Day 3 in Sfelino
Trip Start May 20, 2007
27Trip End Jun 19, 2007
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Walked around the shops and visited the Serres Museum. What tremendous relics from 500 BC to show the Roman influence on the area. What a pity we could not take pictures inside. The domed ceilings were amazing.
Back on the road again and revisited Amfipoli, missed the archaeological museum by 5 mins.
Drove along coast from Nea Kerdilia to almost Kavalla. Great beaches and scenery, hard to stop with cars up clacker.
Driving is interesting; the rules seem to be to avoid cars from behind on your side and cars in front who want your side also
Stumbled across the Holy Monastery of Panagia Eikosifinissa above the Plains of Philippi. When we first saw it, after 6 km of narrow winding, U bends and sheer drops on a road under construction, it took your breath away.
The Holy Monastery of Panagia Eikosifinissa is situated on Mount Paggeon, 753 m above sea level. Initially, the site was founded for a male monastic community and remained as such until 1965. The original foundations however, are said to date from as early as 451 AD.
It was through an angel that St Germanos, an early desert father, received instruction from the Blessed Virgin to found the monastery on its present location. At the time of the revelation St Germanos was sojourning by the river Jordan in an oasis. The oasis was said to have been formed by 20 palm trees and thus some say that in remembrance of this location he named the monastery Eikosifinissa.
Having reached the site revealed to him, St Germanos set about building the monastery. However on commencing his works he was greatly saddened to find that there was no natural source of water. Whilst complaining of this to the Mother of God, a blackbird appeared to him and led him to a nearby spring. It is from this story that another version of how the monastery gained its name came into existence. At a later date a chapel dedicated to St Barbara was built above this ever flowing miraculous spring.
The most commonly told version concerning the derivation of the monastery's name is connected with the monastery's icon of Panagia (Mother of God). This icon is renowned for the great number of miracles that the Mother of God works through it.
The story goes that when St Germanos chose and prepared an icon board for which he intended to paint upon the icon of the Mother of God, the board split in two and was thus rendered useless. Due to the time and effort the Saint had spent to find a suitable board he was greatly disheartened at this occurrence. At that moment, the Mother of God appeared holding the Christ child and their images were instantly imprinted upon the broken board which in turn began to radiate brilliant red light
Apart from the rebuilding of the main church in the 11th century the monastery has seen many structural changes, one of the most important periods in the history of the monastery being towards the end of the 15th century. It was during this era that St Dionysios restored many of the older buildings and constructed new ones. For this reason he is esteemed by the monastery as being one of its co-founders.
In 1507 the monastery housed 172 monks who under the orders of the provinces Turkish governor were all martyred for their love of the church and their country. A monument dedicated to the memory of these martyrs can be found by the main entrance to the monastery.
After this tragic event the monastery again saw a flourish in numbers. However tragedy again struck in 1829, when an earthquake destroyed the entire main church, save for the sanctuary and the gilded iconostasis. The hand carved iconostasis dates from the 18th century and depicts many biblical scenes.
In the 20th century the monastery saw two more major catastrophes. The frist occurred in 1917 when Bulgarian raiders pillaged the greater part of the monastery's treasures. According to verbal tradition, during this raid a Bulgarian officer attempted to profane the icon of Panagia Eikonisifinissa. On approaching the icon an unseen force threw him back with such might that he instantaneously died. At the place where he fell, his boots and his pistol can be seen to have left significant imprints on the marble floor
The monastery was again crippled in 1943, however this time by a great fire. The only building that survived was the main church, which although being entirely engulfed by flames, miraculously suffered no significant damage.
Another testimony to the grace endowed upon the monastery are the small cypresses which for years of their own accord have been growing on the main churches northern dome.
In 1965, under the aid and blessing of the present Bishop of Drama, Metropolitan Dionysios, the monastery was re-established as a convent. Today, Panagia Eikosifinissa is a place where pilgrims come to pay homage and ask intercession of Our Most Holy Lady and Ever Blessed Virgin Mary, by whose grace this monastery was first established.