Religious Sightseeing Around Greece
It is Easter week in Greece, the “Megali Evdomada” as it is called, and everywhere around the country, families return to the villages of their grandparents for the traditional Easter feast. Traditions in Greece are rooted in religious beliefs and no tradition is more cherished than “Pascha”.
Orthodox religion is an important part of modern Greek culture, with many fascinating examples of architectural styles, art and natural wonders that are worth visiting this Easter or any other time of the year.
Osios Loukas Monastery
Located in a secluded area on Mt. Helicon in central Greece is the Monastery of Osios Loukas (Saint Luke). A triumph of Byzantine art and architecture, it is no surprise that this church is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The monastery was founded by the hermit Loucas Stereiotis, who lived in the area from 945 A.D. until the day of his death, in 953 A.D. The church of the Theotocos was built while Loucas was alive. He was declared an “Osios” of the Orthodox Church and his relics are kept in the church’s crypt. The walls are veneered with marble slabs on the lower section and decorated with superb mosaics on the upper part and the upper floor. The mosaics represent the more severe and abstracted style of the Middle Byzantine decorative art and date from the first half of the 11th century. The mosaic decoration of the walls was completed by contemporary wall paintings in the chapels of the west side.
Monastery of the Revelation in Patmos
St. John the Apostle had a vision, a revelation of the world to come while living in a cave on the remote island of Patmos in 96 AD. He wrote down his vision and it became the 27th and final chapter of the Bible.
The area around the cave was originally chosen for the monastery by Osios Christodoulos in the early 12th century. When you enter the cave you immediately get the sense that you are transported to another dimension. The rock formation of the walls is volcanic and at some points appears to shine from the water that was trapped inside without vaporizing, creating an eerie effect.
Byzantine castle-town of Mystras
Not a religious site per se, Mystras nevertheless takes you back in time to the high middle ages. A UNESCO World Heritage site, Mystras offers a fascinating look into life in the 13th century. The medieval city’s cathedral church is very well preserved; visitors can see the spot where Constantine XI Palaiologos, the last Byzantine emperor, was coronated.
The fortress is built amphitheatrically around a steep hill overlooking the verdant Eurotas valley. Built in 1259, Mystras soon evolved into a major centre of the Byzantine empire, second only to the capital Constantinople. It was in Mystras, actually, that the Byzantine art and literature flourished for the last time before the spread of the Ottoman conquests in the mid-15th century. As a cultural phenomenon, this creative flourishing in arts coupled with the revival of the classical letters and especially philosophy in Mystras was named by the scholars the Palaeologan Renaissance.
Palace of the Grand Master of the Knights of Rhodes
A religious building of a completely different order, but impressive nonetheless, is the Palace of the Grand Master in Rhodes. The Knights Hospitallers moved to Rhodes after the loss of the Holy Lands to the Muslims and built their fortress in the medieval city. Today, it is a UNESCO World Heritage site which attracts many tourists every summer.
Inside the massive fortress you can admire the outstanding masonry work, carefully restored throughout the centuries and get a sense of what life was like in those times.
Hellenic Holidays offers vacation packages that include many destinations of religious importance in Greece and Turkey. Visit our Vacations link or contact us to create your customized package!