Aimialon Monastery of Arcadia

Aimialon Monastery of Arcadia

The historic Aimialon Monastery, dedicated to Panaghia of Emiali is situated just outside Dimitsana, built inside the rock. It was founded in 1608, according to the owners’ inscription, by Grigorios Kontogiannis, a monk and priest, and his sister, nun Efpraxia Paisia Kontogianni, from Emiali, a village in the Prefecture of Messenia, whence the monastery took its name.

History of the Aimialon Monastery

The Emiali Monastery played a very important role during the Turkish rule and also after the Greek Revolution, by offering significant services to the fighting Greeks, both in the form of financial support and as a spiritual centre. The Monastery knew glorious days, but around the 19th century it slowly started to decline, as a result of various internal conflicts. At that time it merged with the Monastery of Timios Prodromos, of which it since functions as a glebe. The Monastery has at times operated both as a men’s monastery and as a convent, in its present phase, though, it hosts monks from the Monastery of Timios Prodromos.

The Monastery of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Aimyaloi is located approximately three kilometres from the scenic and historical settlement of Dimitsana, in an area with lush vegetation, and was initially built inside a rock formation. The Monastery was established in 1608, according to its founding inscription, by the monk and spiritual father Grigorios Kontogiannis and his sister, nun Efpraxia Kontogianni (or Païsia), who came from the village of Aimyaloi in the prefecture of Messinia; hence the name of the convent. Sometimes it appears as the Monastery of Omaloi or Omyaloi. Some people question the Greek origin of the name “Aimyaloi”. However, in Mani “aimyalos” means edible snail.

The entrance to the Monastery is a gate, which leads to a verdant courtyard. The first cells were carved into the rock and visitors are able to see their remnants. The shape of the monastery has changed significantly, since new buildings were added and many expansions have taken place. The main church of the monastery was initially small, but later on was also expanded. It is a small one-aisle basilica, built inside a natural cave. The frescoes were painted during the monastery’s foundation year, with remarkable examples of Byzantine art of the Cretan School, creations of brothers Dimitrios and Georgios Moschos from the city of Nafplion, who were famous painters of the time.

The Aimialon Monastery offered substantial support during the dark years of the Turkish occupation, as well as during the Greek War of Independence. This support was both moral and material. It was a cradle of culture and of the Orthodox church, while it also financially supported the Greek Revolution; when in 1822 the Peloponnesian Senate requested help from all the monasteries of the area, the Monastery of Aimyaloi contributed 750 piastres. Several notable heirlooms are kept in the monastery, one of which is its founding code, with important information about its establishment. The code is currently on display in the Library of Dimitsana.

The Monastery of Aimyaloi had a long, thriving course, which was stemmed however towards the end of the 19th century, when the first signs of decadence started to occur, something that led to its unification with the Monastery of St. John the Baptist. Today it remains as a metochion of the latter. During its course, it operated as a male monastery, but also as a nunnery. However, since 1995 it has been a male convent, and it is celebrated on the 8th of September, on the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary.