Back on Saturday, Sept. 21, we resumed our monthly parish pilgrimages with an annual tradition of going to the village of Agios Lavrentios (St. Lawrence) and celebrating Liturgy at the church dedicated to the local saint, St. Apostolos the New.
The map above shows the driving route we took, but many of my parishioners remember going to the more direct route through the village of Drakia every year by foot (or horseback/mule). They would go the evening before, carrying lanterns. I heard one say that they remember it taking about 4 hours each way.
We, of course, went by bus. We left Portaria at 7:00, and arrived at the church a little after 8:00. We soon started Orthros and Divine Liturgy, with a memorial, and finished around 11:00.
The current church is rather new, from perhaps the 1970s. I have the impression that it replaced an older, much smaller church.
The iconography depicts the saint's life and martyrdom.
Here are the blood-soaked clothes in which he was martyred.
As well as his skull. The rest of his body has not yet been found.
After Liturgy, we headed to the nearby monastery dedicated to St. Lawrence, from which the town took its name. The monastery dates to the beginning of the 11th century, before the Schism, and was originally a dependency or metochion of a now-extinct Western, Benedictine monastery of Mt. Athos known as Amalfion, which was located about halfway between the Great Lavra and Karakallou. Only the ruins of a large tower remain today. After the Schism, its property was given to the Great Lavra.
The monastery of St. Lawrence seems to have been originally dedicated by the Benedictine/Athonite monks to St. Andrew. Even after many subsequent changes, it retains some peculiarly Latin architectural features. Additionally, many of the original inscriptions have been preserved by being reused in later construction. Above is part of an inscription which ends with "Amalfitan" in Latin.
Again here we can make out the "Am" from Amalfitan.
After being abandoned by the Benedictine monks, it was re-founded as an Orthodox monastery in the late 14th century by St. Lawrence. The village later grew up around the monastery, as often happened in Greece, and the village took its name from the monastery.
Today it is a women's monastery with three nuns, who were very gracious to us, serving us coffee and giving us a very moving talk about the history and role of the monastery today.
Afterwards, we headed to the village of Milies, further southeast down Mt. Pelion, where we enjoyed lunch in the village's main square, next to its historic Church of the Holy Archangels. After lunch, we were treated to a tour and explanation of the church's unique iconography and acoustics. I blogged about it previously several years ago (see below). We then headed back to Portaria, stopping for a coffee along the sea side in Kala Nera.
The church was absolutely fascinating. Since it was built in the 1700s, during the period of the Ottoman yoke, the church was purposely designed to appear, from the outside, as just a house, so that the Turks would not be tempted to steal from it or desecrate it. This was why, interestingly, the door to the church (as is so typical of that time period), is so small -- it was to prevent the Turks from riding into the church on their horses. This concern to hide the church from the Turks also led to an ingenious acoustic system. The roof is composed of a series of small domes, each of which has 4 large clay pots situated upside down in it. These act much like the cones in a speaker and resonate with different pitches -- treble, bass, etc. There were also hollow spaces under the floor to help absorb sound. The purpose was to limit echoing and keep the sound inside the building, so that the Turks would not be aware outside. The effect, though, was also to create an incredible acoustic system. The man giving us the impromptu tour had us demonstrate by having the priests sing an apolytikion from the front of the church, and the rest stand in the back. The sound carried as clear as a bell. The man told us that a European Bach Appreciation Society had even come to perform several concerts in the church in order to utilize and study the church's acoustics. Above is a photo of the church from the outside.