Monastery of Askitis

The land of Elia hides a wonderful surprise deep inside it: the Monastery of Our Lady of Askitis ("Askitis" means "hermit" in Greek). Travelers begin from Goumero, a mountainous village with a panoramic view. In the small square of the village they can get full directions about the course they should follow. Inside the mixed forest, full of pines and cypresses, planes and wild oaks, they can hear sheep bleating, sheepdogs barking, birds chirping and fluttering their wings.

For the owners of usual cars, there is only one way to follow, a smooth dirt road. All the other roads are rough and lead to sheepfolds and fields belonging to the natives.

On their way down, on their right hand, travelers meet a shrine. Its only provincial ornament: the iron pillars with overhead cables. These are the only sign of "civilization", necessary for the operation of the generator, thanks to which there is electricity and music at the annual festival of the Monastery. As travelers follow the pillars towards the precipitous cliff, they come upon a plateau, with a picturesque little church in the middle. On their left hand, in the shade of huge trees, stone steps lead to the holy secret of the area: the little stony whitewashed church of Askitis, which stands at the bottom of a giant rock.

It has no roof. It is topped by the huge natural crevice of the rock. The pale daylight, the sound of the "holy" water springing from inside the earth, the wooden icon screen create an aura of mystery. Old legends add to the mystery of the place.

Many years ago, a pious hermit lived in this solitary place on goat milk and fruits from the wild trees. A night with a full moon, a hunter came and waited in ambush for animals. The hermit was looking for food crawling through the grass. The hunter heard the noise and shot. Then he waited patiently for the daybreak to find his game. The blood led him to the corpse of the hermit, who had crawled to the rock and had died there. The story runs that he was holding an icon of Virgin Mary in his hands. Holy water spurted from his blood. Even nowadays, the faithful drink it to be cured from various diseases.

Nobody knows when exactly the little church was built, but the remains of an older building perhaps of the original Monastery are still visible at the back exit of the rock. Drops of damp hang by the dark rocky dome. The Monastery celebrates on the 31st of August, when a devout vigil takes place there.

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We were picked up by Christos snd Callie in large clean comfortable Mercedes van. I can only say that they were both just Fantastic!! The 1st day we went to Delfi and the following day we went to Mycenae and Epidavros. Christos and Callie were knowledgeable, professional and gave us an 11 out of 10 experience. Above and beyond our expectations. I wouldn't consider any other service!

- Benny Dogger



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