#108 Monastery of Prophet Ilias (Zitsa)

Location

On top of a hill (altitude. 780 m.), in the center of a wooded area, lies the Monastery of Prophet Elias.

 

Construction Data

Architecturally, the church and bell tower of the historic church stand out. The ledger is a basilica, which includes the vestibule, the nave and the sanctuary.

On the west side of the complex, there was masonry, in which the bell tower was attached, while in the middle there was a square, around of which extended smaller outbuildings. The entire monastery was enclosed by high walls, which rendered it impregnable by robbers.

The interior is full of paintings, which are attributed to John, George and Dimitrios from Gramosta, however, they have been severely damaged by time. The iconographic program mainly includes full-length depictions of saints, among them the distinguished dedicatory of Gregory display , while on the southern side of the narthex is painted the life of neo-martyr John of Ioannina.

 

Historical Data

It is one of the most important monasteries in Epirus, which because of its physical location and its rich religious and social action, is contained in numerous reports, from both Greek historians and writers, as well as great foreign tourists. References of Lord Byron and Emperor Maximilian of Mexico stand out.

The monastery was built in the 14th century on the hill Thesviti, but moved in 1598 to its present location. Tradition has it that the transfer be due to wishes of the saint, since within a short period of time the image disappeared, with an unknown way from the monastery and found in the place where it is built today . According to other reports, the monastery associated with the historic church of Serbia, which is dedicated to the Holy Apostles.

Lord Byron was hosted in the monastery for two days in October 1809. Enchanted by its beauty, he praised the region in his poetic work, "Childe Harold 's Pilgrimage".In 1848 the prince and later emperor Maximilian of Mexico was found in the monastery and impressed by the location he carved on the wall of his cell " Oh Zitsa happy whoever saw your natural parlors, happier whoever enjoys your charms, your magical places bear the thought of man's existence". Among the guests of the monastery was also the French Consul and traveler Pouqueville. Reports of famous travelers of the monastery, had resulted in an increase of visitors to the wider range of Zitsas.

The monastery grew rapidly, acquiring great wealth, which is reflected in the impressive buildings. Informative is the reference Economou (Dimitris Kamaroulias, Monasteries of Epirus, Bastas Plessas, Athens 1996) who informs us about the monastery, that it was a two-story complex, which consisted of the ground floor, where the food stores were, the cellars, hideaways and stables for animals, and the upper floor which housed the cells, in front of which stretched the beds.

In cells resided, other than the abbot of the monastery, the monks, the priest of the monastery and the support staff. In a corner cell towards the southwest side resided ,according to tradition, Lordos Byron.

Notable are the references that are made to the wealth of the monastery, which had dependencies in Romania and Russia. Among the benefactors include great personalities of the era, such as Ecumenical Patriarch Jeremiah of Constantinople, emperors of Russia, Vladimir, Alexander, Alexis - Nicholas, Olgawe, and Catherine and Theodorovna, as well as numerous high priests.

The thriving monastery course will be discontinued abruptly after the 18th century, when issues of mismanagement will lead the monastery into a prolonged recession, which will end with the final devastation of the monastery in the 19th century.

The great monastery throughout the course of history was an important educational center, hosting periodically school within the complex, while we must not overlook its contribution to the nation, since at the premises of the monastery meetings of notables of Zitsas took place ,and surrounding areas on national issues whilst rebel groups took refuge within its walls.


Additional information of historical, cultural and tourism interest

The area of Zitsa consists of two counties with various environmental and cultural characteristics which makes it interesting as a whole. Beautiful villages exist in almost all the territory of the municipality, which are impressive both for their architecture and urban organization, and also for the activity they have shown throughout the course of their history.

Zitsa has linked its name with its winery and its production of famous wines with a Protected Designation of Origin. Famous wineries, but smaller producers, members of the local cooperative, supplying almost all of the world's with their renowned wines.

In Zitsa the "Vadokeios Library" can be found, which houses over 3,000 books. Moreover in Zitsa we encounter another culture birthplace, the gallery prints, while near the church of St. Nicholas Folklore a museum is open with exhibits that reveal the lifestyle of residents and artistic subtlety of local artists.

South of Zitsa, the village Karitsa exists with an elevation of 580 m. The village is 24 km. from Ioannina. This is one of the most historic villages.

At Lithinos one of the two natural stone bridges of Kalamas exist, the Theogefyro, derived from erosion of rock. Opposite Lithinos is the monastery of Fathers, founded in 1590 and is dedicated to the Assumption.

Within the are of Protopapas the central church, St. Nicholas stands, built in 1808 with the financial support of the villagers and Mukhtar, son of Ali Pasha.

The village Rajko was the historic passage of Kalamas, known for its old bridge, which fell in 1902 Today, some remnants of the Turkish outpost of the bridge exist.

The historic village of Klimatia with origins from ancient times and lead of the municipality of Evrimenon refers to Chrisovoulo (1321) by Andronikos Palaiologos. Near the church of the Virgin Mary, between the river, the village and the pit skinny, there are traces of an ancient castle, at the "Greek Litharia." On top of a small hill northwest of the village is the old monastery of the Transformation of the Savior Veltsistas.

In Paliouri, an old bridge is saved, which dates from 1835 and is located on the River Smolitsa. Also of interest are the churches of Agia Paraskevi, Agios Nikolaos, Agios Panteleimon and St. George. Below the village we find the historic Paliouri monastery, dedicated to the Nativity of the Theotokos and known for its big festival, which takes place on September 8th.

Kourenta is built on the back of St George over Korakolakkos in a magnificent location, which previously was overgrown by vines.

At an altitude of 770m. In the west of the peak Kasidiari is the village Aetopetra or "Kosoliani" as it is known to the eldest. A passage of great archaeological interest, since the discovery of tombs, ancient coins with the inscription "Apeirotan 'and pottery.

The Vlachatano has four beautiful churches, the town of St. George, St. John, Prophet Elijah and St. Paraskevi, built in 1628 and historiated in 1706.

East of the village Rodotopi, at the foot of the Castri Gardikiou hill, there is one of the most important archaeological sites in the region of Epirus, the Temple of Zeus, which dates from the 4th century BC. The temple was an official sanctuary of the Molossians.

At the western end of Eleousas is the old church of the monastery of St. George, which dates from 1778.