Skiathos is a beautiful Greek island in the Aegean Sea, known for its sandy beaches, pine forests and lively nightlife. But Skiathos also has a rich cultural and historical heritage, especially related to the Monastery of Evangelistria, one of the oldest and most significant monasteries in Greece. In this blog post, we will explore how Skiathos hosted this monastery, what is its history and importance, and why you should visit it if you ever travel to this island.
The founding of the Monastery of Evangelistria
The Monastery of Evangelistria, also known as the Monastery of the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary, was founded in 1794 by a group of monks from Mount Athos, the holy mountain in northern Greece where only male monks are allowed to live. The monks belonged to a movement called Kollyvades, which advocated for a stricter observance of the Orthodox Christian rites and traditions. They left Mount Athos after facing opposition and persecution from other monks who disagreed with their views. They were led by an ordained monk named Niphon of Chios, who had a vision of the Virgin Mary guiding him to Skiathos. There, he met Gregorios Hatzistamatis, a local monk who had inherited land on the island from his father. Together, they decided to build a monastery on a hillside overlooking the sea, about 4 km north of Skiathos town. They received financial support from wealthy merchants and shipowners from Skiathos and other islands, who saw the monastery as a symbol of their faith and patriotism.
The role of the Monastery of Evangelistria in the Greek War of Independence
The Monastery of Evangelistria played a crucial role in the Greek War of Independence (1821-1829), which was a revolution against the Ottoman Empire that had ruled Greece for almost four centuries. The monastery became a refuge and a meeting place for many Greek freedom fighters, who were inspired by the ideals of the French Revolution and the American War of Independence. In 1807, some of the most prominent leaders of the revolution, such as Theodoros Kolokotronis, Andreas Miaoulis, Nikotsaras and others, gathered at the monastery and swore an oath of loyalty to the cause of liberation on a newly designed Greek flag, which was woven on a loom at the site. The flag had a white cross on a sky-blue background, symbolizing the Christian faith and the sea that surrounded Greece. This flag is considered to be the first official flag of Greece and is displayed at the monastery’s museum.
The monastery also provided material and moral support to the revolutionaries, by offering them food, shelter, weapons, money and blessings. The monks participated in some battles against the Ottoman forces, such as the siege of Skiathos castle in 1823. The monastery also served as a printing house, where books and pamphlets promoting the revolution were published. The monastery was attacked several times by the Ottomans, but it managed to survive thanks to its strong fortifications and its brave defenders.
The architecture and art of the Monastery of Evangelistria
The Monastery of Evangelistria is a complex of buildings that reflects the Byzantine and traditional style of architecture. The main church (catholicon) is a cross-in-square three-aisled basilica with three domes, decorated with frescoes and icons from the 17th and 18th centuries. The iconostasis (wooden screen separating the nave from the sanctuary) is wood carved and bears icons dating from the same period. The most revered icon is that of the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary, which is believed to have miraculous powers. The church also contains relics of saints and martyrs, such as Saint Charalambos and Saint George.
The monastery also has other buildings, such as cells for the monks, guesthouses for visitors, workshops for various crafts, storerooms for agricultural products, stables for animals, a bakery, a library and a museum. The museum houses ecclesiastical artifacts and presents information on the history of the monastery, such as priests’ vestments, rare books and manuscripts from the 17th century, gospels from the 18th century, silver and wooden crosses and Byzantine icons. The loom on which the first Greek flag was made can also be seen. There is also a photographic record of
the subsequent Greek War of Independence, which lasted from 1821 until 1829.
The wine production of the Monastery of Evangelistria
The Monastery of Evangelistria is also known for its wine production, which dates back to the 5th century BC, when the ancient Greeks cultivated vines on Skiathos. The monastery has its own vineyards, where it produces a red Muscat wine called Alypiakos, named after Father Alypos, the fourth abbot of the monastery. The wine is made from organic grapes and has a sweet and aromatic taste. It is used for religious occasions and ceremonies, but also for commercial purposes. The monastery sells its wine to visitors and local shops, and also exports it to other countries. The wine production has increased over the years, thanks to the modernization of the equipment and the improvement of the quality.
The present situation of the Monastery of Evangelistria
Today, the Monastery of Evangelistria is still active and serves as a spiritual and cultural center for Skiathos and Greece. It is served by only four resident monks; three others associated with the monastery reside elsewhere. The monastery celebrates its feast day on March 25th, which coincides with the national holiday of the Greek Independence Day. On this day, a solemn liturgy is held at the church, followed by a procession of the flag and a wreath-laying ceremony at the monument of the oath. The monastery also hosts other religious and cultural events throughout the year, such as concerts, exhibitions, lectures and seminars.
The Monastery of Evangelistria is open to visitors every day from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm and from 3:30 pm to 7:00 pm. The entrance fee is 2 euros per person. Visitors can admire the architecture and art of the monastery, learn about its history and importance, taste its wine and buy souvenirs from its shop. The monastery can be reached by car or by public bus from Skiathos town. It is located in a scenic area surrounded by pine trees and overlooking the sea. It offers a peaceful and serene atmosphere that invites reflection and meditation.
The Monastery of Evangelistria is one of the oldest and most significant monasteries in Greece, and a must-see attraction for anyone visiting Skiathos. It is not only a place of worship and devotion, but also a place of history and culture, where visitors can discover how Skiathos hosted this monastery, what is its history and importance, and how it contributed to the birth of modern Greece. The Monastery of Evangelistria is a living testimony of the faith, courage and spirit of the Greek people, who fought for their freedom and identity against all odds.