteries, which were merged with the Orthokosta monastery in the nineteenth and early twentieth century. Codex 1743 of the Reontinos monastery relates that after the death of its abbot Parthenios Giannias from a five-day illness on May 25, 1853, the monastery was left with only two monks. It was then decided that the Reontinos monastery be annexed to the Orthokosta monastery and that the former’s estate be transferred to the latter. The text is followed by signatures.

 

3. Relics

The relics of Saints Demetrios Myrovlites, Demetrios Neomartyr, Athanasios the Athonite, Penteleemon, Nicholas, Tryphon, Anargyroi, Xeni, Kyriaki, and Kodratos are kept in the monastery’s vestry.

 

4. Other heirlooms

A report of February 1, 1828, lists the monastery’s sacred objects. The silver objects include a Gospel book cover, seven crosses, a patten and chalice, a tray, four oil lamps, a reliquary, and one plaque. Sacerdotal vestments and a few ecclesiastical books without revetment are also mentioned. The same report lists the monastery’s vast real estate.

Today, the embroidered stole and pallium of a bishop of Reon are on display in a special case.

 

DEPENDENCIES

The monastery of Agios Demetrios Reontinou was annexed to the Orhtokosta monastery for a short time period. This attempted merger failed, however, according to the Reontinos monastery’s correspondence, because the monks of the two monasteries were unable to co-exist. The Reontinos monks returned to their monastery at an advanced age.

 

Dependency of the Evangelismos (Annunciation) at Agios Andreas Kynourias

Written sources mention a dependency of the Orthokosta monastery dedicated to the Evangelismos (Annunciation) at Agios Andreas since the sixteenth century. The dependency was founded near the small harbour that the main monastery (which was located at a remote, mountainous site) used for transporting people and goods.

The dependency features a small katholikon dedicated to the Annunciation and a tower, which probably served as a monks’ residence and refuge against brigands and pirates. Two inscribed plaques, one in each building, relate that the buildings were renovated in the eighteenth century. Between the tower and a ruined building (26.15 × 5.35 metres) is another building, probably of the 1970’s, in which the basement and ground floor are used for storage and the upper floor as residence.

RESTORATION – CONSERVATION

The restoration of the tower in the Evangelismos dependency was approved in 2001. The project was to be financed by the Orthokosta monastery and supervised by the Fifth Ephorate of Byzantine Antiquities. A five-year program for the systematic excavation of the old monastery was approved in 2005. This program is a collaboration of the Fifth Ephorate of Byzantine Antiquities and the University of Ioannina, under Professor Athanasios Paliouras.