Churches & Monasteries

Greece is a profoundly religious country with over 90% of the Greek population being of the Christian Orthodox religion.  The Greek Orthodox church is the descendant of the ancient Great Church which formulated Orthodox Christian doctrine.  This was centred on the five ancient Patriarchates of Jerusalem, Antioch, Alexandria, Rome and Constantinopole.  In time, the Byzantine Greek city of Constantinople became the centre of faith of this Great Church.  Today, the leader of the National Church of Greece is the Archbishop of Athens, who oversees all religious matters in central and southern Greece, including Argolida.

Saint Paul preached in many parts of Greece between AD49 and AD61, including ancient Corinth, and this is the area where the first Christian churches in Greece were founded.  However, the oldest surviving churches and monasteries seen today were constructed during the Byzantine period.  Ermioni, and the surrounding Ermionida area, have many impressive churches and monasteries from the Byzantine period, some from the early 9th century AD. You will be made welcome to look around the churches by the priests, even during the services, to admire the beautifully painted interiors, frescos and icons.  Some unoccupied churches and monasteries are usually left unlocked for local residents and visitors to enter.  Please dress discreetly when visiting any place of religious worship.  Icon of Aghia Ermioni
 

MONASTERY OF AVGOU - Distance from Ermioni: 40 kms/40 minutes

If you are adventurous and want to explore somewhere off the beaten track, with spectacular scenery, then the Monastery of Aghios Dimitrios Avgou (of the egg), is a must.  A perfect example of a rock monastery, which is built into the imposing rocks of the surrounding countryside, it is truly amazing.  Situated after the village of Pelei, this Byzantine monastery is perched on a steep rock on the northern side of Mount Didyma, by the Charadrokoilada Radou river, beyond the small settlement of Pelei, which is just off the main Ermioni to Epidavros road.  The monastery was originally established in the mid-11th century and it was reported in 1696 that it housed thirty monks, many servants and had a vast estate.  It took part in the 1821 Revolution when it was set on fire by Ibrahim Pasha's Ottoman army on 15th June 1825.  The monastery was closed down in 1833, when King Othon passed a series of anti-church measures that abolished monasteries that had fewer than six resident monks.  The surviving frescoes in the small cave, east of the central rock date back to the late 11th century.  There has been extensive renovation work continuing within the abandoned monastery since 1990, and it now has an electricity supply.  However, this has led to the monastery being locked to visitors for some periods of time.  If you do get access, the view of the valley from the top floor roof is truly amazing.   Please be aware that the last 7 kms, after you pass through the village of Pelei from the main road, is travelled over a rough small stone secondary road, unsuitable for vehicles with low ground cleareance.  Some people may choose to walk the last 200 metre distance, or drive very slowly over the larger rough stones and leave your transport at the monastery car-park, where there is an official sign.  You will have to walk the remaining 200+ metres down to the renovated mansion and rock monastery.  Take water with you (or even a picnic) and sensible footwear, however, the inconvenience is well worth the trouble.

 

MONASTERY OF AGIOI ANARGYROI - Distance from Ermioni: 3.5 kms/5 minutes

Along the western coastal road, towards Kouverta, is a typical example of Byzantine monastic architecture, with impressive wall paintings and a number of Byzantine icons.  The library of the monastery has a  wonderful collection of old and very rare hand-written books.  The Monastery of Agioi Anargyroi is also famous for its hot water springs, as it is situated on the remnants of an ancient temple dedicated to Asclepios, with a healing fountain that still flows today.  According to some, the monastery was built during the 11th century, around the small church of Panaghia built in the 9th century, whilst others seem to suggest that it was built by Emperor Ioannis VI in 1340. Today this monastery is open most mornings for visitors to explore and pray.  Every year on the 30th June, in the late afternoon, thousands of people from all over Greece visit the monastery.  The road to the monastery is lined with many market stalls, when you reach the top of the road you can buy your candle and enter the monastery.  Water is essential, as it gets extremely hot and crowded.  The service goes on throughout the night.  On 1st July and 1st November each year, a church service and blessing is held in the monastery, in honour of the Agioi Anargyroi festival. Agioi Anargyroi became a centre for horse and animal treatment many years ago, before the age of the automobile, and many horses and their riders enter the monastery in tribute, in the late morning, to be given a blessing by the priest.  In 1946, the Metropolitan Bishop of Hydra changed the role of the monastery to a nunnery.  To get to the monastery you can walk the 3.5 kms from Ermioni or drive along the coastal road towards Petrothalassa, until you see a beautiful small chapel on the right hand side. From the adjacent roundabout, the monastery is only 1.5 kms away inland. 

 

CHURCH OF AGIOI TAXIARCHES - Distance from Ermioni: 400m/5 minute walk

Situated in the centre of the old village of Ermioni, is the Metropolis of Ermioni, a historic Byzantine church of Agioi Taxiarches (Archangels) dedicated to the Archangels Michael and Gabriel, that originally dates back to the 9th century, and reconstructed in the 13th century.  The church is located on the crest of the hill, just above the Ermioni museum, on the same grounds where the ancient Temple of Demeter originally stood, Demeter was the ancient goddess of agricultural fertility.  The temple, and later the original church, was originally surrounded by large Mycenaean walls, with some large stones still in situ on the northern side of the church. The church was enlarged in the mid 17th century, to the size that one sees today.  A recent restoration programme that exposed the original Medieval stonework was completed in 2016.  It was in this church that the proxies of the Third National Assembly of Independent Greece took their oath in 1827,  following a meeting at the Economou Residence, which today is the History and Folklore Museum of Ermioni.  The church is the starting point for many of the celebrations and festivals throughout the year, where the proccessions wind their way down to the war monument at the Limani plateia, and back for blessings.  The church plays host to the annual festivals of the Epiphany (6th January), Independence Day (25th March), 'OXI' Day (28th October) and Taxiarches Day (8th November).  The present resident priest is Papa Ioannis Ampelas.

 

CHURCH OF PANAGHIA - Distance from Ermioni: 425m/5 minute walk

The church of Panaghia (Holy Church of the Dormition of the Virgin) is located 60m from the church of Taxiarches in the old village of Ermioni.  It is a more younger building, constructed and first consecrated in 1921, with a really beautiful traditional interior.  In addition to Easter and Christmas, this Orthodox church is the focus of the festival of the Dormition/Assumption on the 14th & 15th August.   A holy service on the evening of the 14th is followed by a candle-lit evening proccession making its way down to the war memorial at the Limani port plateia, and back for blessings, with holy bread being distributed by the local priests to the numerous congragation.  The next morning there is Holy Mass from 08:00 and then the congregation depart to celebrate their national holiday.  There is a friendly rivalry between the two churches for many of the religious festivals. The present resident priest is Papa Dimitrious Ampelas.  

 

CHURCH OF AGHIOS GERASIMOS - Distance from Ermioni: 1 km/15 minute walk

The church of Aghios Gerasimos, located on Krothi Hill, overlooks the Limani port of Ermioni.  This modern church is used for weddings and baptisms by the resident citizens of Ermioni, as well as hosting many musical festivals, with its picturesque outdoor setting.  The church was consecrated on 20th October 2001, which also commemorates the annual Feast Day of Saint Gerasimos.  Saint Gerasimos was born in 1503 in Trikala, Thessaly, was ordained a monk on Mount Athos, and became a saint in 1622.  The church interior is wonderful, which reflects the Byzantine style exterior of the church.  Many local couples take their vows of marriage in this church, as well as celebrating baptisms, as the outdoor space around the church lends itself to be beautifully decorated for special occasions.  The church is still one of the best vantage points of Ermioni for viewing or photographing the charming coastal town. 

 

CHURCH OF PROPHET ELIAS - Distance from Ermioni: 7.5 kms/15 minutes

On the 20th July, the feast of Prophet Elias is celebrated annualy at this small church, situated on a hillside, overlooking 'Blanket' beach and the bay at Kouverta.  Bread, coffee and cakes are given out by the patron Orthodox priest and his family, who lovingly prepare the church and reception area each year for this feast day. Although the church is small, there is a charming warmth about the place, and the view of the bay from the church grounds is wonderful.  You may have to leave your car at the bottom of the hill leading up to this small church, and walk the last 200 metres.  It's best to visit in the mid to late morning period.  The Prophet Elias (also known as Elijah) was one of the greatest and most holiest prophets of the Old Testament.  He lived in the 9th century BC, during the reign of the sinful King Ahab, king of Israel, and his evil wife Jezebel. 

 

CHURCH OF AGHIA ERMIONI - Distance from Ermioni: 780m/4 mins or 12 minute walk

Walk up to the top of Pronos Hill and enjoy some spectacular scenery of Ermioni and the surrounding mountains, hills, countryside and sea.  This beautiful church, built in 1754, is situated at the summit of the Hill of Pronos, built on the foundations of an ancient temple to the goddess Hera, as this hill area was heavily populated during the Hellenistic and Roman period.  The church is only used for special occassions as weddings and christenings, and celebrates its name day on the 4th September.  See the icon of Aghia Ermioni at the top of this page.  Following the annual Spring Apokries Carnival, the church is also open on Sarakosti Clean MondayThis is the day that many of the Ermioni residents make their way up to Pronos Hill to fly their kites, sit and talk, and have the opportunity to dance together to the traditional Greek folk music, played in front of the church of Aghia Ermioni*. 

* Close by to the church of Aghia Ermioni is the 20th century modern church of Aghios Nicodemus, which was built as a private venture by one of Ermioni's former priests.  This beautifully constructed Byzantine style church is only open one day annually for private service, to retain its ongoing status as a church.

 

CHURCHES OF AGHIOS GEORGIOS & METAMORPHOSIS OF SORTIROS - Distance from Ermioni: 24 kms/30 minutes

Alongside the village of Didyma, there are two caves, the smaller cave/crater contains the 11th century Byzantine Metamorphosis of Sortiros church and the 14th century Byzantine church of Aghios Georgios (left).  Both churches were carved into the surrounding rockface and can be visited by climbing down a cavernous staircase that brings you out onto a balcony within the 150m diameter crater.  From this balcony you will see the white church of Aghios Georgios (St. George) to your right, which has faded wall-painted icons and inscriptions in Latin, as well as an old stone baptistery.  You will have to walk around the crater pathway to see the earlier church of Metamorphosis at the far side of the 80m deep crater.  Both churches are open to the public, but please make sure you close the doors when leaving.  In the centre of Didyma is the church of Aghios Nikolaos, built on the ruins of a temple of Poseidon. 

 

AGNOUNDOS MONASTERY - Distance from Ermioni: 64 kms/1 hour

Set in beautiful open countryside, one will find this wonderful 11th century Byzantine monastery.  Located alongside the main Ermioni to Corinth road, it is well worth stopping and visiting.  A ramp from the parking area takes you through the olive tree gardens to the monastery entrance.  At the entrance there are a couple of small shops, one selling holy relics whereas the other sells various natural foods, all made by the local Orthodox nuns.  The grounds are rustic and offer natural beauty, shade, peace and tranquillity. The holy relics, frescos and icons inside the old Byzantine church of Panaghia are amazing.  Please note that no photo's may be taken inside the church. The resident nuns will put a light on for you, if it is too dark, which will allow you to appreciate the amazing Byzantine artwork within the Panaghia church.  Dress code: no t-shirts or shorts allowed inside the church.

 

OTHER CHURCHES IN ERMIONI - Within walking distance:

Within Ermioni, at the entrance to the Bisti pine forest peninsula, there are two small churches which hold services for special occasions only.  The central one on the Limani (northern) side of Ermioni is the church of Aghios Nicolaos, patron saint of sailors and all Greece, which is only open to celebrate his annual name day on 6th December and the morning of Orthodox Great Friday.  The second church located next to the sea on the Mandrakia (southern) side of Ermioni, is called Aghios Ioannis.  This church is used for weddings and baptisms by the residents of Ermioni due to its beautiful location.  Close by to these two Bisti churches, about 150m towards the new town, is the charming early Medieval church of Aghios Athanasios.

Another church in the Limani centre of Ermioni, located within the grounds of a previous monastery, originally called the Monastery of Zoodochos Pigi, is the church of Panaghitsa.  An annual church service is held there during the evening of Orthodox Easter Thursday, when a mass is held in the small church, with a procession to the Limani memorial held during the evening ceremony.   See all churches in Picture Gallery.          

There are a number of privately owned family churches and chapels in the surrounding countryside of Ermioni, built with love and devotion by previous generations of Orthodox faithful.  Most of them have annual services carried out by the local priests to retain their Ekklesia church status, with community celebrations organised by the family members that follow their religious assembly.

Picture Gallery
Monastery of Ag. Dimitrios Avgou seen from across the valley Mon. of Avgou - Approach to the rock monastery Mon. of Avgou - Panoramic views from the renovated mansion Mon. of Avgou - Light a candle in the church of Ag. Dimitrios Mon. of Avgou - The roof-top fresco of Agios Theodore Mon. of Avgou - Wonderful valley view from the roof-top Mon. of Avgou - Impressive entrance to the rock monastery Mon. of Avgou - Directions from the village of Pelei Small coastal chapel on the way to the Monastery of Anargyroi 11th cen. Byzantine Monastery of Anargyroi - Ermioni Mon. of Anargyroi - Main entrance to the monastery and church Mon. of Anargyroi - Walkway leading to the Monastery courtyard Mon. of Anargyroi - The interior courtyard Mon. of Anargyroi - Church bell-tower and courtyard Mon. of Anargyroi - Early 9th cen. Panaghia church alter Mon. of Anargyroi - A nun going about her religious duties Agioi Taxiarches - 9th cen. Byzantine church of Ermioni  Agioi Taxiarches - Beautiful interior of the 'Archangels' church Agioi Taxiarches - Restored exterior completed in 2016 Church of Panaghia - Located in the old village - Ermioni Church of Panaghia (Holy Virgin) - Beautiful church interior Church of Panaghia - A Metropolitan service within Panaghia Church of Prophet Elias - Near Kouverta - Ermioni Church of Prophet Elias - Colouful interior - near Kouverta Aghia Ermioni - Mid-18th century church - Pronos Hill Aghia Ermioni - Mid-18th century church interior - Pronos Hill Aghios Nicodemus church near Aghia Ermioni - Pronos Hill Aghios Gerasimos on Krothi Hill - Ermioni in the background Aghios Nikolaos - On the Bisti peninsula - Ermioni Aghios Ioannis - By the Bisti peninsula - Ermioni Aghios Athanasios - Close to the Bisti - Ermioni Church of Panaghitsa - ex-Mon. of Zoodochos Pigi - Ermioni Church of Aghios Nikolaos - Village of Didyma Entrance to churches in the small crater - Didyma cave Church of Aghios Georgios - Didyma cave Church of Metamorphosis of Sortiris - Didyma cave Agnoundos Monastery - 11th century Byzantine monastery Agnoundos Monastery - Entrance to the church of Panaghia Agnoundos Monastery - Courtyard fountain  Agnoundos Monastery - Steps leading to upper dormitories