The largest island of the Ionian, which attracts vacationers with its incomparable natural beauties, but also offers valuable spiritual treasures to the religious visitors, since it is richly blessed by God. On the orthodox island of the Ionian, the grace of God highlighted bright spiritual figures, who enlighten the Orthodox Church and are a boast and a point of reverent reference for the inhabitants of the island, but also for the numerous pilgrims who visit it.
The Apostle of the Nations Paul arrived on the west coast of Kefalonia as a shipwrecked man and preached the Gospel of Christ on the island, while in 1555 the miraculous protector of the Orthodox and patron saint of the island, Saint Gerasimos Notaras, arrived in Kefalonia (159) (1509). of which the sacred relic remains incorruptible and works miracles uninterruptedly.
Saint Anthimos Kourouklis (1727 – 1782), the so-called blind missionary of the Aegean and patron saint of the island of Astypalaia, was born and died in the beautiful Lixouri of Kefalonia, and the humble priest Agios Panagis his innate zeal and insightful charisma. Important was the presence on the island of the ardent missionary and teacher of the Nation, Agios Kosmas of Etolos (1714-1779), who arrived in Kefalonia in 1777 and made a missionary tour of the island, as well as the fruitful stay of Genarchos Filos Makarios of Notaras, Archbishop of Corinth (1731 – 1805), who came to the island in 1771 to worship the graceful relic of his relative and fellow-citizen, Agios Gerasimos, and stayed in the monastery of Omala, collecting exhortations and models of ossi.
But even during the first Christian centuries, the adorned Kefalonia has to offer bright examples of confessors and fighters of the faith. Thus in the eastern part of the island and specifically in the area of Sami lived and slept the confessors Saints Gregory, Theodore and Leo, who are better known by the nickname “Saints Fanentes”, which was given to them due to the miraculous revelation of their sacred relics. of their emergence from obscurity
Atrou Monastery is located near Poros. It is the oldest monastery of Kefalonia, as it is estimated that it was created in the 8th century, during the early Byzantine Era. It is built on a hill just above the sea, at an altitude of 760 meters. After climbing there you will admire the Medieval tower and the Archontariki that are preserved.
The Monastery of Atrou functioned as a male convent and for many centuries influenced the spiritual life of Poros and the wider region. It is dedicated to the Birthday of the Virgin Mary and celebrates on September 8. Today it has 2 monks living in the cells that have been recently renovated and so every year during the feast, believers from the wider area go up here and prepare it for the solemn service.
the Medieval buildings of the Monastery of Atrou, transport visitors to the atmosphere and images of an island Byzantine monastery. The whole system of the Monastery, with the cells, the auxiliary spaces and the katholikon is maintained in a fairly good condition until today.
The official name of the Monastery of Atros is “Holy Monastery of the Most Holy Theotokos of Atros”
Saint Gerasimos (1506–1579) came from the aristocratic and wealthy Notaras family. He was ordained a Monk at Mount Athos, went to Jerusalem for 12 years, spent some time in Crete and Zakynthos and in 1555 arrived on Kefalonia. He spent his first 5 years in a cave in the area known as Lassi.
He subsequently cultivated the area where the monastery of Saint Gerasimos now exists near Valsamata. The monastery which he established cared for the poor and became a center for charity.
Saint Gerasimos is believed by natives of Kefalonia to protect them and to also heal them of illness. Many natives of the island name their children after Saint Gerasimos as a tribute to the saint who protects them.
The body of Saint Gerasimos is at the monastery, made available for veneration as it has never decomposed. After his death, his body was buried twice and exhumed intact, thus leading the church to ordain him as a saint. Kefalonians throughout the world still revere and pray to him.
In 1953, immediately after a powerful earthquake on the island of Kefalonia destroyed 90% of the island, there were many claimed sightings of Saint Gerasimos throughout the island who is believed to have comforted and tended to the injured trapped inside homes and buildings.
During the feasts of Saint Gerasimos – August 16th[note 1] and 20 October (translation of relics) – his body is passed over ill and sick persons for the purpose of healing them. His body is also displayed by the church during liturgy at the monastery on many occasions.
A church named after Saint Gerasimos was established in New York City by Kefalonians who emigrated to New York in the early 20th century.
Saint Panagis Basias was born in Lixouri, Kefallinia, in 1801 AD, and was the son of pious and prominent parents, Michael Typaldos – Basia and Regina Dellaporta. He learned Italian, French, Latin and trained in philosophy and theology. Mikros still became a reader and at the beginning of his career he was appointed a tutor and practiced the function of a teacher, but inspired by the radical sermons of Kosmas Flamiatos and Eusebius Pana, ecclesiastical figures of the time, who were the rulers of essentially tyrants, they conspire against the orthodox mind of the inhabitants, leave the public school and give lessons at home, continuing their mission.
At the age of 20, after the death of his father, having an innate inclination and being influenced by the personality of the patron great ascetic Agios Gerasimos and his neighbor, also a great ascetic Agios Anthimos, he abandons everything and arrives at “Xiroskopelos”, a small island in Lower Livathos Vlacherna and place of exile of clergy from the English. The famous Zakynthian clergyman Nikolaos Kantounis was also in exile in those days. But he did not stay long bent by the pleas of his widowed mother and his unprotected sister. So he returns to the world as a monk, but his whole life proves to be a constant ascetic struggle and consistent vigilance of his solitary ideas and decisions.
In 1836 AD He was ordained a deacon and an elder, named Paisios, under the Archbishop of Kefallinia Parthenios Makris. He did not seek a position as a pastor. He usually officiated at the chapel of Agios Spyridon in Platys Gialos, where a large number of believers gathered to officiate and listen to his warm sermons. He was the personification of alms and a warm supporter of the weak. He received from God the gift of prophecy and “foretold the future happening to individuals, family and society in general”, as written in the presentation of his Ordination.
On May 21, 1864 AD, he tasted the joy of the Union of the Ionian Islands with Mother Greece, for which he worked in his own way of resistance close to the heroic radicals, preserving and cultivating the Orthodox Tradition, in such difficult political and social times. .
In 1867 AD, with the terrible earthquakes of Pallika, his house was demolished and since then he is hosted in the house of his cousin Ioannis Geroulanos, father of the great surgeon Marinos Geroulanos.
Due to the fame spread by the many miracles, avoiding the terrible reef of the spiritual life, the selfish ego, he resorts to the well-known method of great Ascetics to pretend to be mad, and thus is included in the choirs of the Saints.
He has been suffering from bed rest for five years. And the patient continues to bless, to pacify, to guide, to advise the Christians, who visit him day and night. There he receives the visit of the new Archbishop Germanos Calligas, to whom he predicts his ascension to the Archbishopric Throne of Athens.
Saint Panagis slept in 1888 AD, and at the pandemic after his three-day funeral, the Metropolitan of Kefallinia, Germanos Kalligas, delivered a famous funeral.
The resurrection of the Holy Relics of the Saint took place on June 6, 1976 AD. and his canonization was done by the Ecumenical Patriarchate by Patriarchal and Synodal Decision on February 4, 1986 AD.
His holy relics are kept in a silver case in the church of Agios Spyridon Lixouri, where his tomb is.
Miracle of Saint Panagi Basia – Narrated by Gerasimos Drakopoulos
“… My late father, then, narrated an amazing miracle of Papa-Basia, which lived in the days of Papa-Basia my father – my grandfather – Vassilios Drakopoulos, lead singer and composer of many church songs.
The miracle is as follows:
In Argostolion, in the days of Papa-Basia, lived a noble family and very rich, I do not remember well the name of the family, so it consisted of four people, the husband, the wife and two male children. Very pious and virtuous family, even more so the lady, whose life was full of charitable deeds.
Years later, her husband died and she was left a widow with two children.
She devoted herself to educating and instructing her children in the most Christian way, at the same time extending her humanitarian work, helping every poor person, visiting patients at home and helping them, patients in hospitals and convicts in prisons and assistants in prison. pistin.
When her children reached the age of 21, one night after dinner in the dining room, the first child suffered a severe headache. He immediately fell down unconscious, they put him on the bed and immediately called the doctor.
He found the situation very serious, you prepared the lady for fate. The lady heard what the doctor had told her, she took refuge in the iconostasis of her house and knelt all night in the Virgin Mary for the salvation of her son. In the morning, unfortunately, her child passed away.
Despite her grief and great sorrow, she continued her Christian and humanitarian activities. But a year later, one night after her other son is in the dining room again, she unexpectedly sees her child screaming in pain and falling unconscious, like her first child. She immediately called the doctor, who found the same case with her first child, deciding that there was no hope of rescuing him. Crying and in despair, she took refuge again in the iconostasis of her house, and kneeling all night after tears she prays to God, the Virgin Mary, and Saint Gerasimos, to save her child, and because of her Christian action, to grieve her. and fully render the health of her child. Unfortunately, the next day, when the doctor came, she found out that her son had died.
Then the escaped Lady turned into a dayless beast, I completely stopped her previous action, constantly insulting God and the saints, not accepting anyone in her house. She gave two photos of her children to a good painter, to make her two life-size portraits, which when the painter handed her over, she framed them with luxurious frames, and I emptied her living room of furniture, hung them on the two walls in Opposite the other, I covered them with fabric – tulle – I placed under them from a candlestick with a candle, which every now and then she lit and her children talked to them.
One day, Papa-Basias, embarking on a boat from those who at that time were carrying out the Lixouri-Argostoli crossing, went to Argostoli. Leaving the boat with his rod, he slowly went straight to this lady’s house. When you got there, he knocked on the door. The lady came out of the window, and when I saw Papa-Basia whom she did not know, I disappeared, insulting him with the most vulgar phrases.
Papa-Basias, without being disturbed, calmly – calmly begged her for the third time to spring, who wanted to say something to her. She continued to insult him even more. Then Papa-Basias said: “Either you open it for me, or I open it”, and with his rod he made the sign of the Cross on the door, so that it automatically opened, and Papa-Basias started to climb the ladder. The lady, seeing what had happened, was speechless, unable to utter a word.
Papa-Basias went straight to the living room (of course, God willing) and told the lady to follow him. He opened the living room door, and said to the lady: Sit in the corner and you will see something you did not expect. Standing in prayer for a moment, Papa-Basias sees the lady raising the two covers of her children’s pictures, and descending alive in the middle of the room, pulling out two revolvers at the same time, shooting each other at the same time, and both fall dead on the floor at the same time.
After this event, the portraits were found as before, as if nothing had happened. The lady, speechless and terrified, was watching what was going on, and then Papa-Basias says to her: My Lady, God, in order to love you, kept you from seeing where you saw now, and took with you your two children by physical death, because your two children had loved one and the same woman, and were to be killed by the way you saw through her. Therefore repent, and thank God, and continue your pre-Christian activity.
“Indeed, she repented and surrendered her soul and body to her previous action and on a larger scale.”
Φανέντες θαυμαστῶς ἀθληταὶ κεκρυμμένοι,
καρδίας πιστῶν σπεύδετε κατευφραίνειν.
During the first Christian centuries, the adorned Kefalonia has to offer bright examples of confessors and fighters of the faith. Thus in the eastern part of the island and specifically in the area of Sami lived and slept the confessors Saints Gregory, Theodore and Leo, who are better known by the nickname “Saints Fanentes”, which was given to them due to the miraculous revelation of their holy relics. of their emergence from obscurity.
According to the surviving two Latin synaxaries of the 14th AD. written first by the Venetian Pietro Calы and second by the bishop of Achilles Pietro Natali, Saints Gregory, Theodore and Leo came from the eastern part of the Roman Empire, served as soldiers in the Roman imperial army and for their many virtues and their deep faith in God. At that time, however, the terrible sect of Arianism was widespread and according to the decree of the heretical emperor Constantius II (337-361 AD), all citizens of the state should embrace this immune sect. Then the three pious and virtuous soldiers, fearing that they might be forced to embrace heretical malice, left Sicily with other Greek soldiers, where they were at that time, and took refuge in Kefallinia. As soon as they landed on the Ionian island and were informed that the decree of the heretic Constantius had entered into force in the place where they had previously served, they preferred to leave the rest and remain in Kefallinia. Gregory was then old with white hair and full of wisdom, Theodore was about thirty years old, while Leon shone in his youth. So they decided to dedicate themselves to God and therefore began to look for a suitable place to practice and pray.
A valley called Samos (Latin for Samos), located in the eastern part of Kefallinia opposite Ithaca, was the ideal place to live dedicated to God for the rest of their lives. In fact, in this place they discovered in a small but dense forest of low trees and bushes the ruins of a half-ruined temple. This place was their spiritual refuge, in which after they settled, they lived ascetically, praying incessantly to God and struggling as true soldiers of Christ. In this blessed place of eastern Kefallinia near the present-day town of Sami they lived the rest of their earthly life until one day, after kneeling and praying, they surrendered their pure souls to the Blessed God, Whom they so much loved and served. their whole life.
The bodies of the three Saints remained unknown for many years, until the Providence of God wanted to reveal them in a miraculous way. The island was inhabited by a prominent and wealthy resident named Michael who suffered from a form of leprosy, elephantiasis. Michael went to the doctors, even spending a large part of his fortune, so that he could be cured of his illness, but unfortunately he did not find the desired treatment anywhere. One night three men in the form of angels appeared in a dream in his sleep and told him that he would only be healed if he found their unburied bodies. When Michael woke up, he did not know the names of the three men or the place where they were. However, he met a pig shepherd, who told him that following a pig that had been removed from the rest of the herd, he entered a dense forest and there he saw three unburied and incorruptible bodies, from which a wonderful fragrance was emitted. Then Michael realized that these were the three Saints who appeared in his sleep. He immediately mounted his horse and headed with the guinea pig to the forest, where the holy relics of the three Saints were found in abundant light. After reverently worshiping the three shining holy shrines and praying with tears to the Saints, the leprosy immediately disappeared and he returned home completely healthy. Due to the miraculous revelation of the holy relics of the three Saints and their emergence from obscurity, they were given the nickname “Saints Fanentes”, by which they are better known to this day.
Also noteworthy is the local oral tradition, according to which three Saints named Gregory, Theodore and Leo once arrived in Sami of Kefallinia and lived as ascetics. Many years after their sleep, their remains were discovered in a cave on Mount Avlochori and the monastery of Agioi Fanenti was built in their honor.
According to the Latin synaxaries, the historic holy monastery named after the three confessing Saints of Kefallinia was erected at the site of the miraculous finding of their holy relics at the expense of the leper Michael.
The monastery of Agios Fanentos is built on the top of the southern citadel of ancient Sami and at an altitude of 226m. Its foundation dates back to before 1264 AD. and the surviving ruins date back to the post-Byzantine era. After the occupation of Kefalonia by the Normans in 1185 AD. The gradual decline of the monastery began, due to the abduction of the holy relics of the Saints by the Venetians and their transfer to Venice, where they are kept to this day in a marble shrine in the majestic temple of the Prophet Zacharias. At the end of the 15th AD. century we have the re-establishment of the monastery, which until 18 ° AD. century radiates attracting many monks, pilgrims, but also foreign travelers.
The religious policy of the English in the Ionian Islands led to the beginning of the 19th century AD. century in the desolation of the monastery, which was completed with the earthquakes of 1953 AD, which destroyed the historic monastery. From the iconostasis of the katholikon of the historic monastery was saved the old epitaph icon of the three Saints, dating to 1654 AD and is kept today in the beautiful holy parish church of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary Sami. A chapel was later erected next to the ruins of the monastery, where every year on All Saints’ Day the memory of the three confessors and older Saints of Kefalonia is solemnly celebrated.
The miracle of Panagia Gravaliotissa in Kefalonia
Southeast of Kefalonia, in the small village of Pastra, for several centuries a phenomenon occurs that experts have not yet been able to explain.
Withered lilies that are placed in the holy icon of the Virgin Mary every August 15, “come to life”.
They produce green leaves and buds ready to bloom. All this happens all night.
“It is the miracle of Panagia Gravaliotissa”, where the villagers wait every year with impatience for the Virgin Mary to reveal them as they say.
Panagia Gravaliotissa took its name from “gravala”, as the Kefalonians call it, ie the rakes.
According to religious tradition, centuries ago, in 1720, the ruler of the place was Conte Lianos.
At the beginning of August, the preparations for the new harvest of the vines had begun.
Then a servant, cleaning the dry grass with the tombstones, the rakes, grabbed a stick.
Trying to remove it from the teeth of the rake, he found that the wood was an image of the Virgin Mary.
The poor worker was speechless, took the photo and put it in a pile of dry and discarded grass and ran to warn Conte.
Conte then ordered the worker to take the icon to the church of Agios Dimitrios.
That same night, however, Condes saw the Virgin Mary in his sleep saying to him: why did you take me from my house? Early in the morning, Condes went and took the photo to keep at home. Condes had a sick daughter, confined to a wheelchair for many years.
As soon as the young girl saw the image, she got to her feet and, with slow, careful steps, bowed to the image. After that, Condes decided to build the church of Panagia on the place where the icon was found. But when the workers went there, they encountered something shocking.
The pile of dry grass on which the worker had placed the picture had bloomed and through the dry branches they could see green leaves and small blooming lilies.
Thus was built the church that later became a sacred monastery, which over time was destroyed and the information that survives is minimal.
The only thing that survives intact is the image of the Monastery that dominates the current church of Panagia Gavaliotissa and in memory of this miracle and every August 15, in its celebration, the dry lilies, which are collected by the women of the village from April to May and place them in the pictures of their houses leaving them to dry.
On the 1st of August they take the dried lilies and take them to the church.
The priest of the church opens the miraculous icon of the Virgin Mary and places the lilies inside it. From August 10 to 15, the dried branches of the lilies produce green leaves and a fresh bud, which is ready to bloom.
Thus, on the feast of the Virgin Mary, after the end of the Divine Liturgy, the priest opens the icon and takes out the blooming lilies and distributes them to the blessing of the faithful.
“This is an inexplicable phenomenon, which happens every year on August 15 and keeps warm the faith of all the inhabitants of Kefalonia, but also of the people who come to see and receive the blessing from the image of Panagia Gravaliotissa.”
According to the tradition in southern Kefalonia, in the village of Markopoulo many years ago the inhabitants saw a tree burning and the flames reaching very high.
They ran to put out the fire so that the forest and the village would not burn.
When the villagers arrived they saw the tree completely burnt and on its burnt root rested a very beautiful image of the Virgin Mary, which was intact from the fire.
The inhabitants took the image in their hands, worshiped it and took it down to the village and placed it in the church of their village, which was in the square.
The next morning the others went to the church to worship the icon of the Virgin Mary. But the image was missing and was nowhere to be found.
Someone went to the mountain and found the picture on the burned tree, took it down to the village and asked who took it there.
So the residents decided to lock the church. But three times the image was missing and they found it again in the burned tree.
Then the villagers believed that the Virgin Mary’s wish is to be there and that is why they built a church and placed the Virgin Mary there.
After a while, a nunnery was built. One day, however, they saw pirate ships approaching and pirates approaching the monastery in order to plunder it.
Then the nuns got scared and asked for the protection of the Virgin Mary.
They asked the Virgin to make them birds or snakes, to leave, to fly, to remain immaculate from the pirates who had bad moods and oh miraculously their prayer was heard and the Virgin turned them into snakes.
And since then and every August 15th something strange and wonderful happens.
From the feast of the Transfiguration, snakes appear inside and outside the temple. They are the so-called “snakes of the Virgin”.
Experts who have examined them can not include them in any genre and consider them unique.
They are white-gray with sparkling eyes and a small cross is formed on their head.
These are the snakes of the Virgin Mary, a unique and unrepeatable miracle that only with the heart one can understand and not with the mind.
Saint Andreas Monastery was founded in 1587 by the countess Roxanne. An icon of saint Andreas was found under an apple-pear tree so the monastery was named after the tree. It is located exactly next to saint Andreas museum and visitors are amazed by its treasures and beauty.
The monastery was founded during the Byzantine era and re-established in 1579 when three local spiritual sisters Benedict, Leondia and Magdalen bought the land where the chapel of the Apostle Andrew once stood and started a small nunnery.
In 1639 the Greek Romanian princess Roxane, renamed nun Romila, started her monastic life. The wealthy princess dedicated a large amount of money to the monastery and brought a valuable spiritual treasure from Mount Athos. This was the Holy remains of the right foot (sole) of Apostle Andrew, with the hole from the crucifixion of the Saint.
The monastery also has an ecclesiastical Byzantine museum founded in 1988 which is located in the old church which was the only building preserved from the 1953 earthquake. The art treasures found there date between 1300-1900 AD.
Besides the existing wall paintings and icons found in the monastery, others have been transferred to the museum from abandoned churches all over Kefalonia.
During the British rule in the early 19th century, there was conflict between the nuns and the British who temporarily interrupted the divine services at the Monastery and covered their beautiful frescoes with asbestos in 1832 because the Monastery – a Greek Orthodox epicenter – had a negative attitude towards the British rule.
Now the treasures of the Monastery and icons are displayed with pride and among them is a painting of the nun Romila with her parents.
In the Nunnery solemn vigils are performed continuously and Holy Mass takes place every Sunday. The nuns spend the rest of their time making bishops’ officiating robes, handicrafts and gardening. The Nunnery celebrates twice a year – on the Friday after Easter and on 30th November which is the feast day of Saint Apostle Andrew.
On the slopes of Ainos you can visit some of the most important monasteries of Kefalonia, starting of course from I.M. Agios Gerasimos, in Omala. From the location of Agrapidies to the entrance of the National Park we meet the monastery of Agios Eleftherios, the big festival of which takes place right here in mid-July. At an altitude of 800 m. Above Arginia, on the east side of Ainos we find the Holy Monastery of Zoodochos Pigi of Arginia. A well with clean water from the bowels of Ainos thirsts here believers and visitors. Around the Monastery is located the habitat of the wild horses of Ainos. Going down to Sami now, we meet the ruins of the Monastery of Grouspa dedicated to Agios Nikolaos. The monastery was founded at the end of the 16th century and operated until 1805. Finally, a little lower than the top of Ainos we will find ruins of a sanctuary, dedicated to Ainisios or Aeneus Zeus, which Hesiod mentions in his work.