Mega Spilaio

Kalavryta, Greece

Mega Spilaio is a Greek Orthodox monastery in the municipality of Kalavryta, in the Peloponnese peninsula in southern Greece.

The monastery is located in a large cave in a sheer cliff, where the western slopes of Mount Chelmos drop down to the gorge of the Vouraikos river. The cave was known in antiquity, and the geographer Pausanias reports that the daughters of Proetus found refuge there during their madness. In the first Christian centuries, Christian hermits occupied the cave.

According to tradition, the monastery is one of the oldest in Greece, reputedly founded in 362 by the Thessalonian brothers Symeon and Theodore, who with the help of Euphrosyne (a local shepherdess, honoured as saint for her part in these events) discovered in the cave the icon of the Theotokos painted by Luke the Evangelist.

Its medieval history under Byzantine and Latin rule is obscure. The monastery gained prominence only from about 1354, when it served as the residence of the Orthodox Metropolitan of Patras, since the city was still occupied by the Latins and the seat of a Latin archbishopric. The complex suffered large-scale destructions in 849, 1400, and 1640, when it was comprehensively rebuilt.

Several of the monks became members of the Filiki Etaireia and took part in the Greek War of Independence. In 1934, the katholikon was destroyed in a fire, and replaced by a new church in 1937. On 8 December 1943, the German 117th Jäger Division destroyed the monastery and executed 22 monks and visitors as part of reprisals that culminated a few days later with the Massacre of Kalavryta.

The monastery was rebuilt from the ground after the war, and now comprises an eight-storey complex set in the 120 metres high cliff face.



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Kalavryta, Greece
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Founded: 362 AD
Category: Religious sites in Greece

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User Reviews

oly.ana oly.ana (3 months ago)
The most ancient monastery in Greece. It offers a nice view of the mountains and a small exhibition of religious artifacts, amongst them some very beautiful and old books.
Kristin Nukas (3 months ago)
We checked this place online and it said it’s free entrance so we jumped in a car and drove an hour to see a monastery. We were so excited, enjoyed breathtaking views all along our way. When we got inside and were enjoying nice art inside a museum we were greeted by a monk who told us that it cost 3 euros each to be there. We did not have any cash and he told us that in mountains nobody takes credit cards which is not true because everyone else had no problem with it. He basically asked to leave… so disappointing … and misleading…
Lim Willett (5 months ago)
Unique monestary built at the edge of a mountain. Contain some unique relic inside the monestary. Worth visit if have the time and opportunity
Mary Kikikis (9 months ago)
This is an impressive monastery with a dramatic history. It has been burned four times: 840 during Iconoclasm riots, 1640 by the Ottomans, 1934 by accident, and 1943 by the Nazis. It was rebuilt each time, most recently in the late 1950’s by donation from the King of Greece. It was renovated in 2011 with EU funding. The gift shop is excellent as well.
Nimrod BY (10 months ago)
Short tour in the old and impressive monastery. Nice hike down to Zachluru. Though steep.
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