According to a lot of people, it is the oldest Monastery of Greece and one of the most impressive Christian Orthodox pilgrimages. It is 10kms out of the town of Kalavrita. It took its name (Spileo = cave) from the cave where the icon of Virgin Mary was found.
The history of the Monastery
The Monastery of Mega Spileo was built in 362AC by the brother monks Simeon and Theodoros who were from Thessaloniki. Each of them separately saw a vision and they were both ordered to go from Jerusalem to Achaia and find the icon of Virgin Mary that was made of mastic and wax by Lucas the Evangelist. After wandering, the two brothers met a young shepherdess, Efrosini, who led them to the cave where the icon was. With great piety, the two monks took the icon out of the cave and cleaned this sacred place by removing the plants. When they burnt the branches, a dragon jumped violently towards the exit of the cave and it was killed by thunderbolts. In order to keep this miracle alive, a lot of reconstructions have taken place. Also, the dragon’s bones were kept until lately.
Then, a lot of other pilgrims started to come to this region. Also, a lot of cells were built and gradually the Monastery started to flourish and it became a center of Orthodoxy and Hellenism through the centuries. It played an important role in the Greek Revolution of 1821 and it was an inexpugnable fortress for its conquerors. The brave heroic answer of its abbot, Damaskinos in June 1827 to Ibrahim is known: “It’s impossible for us to bow before you. If you come here to fight us and win, you won’t do something bad because you will just beat priests. However, if you lose, you will be ashamed”. And indeed, Ibrahim was defeated after an epic battle and the help of Virgin Mary.
Later, in December 1943, the Nazis plundered, burnt the Monastery and killed 16 people, among them visitors, underlings and monks. They threw them down from a high rock. However, the Monastery had already survived from four destroying conflagrations in 840, 1400, 1600 and in 1934. However, the icon of Virgin Mary remained intact.
ΤΗΕ ICON OF PANAGIA MEGALOSPILIOTISSA
It is Apostle Luca’s work. It is believed that it was given from Apostle Lucas to his spiritual son, the ruler of Achaia Theophilos together with the Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles. Theophilos handed the icon down to his descendants. During the period of the persecutions, they hid it in the cave. When they died or gave their life for Christ, the icon remained in the cave until it was miraculously discovered by Saint Efrosini.
The icon is embossed and it is 3 centimeters thick. It is made of wax, mastic and other materials. On the icon, you can see Virgin Mary sitting, while her head bends slightly on the right side. On her hand, she holds Christ who sits on her knees.
In the Monastery, there are important holy and national relics: there is a rare banner with three byzantine emperors’ figures on it, national costumes, a valuable cross made of Holy Cross and Gospels in parchments. In a special chapel, there are a lot of icons, reliquaries with lots of Saints’ relics and the heads of the founders of the Monastery.
The Monastery celebrates on 15th of August that is the feast Day of the Dormition of the Virgin.
The Monastery of Mega Spileo makes people admire it as it is built in the shade of a steep rock on Helmos Mountain. It suits perfectly with the wild and impressive landscape of that region, as it is built at an elevation of 940m. This eight-floor Monastery that is situated on the rocks captures even the most indifferent visitor. It is 10kms away from Kalavrita. You can visit it either by car or on foot, through the path of Zachlorou.
Telephone number of the Monastery: 26920 – 22401