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The Monastery of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Philosophou

The Philosofou Monastery is located in the Prefecture of Arcadia, south of Dimitsana, at the gorge of the river Lousios. It comprises two parts, an older and a newer one, at a small distance within each other. The older part was built in 963 A.D. by Ioannis Lambardopoulos, the so called “philosofos”, secretary of Nikiforos Fokas, from whom the Monastery took its name. The new Philosophou Monastery was built in the 17th century and opened soon after.

The old Philosofou Monastery, which is today deserted, is the oldest monastery in Arcadia and one of the most historic ones in Greece. During the Turkish rule, the famous today Secret School operated there, which developed into a religious school that later operated in the New Monastery. From the ranks of this school sprang important personas that played a decisive role in the liberation of the Greek nation. Until 1691 the Monastery continued to flourish as a spiritual centre. Between the years 1834-1836, however, its disbanding was decided, so it gradually fell into decline. Fairly recently it was declared a protected monument, and that’s when its maintenance and restoration works began.

The Monastery of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Philosophou -the old and the new- is located to the south of the historic village of Dimitsana, in the area of Monopori, within the gorge of River Lucius and it is dedicated to the Assumption of Theotokos.

The old monastery was established in 963 AD by Ioannis Lambardopoulos, who was born in Dimitsana and served as secretary to the emperor Nikoforos Fokas. Ioannis Lambardopoulos, owing to his exceptional education, bore the name “Philosophos” (Philosopher), mimicking other Byzantine rulers; hence the name of the monastery. It is one of the oldest monasteries in Greece, is stavropegic and is built inside a natural cave. According to tradition, during the dark years of the Turkish domination, it housed a Secret School which was later transferred to the new monastery and became a renowned seminary. Many prominent figures of the Greek nation attended this school, as well as teachers, priests, monks and leading personalities of the ecclesiastical life, such as the Patriarch Grigorios V and the Bishop Germanos, known as Palaion Patron Germanos. Today, the old monastery is deserted. Only one small chapel in the Byzantine style from the 10th century is now preserved, with very few, but notable, frescoes, as well as remnants of cells and other buildings.

The new monastery was built near the remnants of the old one, around the middle of the 17th century. Initially they constructed its main church and few cells and they operated it alongside the old one. The church was painted in 1693 at the expense of Mavraidi Pasha Farmakis, who was born in Stemnitsa, became a Muslim and then converted back to Christianity. Farmakis is depicted on the west side of the church, having characteristic eastern features. Within the framework of the School there was a notable library that among others included important manuscripts from the 12th century, which are currently kept in the National Library of Athens.

The Monastery of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Philosophou is called “the Princess of the Gorge”, being an impressive structure with rich history and a tremendous contribution to the enlightenment of the Greek nation. Its decadence begun after the liberation of the Greeks, up until 1834, when it was finally closed down by decision of the Bavarian Regency. This is how its glorious course through the centuries came to an end. However, it still stands proud in the stunning landscape that surrounds it, haunted by memories of the past.


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