Deep in the unwelcoming cliffs of Pelei, in the mountain range of Didimoi, stands the Byzantine monastery of Avgo inextricably bound to the landscape. Various legends exist around its name. The monastery was formed by the monks’ hermitages in the 11th century and it is a characteristic example of Moni ton Vrachon (monastery built on a rock). In its main church, dedicated to the honor of two saints, one can see hagiographies of the 17th century while icons of the 11th century are saved at the top part of the building, in the Transfiguration cave. Today no monks live in the monastery.
Wedged in the rocks of Pelei, on the northern slopes of mount Avgo with a view to Sellanda river, in a magical landscape stands through the centuries the monastery of Avgo, an old Byzantine monastery in harmony with nature. This half ruined monastery is not visible from the main road that leads to Didima. The visitor therefore can reach it by means of two different dirt roads that help explore secrets of nature.
There have been many stories regarding its name and location throughout the years. The most prevailing is the one connecting the monastery to the name of the mount, as in many dialects, mainly of Peloponnese, the word Avgo (Greek Αυγό, translated to “egg”) was used to describe the bare summits.
The monastery is one of the most important Byzantine monuments of the region and it is a characteristic example of a Moni ton Vrachon formed by ancient monk hermitages. It had the form of a fortress with embrasures in the natural cavities of the rock while the dilapidated buildings on the grounds of the monastery prove its fortress character.
There is no reference on the exact date of its foundation, but because of its architecture and the frescos in the Metamorphosis cave it is believed that its establishment dates back to the 11th century when an ascetic group of monks moved up there in order to find peace. There are no historical sources on the development of the monastery until the 17th century. According to a written source dating back to 1700 the monastery had extensive property. During the Greek Revolution it contributed a lot to the Greek cause. The abbot of the monastery fought in the conquest of Nafplio. In 1825 the monastery was burned but after the liberation it was inhabited again until 1834 when it ceased to function because of the antireligious measures taken by king Otto. In 1834 the main church was burned. The main building consists of three floors. The floors are connected through a stone staircase. The main church, which is dedicated to two saints, is on the third floor. The southern section, which is inside the rock is dedicated to Saint Demetrios and the northern one to the Saints Theodorous. In the interior of the Saints Theodorous church one can see hagiographies of the 17th century, whereas inside the church of Saint Demetrios the hagiographies and the wooden templon which once existed have been destroyed in a huge fire. These two churches are connected with a double arch opening which is set on an ionic capital. A staircase in the eastern corner of the corridor leads high above the main church to the octagonal dome. A bit higher there is another cave divided in two parts. This cave is dedicated to the honor of the Transfiguration of Jesus. On the top right part of the rock there are frescos dating back to the 11th century. From the north eastern corner of the cell we can enter another cave, probably a chapel. In these caves we can discover the life of the hermits in the 11th century.
Today only a few services are conducted there throughout the year as the monastery is no longer inhabited by monks. The magic of nature and this magnificent building have inspired foreign artists who completed the shooting of the film “The prophet” in this setting.