#60 Monastery of Gkoura

Location

One of the most important and wealthy monasteries in the wider area of Konitsa is the Taxiarches' of Goura monastery. It is located at a relatively short distance from Aidonochori. Moreover, it is built on a rocky site, which gave its name (Goura means stone in Albanian).The construction date of the monastery is not known. However, many scholars consider that it was founded in the 16th century. In addition, its location provides a unique view of Aoos and Sarantaporos rivers confluence, as well as a view of the surrounding area.


Construction Data

The monastery is of a fort like structure, as it is surrounded with high walls.

In the yard of the monastery in the 16th century it is thought that there where operating various workshops and a school. Under the sanctuary of the temple there is a 2m deep crypt.

Arround 1854 - 1857 earnest efforts were made to rebuild the temple but it was not possible. So today we can only see the foundation of the temple on top of a characteristic bulk rock.


Historical Data

The monastery performed important social and humanitarian work, as it was one of the richest monasteries in Epirus with dependent monasteries in Romania. It also founded schools and helped the residents of the surrounding villages in difficult times and situations in many ways.

The monastery was burned down in 1829 by the Turks. As a result, the main part of the temple, which was dedicated to Taxiarches, was destroyed. The monastery has strong fortress - like characteristics, as it is surrounded by high walls. It is said that during the 16th century, workshops as well as a school were operating in the courtyard of the monastery. Beneath the sanctuary of the temple, there is a vaulted crypt, 2 meters deep.

Circa 1854-1857, diligent reconstruction efforts were made, but they were not successful. So, today we can only see the foundations of the temple on a massive rock.

However, at a close proximity from monastery, the chapel of Saint Charalampos is preserved that dates back to 17th century. The feasts on November 8, when the monastery celebrates, as well as on February 10 (Saint Charalampos' celebration), take place in this chapel. It must be mentioned that within the chapel, some remarkable murals are preserved, but they are in a very poor condition.

Today, after restoration work was conducted in most buildings, the chapel space is provided for children, camps, during the summer months, under the responsibility of the Metropolis of Dryinoupoli, Pogoniani and Konitsa.


Additional information of historical, cultural and tourism interest

Konitsa during recent years has become one of the most attractive destinations for Greek and foreign travelers, since apart from hosting countless activities, it also has numerous places of historical, cultural, civil and natural interest.

From the Early Christian and Byzantine period (4th century AD - 1430), some of the monuments preserved are, the castle (14th century), the church of the Red Panagia (late 13th century) in the Konitsa field, the temple of St. Nikolaos (14th century), the temple of St. Dimitrios (11th century) and the Monasteries of Theotokos (14th century) and of Metamorfosi Sotiros (1305) in Kleidonia. From the Ottoman period (1430-1913) remain, the temple of St .Apostles (1791), the Muslim mosque of Suleiman (16th century) the cathedral of St. Nikolas (1842), the residence of Hamko (18th century), the residence of Sisko (1845), the temple of St. Apostles (1537), the temple of St. Athanasios (1617) and the chapel of Neo-Martyr George, with 120 pictures made from Chioniadites painters.

An introduction to the town's traditional architecture can be done in Upper Konitsa, where most of the mansions and housing estates, built during the Ottoman period, can be found. In the area there are more than 50 preserved buildings, from which the ones standing out are, the Husein Bey Sisko, the Hamko residential estate, the Mpekiareiko, the Floreiko, the Papadiamantis residence, the Schinias residence, the Voudasis residence, the Housious residence, and others.

One of the trademark attractions of the region is undoubtedly the large singe arched bridge of Konitsa, which imposes at the edge of the settlement, in the Aoos gorge. The infamous bridge was built in 1870 by chief mason Zioga Frontzo form Pirsogianni and its dimensions are 20 x 40. It is a true monument of architectural heritage that one ought's to visit on his way to Konitsa.

One can also encounter great monuments of historical and cultural heritage, in the villages around Konitsa, like the "Kleidi" and "Mpoila" rock shelters that host findings indicating the existence of human presence in the region since the Late Stone Age, and the "Megalakkos" cave.

In the Kleidonia village, which is located on the outskirts of the Konitsa plain, at a distance of 14km from the town, the visitor is advised to visit the homonymous bridge, the temple of the Metemorfosis tou Sotiros, and the Monastery of St. Anargiroi.

The bridge of Kleidoniavista or Voidomati, is a single arched bridge situated on the banks of Voidomatis River, and connects Zagori with Konitsa. It was built in 1853 and was funded (37000 grosz) by the benefactor Mpalkiz Hanoum of Malik Pasha. The bridge's name was derived from the almost abandoned mountainous village of Kleidoniavista (Upper Kleidonia). It is a single arched bridge, with 20m span and 9,15m height, while its deck is cobbled (paved in a kalnterimi style)

Mpourazani is located approximately 12 km from Konitsa. Mpourazani is not a village, but an area subjected to the Aidonochori community, with rich natural environment and remarkable touristic growth over the last years.

In the region we can find the base of the Mpourazani Environmental Park, which spreads over an area of 1200 acres. It contains rich vegetation and is home to various species of wild animals, like deer, wild boars, and wild goats. In addition the village there is an operational Museum of Natural History.

At the point where Aoos meets the Nemertsika foothills, we encounter the Monastery of Koimiseos of Theotokou Molivdoskepastis. According to tradition, it was built by Emperor Konstantinos Pogonatos in the 7th century AD and derived its name from the led plates that used to cover its central temple. From the 12th until the 17th century the Monastery was the seat of the Pogonianis Archdiocese, while from the 14th century it operated as a chirographer school. In July 1943 it was bombed by the occupation armies, resulting to the destruction of the cells and the diner. The central byzantine rhythm temple of the Monastery together with its wood carved templon, are particularly interesting.

At the end of the route through the Lakka Aoou villages, we find Distrato, which is built below the Gomara summit (alt. 2126m) of Vasilitsa. There are three neighborhoods (machalades) in Distrato: The Machalitsio (Lower machalas), where byzantine and roman/ancient tombs were discovered, the Middle machalas and the Upper machalas (machlelou nti tziana).

Approaching the infamous Mastorochoria villages, we make our first stop in Pirsogianni, which is built amphitheatrically on the slopes of Mount Steno at 860m. While walking on its graphic alleys we can admire the mansions and elaborate stone constructs, most of which were built in 1750.

In Pirsogianni we also find the National Museum of Epirotes Masons.

The Vikos-Aoos National Park is one of the areas included in Natura 2000 network and since 2005 in the National Park of Northern Pindos. The Park is distributed between the municipalities of Konitsa, Central Zagoria and Timfi, as well as the Papigo community. Its total area reaches 13.000 hectares and includes the Aoos ravine to the north, the Vikos and Voidomatis gorges to the south, as well as a large section of the Timfi mountain range.

Nature lovers and alternative activities enthusiasts will find their paradise on earth, in Konitsa. Hiking, climbing, and all sorts of mountain and river activities are automatically connected with the town's name, because in addition to being a town of historical significance, in recent years it has evolved to an unofficial "capital" of alternative touristic activities in the Prefecture of Ioannina.