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The historical note
The Holy Monastery of the Virgin Icosifinissa is built 753m above
sea level and lies in the thick north forest of Mount
Pangeo, on the road from Serres
to Kavala, just after the
village Kormista. It is one
of the 2 Holy areas in Eastern
Macedonia which continue to attract many believers, who came here to worship
the "Icon of Our Lady which is not made by hands" and to rest in the
The origin of the Monastery’s name, according to one of the
three versions, is due to the miraculous intervention of the Virgin, which resulted
in making the icon splendidly dark red colored.
During the period of Turkish rule, the Monastery was a shelter for
Orthodoxy and a center of the preservation and revitalization of Greek Nationalism
in Eastern Macedonia and Thrace,
resulting in the fury of the Turks, which was to be succeeded by the fury of the
Bulgarians. The Monastery has repeatedly faced destructive attacks and produced
According to some sources, the Bisthop of Filippi, "Sozon",
who took part at the 4th Ecumenical Synod (Chalkidona,
451), built a temple and a monastic settlement at a place called "Vigla",
50 m east from the existing Monastery and were the extant ruins of a tower provide
evidence of the former presence of an ancient fortress. The temple and the monastic
settlement were abandoned afterwards with the arrival of the first proprietor
of the Monastery, St. Germanos (518 A.C.), who while very young started to lead
an ascetic life at the Monastery of St. John, near the River Jordan in the Holy
Land. Since then and for many centuries, the history of the Monastery of Virgin
Mary Idosifinissa has been completely unknown. Archaeological findings lead to
the conclusion that during the 11th century the main church (katholikon) was rebuilt.
During the same period, the Monastery became STAVROPIGIAKI, that means responsible
to the Ecumenical Patriarch.
In 1472 the Ecumenical Patriarch St. Dionysios resigned from his throne
and came to the Monastery. The presence of this second proprietor lent great prestige
to the Holy Monastery. During his long stay at the Monastery he erected many new
buildings and repaired the old ones, giving the Monastery a new glamour. According
to written evidence of the 16th century, in 1507 24 holly monks lived in the Monastery.
These monks were traveling in Eastern
Macedonia and Thrace reinforcing the faith of Christians and dissuading islamizations.
These actions enraged the Turks, who on 25.08.1507 massacred all the 172 monks.
They did not destroy the church and the buildings, but the Monastery remained
desert and uninhabited for 13 years.
After the tragic occurrence of the slaughter, the Ecumenical Patriarchate
managed in 1510 (or in 1520 according to other sources) to obtain the permission
of the Sultan to reorganize the Monastery. Thus, with the help of ten monks from
the Holy Mount, just ten
years afterwards, 50 monks joined the Monastery but also deacons and holy monks
that undertook the leadership of the Monastery.
During the following years the Monastery became the cultural and national
center of Eastern Macedonia and
Thrace. It was in this Monastery that Emmanouil Papas put his men under oath
and declared the Revolution.
In former days the Monastery hosted a famous Hellenic School and the
library of the Monastery was a significant one. Before being looted by the Bulgarians
in 1917, the library housed some 1,300 printed books and priceless manuscripts.
During those centuries of growth many of the buildings of the Monastery were repaired
and new ones were built. During the second half of the 19th century the Monastery
faced significant difficulties: in 1845 a conflagration burned to ashes the west
wing and a part of the north one while in 1864 a cholera epidemic decimated the
monks. The Monastery was rebuilt thanks to the glorious Metropolitan Bishop of
Drama, Chrysostomos (1902-1910). The attacks of the Turks were succeeded by those
of the Bulgarians, who in 1917 despoiled the priceless treasures of the Monastery.
During the Second World War the Bulgarians, again completed the devastation, burning
the buildings of the Monastery in 1943. The rebuilding of the Monastery started
in 1965 and in a fifteen-year period achieved its present appearance. Today (1997)
the Monastery houses 25 Nuns. The feast days of the Monastery are on 15 August
to commemorate the Rood and on 21 November to commemorate the Presentation of
the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Temple.
This text (extract) is cited September 2003 from the Prefecture
of Serres tourist pamphlet.
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