Monastery of Saint John the Baptist in Arcadia

The Monastery of Saint John the Baptist (Agios Ioannis Prodromos) is also named the ‘Great Cave’ (Mega Spilaio) of Arcadia because it was built into a huge vertical rock on the east bank of Lousios Gorge by monks who lived in nearby hermitages. Thousands of pilgrims arrive here each year to explore this holy site, which offers peace, harmony and serenity.  

Location and getting there

Insights Greece - Monastery of Saint John the Baptist in Arcadia

Located near the villages of Stemnitsa and Dimitsana, the landscape is impressive and reminiscent of other holy sites in Greece, such as Meteora and Mega Spilaio. 

To arrive at the monastery, on the road from Dimitsana to Stemnitsa, turn right two kilometers before Stemnitsa and follow the signs for the monastery and Ancient Gortys. Following the signs for 6 kilometers from the turning point, you will reach the point where you must leave your car and begin a walk along a lovely 600 metre footpath.

The Church 

The church of Saint John the Baptist is a single-domed basilica, decorated with remarkable frescoes. Murals are also found outside the church, which are admired by all those who visit. 

The Monastery

This monastery is said to have been built in the mid 16th century, although the monks suggest its construction is much older, dating to the 12th century. Historically, the building was used as a refuge and hospital for local fighters during the Turkish occupation, due to its hidden position. From the balconies of the Monastery visitors can enjoy the splendid views of the luscious landscapes surrounding them.

What you will find here

There are workshops for painting and sewing sacred garments at the monastery and there is also an impressive collection of about 1000 historical books. The number of visitors who come here each year is huge, because apart from the spiritual journey, the monastery is built in a landscape of immense beauty, on towering cliffs, inside lush vegetation and with the Lousios River right by. Here you will be greeted by monks who show you around and offer coffee and local sweets to all their guests. 

Nature Walks

For those who love nature walks, two very beautiful paths begin at the Monastery of Saint John the Baptist. The first path heads left and takes you about 600 metres through a magnificent landscape rich in vegetation, then leads you down 200 metres to the Lousios Gorge. Here you will cross a new footbridge, and see the ruins of the monastery’s watermill, which were mentioned as early as 1630. 

The second route starts at the Monastery of Saint John, following the path to the right toward the Monastery of the Philosopher (old and new sections). About 650 metres down the path, approximately half way to the monastery, you will see a bridge linking the two banks of the Lousios. The monastery of Philosophos, located on the western side of the Lousios river gorge, is dedicated to the Assumption of the Virgin Mary. The monastery consists of two sections- the Old Monastery and the New Monastery of the Philosopher. 

Insights Greece - Monastery of Saint John the Baptist in Arcadia

Who is Saint John the Baptist?

The  Prophet and Forerunner John the Baptist is also referred to as John the Forerunner because he was the forerunner of Christ. He was an ascetic and great prophet, who baptised Christ and became one of the most revered saints in the Orthodox Church. He was later beheaded by Herod in the first century to satisfy the request of Herod’s stepdaughter, Salome, and wife Herodias. As he baptised Christ, he is the Patron Saint of godparents. January 7 is the Feast Day of Saint John the Baptist and it is also a celebration and name day of those named Ioannis or Ioanna. 

A: Arkadias, Tripoli 221 00, Greece

*Main image courtesy of Blog of Dimi © (Copyright) 

Cathedral of Agios Andreas in Patras: Greece’s Largest Church

The Cathedral of Agios Andreas (Saint Andrew), the largest church in Greece, is located in the west side of the city centre of Patras. Along with the nearby old church of Saint Andrew, it is a sacred place of pilgrimage for visitors from all over the world, especially on November 30, the Feast Day of Saint Andrew.

Getting there Insights Greece - Cathedral of Agios Andreas in Patras: Greece’s Largest Church

Patras, the modern capital of the Peloponnese and Achaia, is the third largest town in Greece. From Athens, you can get there by car (2.5 hour drive), ferry or bus. There are coach services from Athens KTEL to Patras, which normally take around 4 hours, or a ferry from Piraeus to Patras takes about 3.5 hours.

Protector Saint of Patras

Apostle Andreas is the Protector Saint of Patras. According to tradition, Apostle Andreas, the first student of Jesus Christ, was crucified in this town, on a site near the port. The large church here has been built on the exact spot where Apostle Andrew was crucified.

Apostle Andreas

Insights Greece - Cathedral of Agios Andreas in Patras: Greece’s Largest Church

The first Apostle called by Jesus was Andreas, who had previously been following John the Baptist. Upon encountering Jesus, he became his follower along with his brother Peter. Saint Andreas is renowned for bringing Christianity to Patras, Romania, Ukraine, Scotland and Russia. Agios Andreas is esteemed as an example of humility for the fact that he refused to be crucified on the same type of cross as Christ because he was not worthy. Many countries venerate Andreas as their patron saint including Scotland, Russia, and Romania.

Agios Andreas Cathedral

The neo-Byzantine style cathedral is the largest church in Greece and was completed in 1979. The Cathedral of Saint Andrew also has the largest dome in the Balkans. With Byzantine architecture, it has many arches and a bell tower. The church has a length of 60m, width of 52 m and has a capacity of 7,000 people. Over the central dome there is a 5-metre-long, gold-plated cross and over the other domes, there are 12 smaller crosses. These crosses symbolize Jesus and His apostles. The interior of the church is decorated with Byzantine-style wall paintings and mosaics. The Holy icons of Saint Andrew and of Panagia, the “Source of Life”, are to be found at the end of the nave; there is also an impressive carved wooden chandelier.

Smaller Church

Opposite this church, there is an older church, also dedicated to Agios Andreas, that was built in 1835 and was designed by the famous architect Lysandros Kaftatzoglou. Right next to it, there is a water spring and it is said that this is where Apostle Andrew left his last breath in 66 A.D.

Insights Greece - Cathedral of Agios Andreas in Patras: Greece’s Largest Church

Relics of Agios Andreas

Relics of Apostle Andreas are found in the church and are displayed at the end of the side aisle in a chased gold casket. They consist of the Saint’s small finger, part of the top of the cranium of the Apostle, and small portions of the cross on which he was martyred. The holy skull of the Apostle was sent there from St. Peter’s Basilica, Rome in September 1964.

A: Evmilou 4, Patra 262 22, Greece