11km northeast to the town of Kalavrita, the Holy Monastery of Mega Spilaio is hewn to the west side of mount Chelmos at an altitude of 900m over the steep Vouraikos gorge. After their life as monks in Mount Athos and their pilgrimage in Jerusalem and Sina, monks Symeon and Theodore from Thessaloniki discovered, with the help of the young shepherd girl Efrosini, the icon of Our Lady and founded the monastery. According to tradition the icon was painted by Luke the Evangelist himself.
History of the Holy Monastery of Mega Spilaio
Greece’s most ancient monastery took its original form in 362. The initial church was preserved until 1934 when it was burned down but was rebuilt in 1937. It has suffered various forms of destruction throughout its long history; in 840, in 1400 and in 1640.
In 1943, the German troops pillaged it and executed 16 people, visitors and monks. 9 more monks were executed at the location Psilos Stavros (Greek name for high cross). New buildings were built following the liberation from the German forces.
Architecture of the Holy Monastery of Mega Spilaio
The monasterial compound consists of eight floors and it is literally hewn into the rock. It is a cross-in-square church with two narthexes. The main church contains mural paintings that date back to 1653 and the 19th century, a wooden carved altarscreen and remarkable marble inlays.
Among the treasures of the monastery are more than 3.000 books, rare gospels, scrolls, a rare banner, icons of great value, valuable crosses and a plethora of other items.