Mega Spileo Monastery in Kalavryta
The Monastery of Mega Spileo in Kalavryta: The Holy Monastery of Mega Spileo is placed 10 km far from the town of Kalavryta. It is found right on the central road that leads to Kalavryta and is geographically located close to Zachlorou village. It is built on the slopes of a steep side of a rocky hill, at a height of 924m, providing great views from its balcony.
The monastery's architecture reminds of a fortress and it has eight floors. The cells of the monks are built around a cave. The Monastery of Mega Spileo was originally built in 362 AD by two brothers, Symeon, and Theodore when a shepherd girl found an icon of the Virgin Mary inside a cave. The icon was made of wax and mastic and it is believed that Apostle Luke painted it.
In 840 AC, Mega Spileo Monastery was burnt down by a religious group, known as Iconomachs. It was rebuilt in 1285 by the emperor Andronikos Paleologos but suffered many destroying fires along its history. In fact, a fire in 1600 burnt down the valuable library of the Monastery which had many rare manuscripts. Another fire in 1934 destroyed some precious relics.
Two years later, the monastery was rebuilt but in 1943, it suffered another destruction: the Nazi German troops, after the massacre in Kalavryta, put the Monastery of Mega Spileo in fire and killed its twelve monks and its staff, either shooting at them or throwing them from the above rocks. Some managed to survive, hidden in close caves after they had taken some valuable icons with them.
In our days, in spite of all these damages, the Monastery of Mega Spileo is an imposing construction with a 17th-century church that hosts remarkable frescoes, mosaic floors and a bronze door with relief decoration. The Monastery also hosts a museum that displays carved wooden crosses, antique manuscripts, and Holy Gospels. A good number of its important relics are also kept in a special hall. The Monastery of Mega Spileo celebrates every year on August 15th, on the name day of the Virgin Mary, who is the saint protector of the monastery.