Greece is famous for its beautiful monasteries and pretty churches, many of which are open to visitors. The most famous on Kefalonia is the convent of Agios Gerásimos, patron Saint of Kefalonia.
Gerasimos lived around 500 years ago and had a natural gift for curing the mentally troubled and for water divining. He led a very simple life and spent much of his time living in caves, including one on the hill above Lassi. He settled in a cave in the Omala Valley where he established many wells, most still visible and in use.
his death he
was buried nearby and, so the story goes, a few years later the locals
noticed a phosphorescent glow above his grave. Gerasimos was duly
exhumed and his body was found not to have decomposed. These days a
scientific explanation would be found but, five hundred years ago among
a deeply religious people, this was surely a sign from God and
Gerasimos was canonised and declared patron saint of Kefalonia and of
the mentally ill.
A church was built over his grave and this survived the 1953 earthquake (another sign from God). Gerasimos lies in an ornate silver casket inside the church, this is opened for Orthodox visitors to kiss the saint’s feet.
|At the back of this beautiful little church you can find a trap door that leads down, via a narrow opening and step-ladder, to the two small caves Gerasimos lived in. Local legend has it that, should you exit the cave without dirt on your clothing, you’ve led a pure life.|
the small church is a much
more recent and larger church with very good examples of the icon
painters’ art on the walls and ceiling.
On the evening of 15 August, and during 16 August, the Monastery celebrates the feast day of Agios Gerásimos and Orthodox Christians from around the world travel to Kefalonia to pay homage. To a slightly smaller extent, the same occurs on the evening of 19 October and the morning of 20 October.
Kastro is the Monastery of Agios Andreas, which has a rather curious
prize relic – the foot of St. Andrew. What happened to the remains of
St. Andrew are a bit of a mystery but one of his feet found its way to
Kefalonia. The beautiful old church is now a museum, accommodating
relics rescued from other churches on the island which were destroyed
in the ’53 quake.
Other fine examples of old icons can be found at the Sissia Monastery, on the south coast between Katelios and Lourdas.
Atros, the oldest monastery on the island, dates back to around 800 A.D. and is fairly inaccessible, located at the end of a very long and rough dirt track, high in the hills above Poros. The views are quite spectacular.
Another monastery with spectacular views is Kipoureion, on the west coast of the Paliki peninsular. Built above the sea on the edge of a near vertical cliff face, the sunsets are superb.
Please remember and respect the dress code: shoulders, elbows and knees (and tummies) should be covered.
News video clip of the Agios Gerasimos celebrations.