Trif headed back to the US early on Dec. 27, so on the second day of Christmas (Dec. 26), Paul, Trif, and I took a trip to visit the Monastery of St. John the Forerunner in Serres.
We got to Serres before the monastery reopened after the mid-day break, so we stopped first at Serres' famous acropolis, which just between 1196 and 1383 saw the following developments: In 1196 in the battle of Serres the Byzantines were defeated by the Bulgarian Emperor Ivan Asen I. Nine years later in 1205 the Bulgarian Emperor Kaloyan defeated here an army of the Latin Empire and incorporated the town in the Bulgarian Empire. In 1256 it was captured by the Nicaean Empire. Serres fell to Serbia in the 1345 and became a capital of Stefan Dušan, the Serbian King. Dušan was so satisfied with the capture of the third major Byzantine city that he crowned himself Emperor of Serbs and Greeks. After his death his Empire fell into feudal anarchy and the Empress Consort Helena continued to govern Serres area from 1356. In 1365 she was ousted by Despot Jovan Uglješa Mrnjavčević, who forged a tiny but powerful mini-state in Serres. After the 1371 Battle of Maritsa, the Byzantines retook Serres under their control. Soon, however, in 1383 the Ottomans conquered it.
The view of Serres from up on the acropolis.
Part of what remains of the outside walls -- this one faces basically north. It is marked by an insignia and a cross, which would have identified the city as Christian to those outside (although that doesn't always seem to have helped too much).
After our brief stop here, we headed on to the monastery, where we were able to visit with the newly tonsured Sister Parthenia (formerly Novice Katherine), an American convert friend of ours from Texas.