San Giovanni Theristis Abbey

Bivongi, Italy

Calabria was part of the Byzantine Empire until the 11th century. A Greek monk, St. John Theristus, operated in the Stilaro Valley during the 9th century. His aghiasma ('holy font') became a popular center of local pilgrimage, and here a Byzantine monastery was founded in the 11th century. After the Norman conquest of southern Italy, it developed as one of the most important Basilian monasteries in southern Italy, maintaining its splendour until the 15th century, with a rich library and numerous art treasures.

It lived a phase of decline until 1579, when the founding of the Basilian Order of Italy restored it as the main Basilian center in southern Calabria. However, in the 17th century brigandage damaged the monastery, and the monks decided to moved to a bigger monastery outside the walls of Stilo, carrying with them the relics of the namesake saint. In the early 19th century, after the Napoleonic conquest of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, it was acquired by the comune of Bivongi, who sold it to private owners. In 1980 it was sold back to the municipal authority and, in the 1990s, restored to the Italian Basilian Order. In 2001, the Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew I visited the monastery and returned here the saint's relic from Stilo.

In July 2008, the city council of Bivongi has granted the use of the church for 99 years to the newly formed Romanian Orthodox Church in Italy.

The edifice is an example of transition between the Byzantine and Norman styles in architecture in southern Italy. Norman elements include the four corner pilasters closed by four arches, which support the dome, two of them being ogival.

Clearly Byzantine is the exterior, in particular in the external walls, in the fake columns of the apse, which forms ogival arches, and in the 16 small columns decorating the dome's tambour. The interior also houses traces of Byzantine frescoes, such as that portraying St. John Theristis.



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Unnamed Road, Bivongi, Italy
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Founded: 11th century
Category: Religious sites in Italy

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User Reviews

Giuseppe Rizzuto (10 months ago)
A place where man's wickedness over his fellow men and man's wickedness over nature remain outside the door. We enter to get in touch with our own spirituality, to meditate on our behaviors, to make peace with the living in conflict and with the environment marred by our ignorance and to strengthen the memory with our loved ones who have not recently or for a long time. they are more and that in this place we feel next to them. Thanks to the monks who rebuilt this place and take care of it and keep it for us all. To visit
Domenico Petrolo (14 months ago)
This Monastery was reborn in the 90s thanks to the Mayor of Bivongi prof. Franco and to Father Nilo Monaco of Mount Athos (Greece) in this sacred place it takes you 5 minutes to feel like a different person .... and you feel free ... from everything and everyone.
Adriano Scrivo (2 years ago)
Orthodox monastery. One of the few in Italy with the constant presence of monks and with regular religious functions. Visits. Renovated by the municipality a few decades ago, it is located on a hill with a crossroads before the entrance to the town of Bivongi
Paul van der Zande (3 years ago)
Interesting Greek Orthodox church from 11century AC.
Mandy Young (3 years ago)
What a beautiful, restored monastery to visit. Active place of worship and prayer. You can feel the presence of God
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