Monday, April 08, 2013

Parish Trip to Ano Gatzea

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On Wednesday, April 4, we took a parish trip to the Monastery of the Holy Trinity in Ano Gatzea, about an hour from Portaria.

This men's monastery, which has about six monks, is a metochion (or dependency) of the Great Lavra, on Mt. Athos, thus all the monks there are actually Athonite monks of the Great Lavra who have been sent to this monastery.

As you can see from the photos, the monastery is located in a beautiful position high up on the hill, on the spot known as "Palaiokastro" ("Old Castle"), which takes its name from the Venetian castle that once guarded the coastline. It was destroyed by the Catalans in 1310.

Presvytera Pelagia was too tired from the pregnancy to make the trip, and the boys wanted to stay home with her, so I took Phoebe with us. In the photo above, she and our friends' son Dimitri are at the entrance to the monastery.

We arrived at the monastery around 5:30 in the evening and were treated to a coffee in the monastery's refectory. One of the monks, Fr. Avgoustinos, from Portaria's neighboring village of Makrynitsa, greeted us and spoke to us for awhile.

If I recall correctly, the land was purchased around 1810 by a wealthy man who renounced the world and became a monk of the Great Lavra. He built the monastery and when he died, he left it to the Great Lavra, stipulating only that he desired it to be continually occupied by monks from the Great Lavra in order that confession may be offered to the local people for the salvation of their souls.

Over the years, the monastery fell into disrepair and was finally abandoned in 1963 when the last of the monks returned to the monastery of Great Lavra. This, of course, coincided with the period of Mt. Athos' great decline, when it was widely feared that the monasteries would close. Fortunately, there was a monastic revival and, in 1989, the Great Lavra was once again in a position to send monks to repair and man the monastery.

We visited the well-stocked bookstore and walked around before attending the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts in the monastery's small katholikon, which was beautiful.

Phoebe got a Greek kids' book at the monastery's bookstore. Here she is sitting outside the church reading it.

For a few more photos, click here and here. (For some reason, Facebook would not allow me to post them all together this time.)