The monastery of the Forty Martyrs consists of an impressive monasterial complex of numerous buildings that date to different periods. It is situated 20 kilometers from the modern town of Sparti. It consists of a building that belongs to an older monastery situated fifteen minutes to the north east of the new monastery. An owner inscription found at the main church (katholikon) attests that the monastery was founded in 1305 A.D. under the reign of the emperor Andronikos I. Hewn in a natural rock, the main church of the old monastery is decorated with impressive wall paintings made by the famous painter, Konstantinos Manassis. The monastery was patriarchal stavropegic.
The katholikon of the new monastery, is a domed cross-in-square church built in 1620. It contains an impressive wooden carved iconostasis and the bishop’s cathedra. The marvelous wall paintings were made by the prominent hagiographer from Nafplion, Georgios Moshos, a representative of the Cretan School.
The library of the monastery presently houses the patriarchs’ sigils and the sultan firmans along with 76 handwritten codes, rare editions and valuable ecclesiastical objects.
The monastery of the Forty Martyrs, an example of the late byzantine ecclesiastic architecture, and is situated 20 minutes from the modern town of Sparti. It consists of an entire monasterial citadel, giving the impression of a fortress, with cells, katholikon, chapels, tower and numerous monastic spaces. The present construction belongs to an older monastery situated in a natural gorge, fifteen minutes from the north east of the present monastery, next to the torrent of Sofronis. The old monastery was difficult to access. For this reason, the monks built a storehouse, at the site of the present monastery, in order to store supplies. A metochi (dependent monastery) gradually evolved at the site and it became the new monastery that replaced the old one.
The found inscription of the emperor Andronikos I, dated back to 1305 A.D., in the katholikon, is the first written source on the foundation of the old monastery. The church, hewn in a natural rock, and contains wall paintings made by the prominent Lacaedemonian painter Konstantinos Manassis. Among the wall paintings the most impressive one is the painting depicting the torture of the Forty Martyrs.
The monastery had direct communication with the Ecumenical Patriachate, which declared it stavropegic during the period of Patriarch Jeremiah II (1572 –1594). The dependency to the Patriarchate that was renewed by the next patriarchs, Sofronios II(1775 – 1780) and Grigorios V(1797 – 1821), along with the sultan firmans issued during that period, provided the monastery with special privileges. In 1769, the monastery was abandoned since the monks were captured by Albanians and sent to Peloponnesus by the Otomans to suppress the revolution. In 1826, Ibrahim Pasha set fire to the monastery and looted its treasures. The earthquake of 1886 collapsed the cells that were rebuilt in 1902. The new monastery contains numerous buildings dating back to different periods. The vaulted elongated buildings, the old dining room, a circular edifice with a fireplace in the center and the four floor tower with the turrets on the east bank, are the oldest edifices of the monastery. Today, only three out of the four floors of the tower are saved, the third transformed into a museum.
The main church of the new monastery is a domed cross-in-square church built in 1620. It contains magnificent wall paintings made by the prominent hagiographer Giorgos Moshos, a representative of the Cretan painting school. The most impressive monuments are the wooden carved iconostasis of the church, dating back to 1902, as well as the wooden carved bishop cathedra that has evidential influence of the baroque art. Marble fragments of churches that date back to the Classic age have been found in the church. Next to the Katholikon, the chapel of Zoodochos Pigi (Life Giving Spring), built in 1707, and at the church’s precinct, one more chapel, the cemetery church of All Saints.
The library of the monastery presently hosts the patriarch sigils and the sultan firmans, as well as 76 hand written codes and liturgical books of Venetian editions. Among the preserved objects, silver reliquaries and valuable silver gold-plated gospels, handwritten sinaxaristes, icons of the 14th century, embroidery, and a marble font where the priest would carry out the blessing of the waters during Theophania.
The monastery celebrates on March 9, attracting a large number of pilgrims.