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.



Your name


Unnamed Road, Bivongi, Italy
See all sites in Bivongi


Founded: 11th century
Category: Religious sites in Italy

More Information


4.7/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Joseph Jason Abela (11 months ago)
Bad road and little to see.
Tommaso Giovannangelo (2 years ago)
During our travels there weren't many places that I personally classify as places of the spirit, the Orthodox Monastery of San Giovanni in Theristis should be included among these. We have arrived in this impervious and solitary place, the building is not very large but ancient, the apses of the church, the central tower and its small arched dome stand out in the architecture. The gate is open, we timidly pass it, a sign warns which days visits are scheduled and Friday is not one of them. We continue to admire the building from the outside, in the meantime a monk whom we had seen working in the garden joins us and with a gesture invites us to go beyond a mighty stone arch which delimits the external space of the church. We take advantage of the benevolent welcome of the monk who speaks broken Italian to ask him if he can show us the inside as well, the door is ajar and it is with another gesture that, pushing the doors, he takes us inside. Wonderful. The monk remains at the door, agreeing to my request to take some photos while my wife takes advantage of her presence to ask a few questions: we learn that there are five of them in the convent and they all belong to the Romanian community of the Greek Orthodox Church. We don't stay very long, we have entered a real sanctuary, alive. Unfortunately, only later did I regret not having thought about leaving an offer, perhaps because what we have received is completely priceless.
Giuseppe Rizzuto (3 years 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 (3 years 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 (4 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
Powered by Google

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Kastelholma Castle

First record of Kastelholma (or Kastelholm) castle is from the year 1388 in the contract of Queen Margaret I of Denmark, where a large portion of the inheritance of Bo Jonsson Grip was given to the queen. The heyday of the castle was in the 15th and 16th centuries when it was administrated by Danish and Swedish kings and stewards of the realms. Kastelhoma was expanded and enhanced several times.

In the end of 16th century castle was owned by the previous queen Catherine Jagellon (Stenbock), an enemy of the King of Sweden Eric XIV. King Eric conquered Kastelholma in 1599 and all defending officers were taken to Turku and executed. The castle was damaged under the siege and it took 30 years to renovate it.

In 1634 Åland was joined with the County of Åbo and Björneborg and Kastelholma lost its administrative status.