Chrysospiliotissa Monastery

Χρυσοσπηλιώτισσα_ANTIKATASTASI-PALIAS

It is located in the imposing but also evocative location of Tziouma near the village of Gouriana , Tzoumerka. It belongs to the monastery of Theotoki and is commemorated in the memory of the Birth of the Virgin Mary. It was named this way because, a golden icon of Virgin Mary was found in a cave in the courtyard of the temple, which unfortunately is not preserved today . According to another tradition in the caves surrounding the monument, the monks secretely operated a school throughout the Ottoman domination. The current temple had been a male monastery for many years.

Seraphem Xenopoulos reports that the temple was built in the 11th century, but he must be referring to the original building, because the technique we see today takes us much later. This is confirmed by an inscribed plaque emblazoned in the niche of the southern wall of the temple, from which we learn that the monument was reconstructed from scratch in 1663 when it took its present form.

It is a one-aisled, cruciform roofed basilica with a dome in which a wood-framed narthex was added later. (This is the most widespread type of church building technique in Epirus during the Ottoman domination). On the long sides of the temple – just below the pediments of the cross – there are tall three-sided niches that reach the roof. The temple is plated and has simple masonry, with a single exterior décor, a double toothed strip in the cornice of the octagonal dome.

Inside the walls are covered with frescoes, worn to a great extent by both time and the occasional Turkish invasions, as the monastery was often used as a refuge for the Klephts (engaged in guerilla war)and Captains who fought for the Greek Revolution. The frescoes were made in 1801, as a relevant inscription above the door of the main church leading to the narthex informs us.

The same age as the frescoes is the fine art wood carved iconostasis, with representations of a variety of themes (animals, birds, angels, evangelical scenes, etc.). Portable icons of the iconostasis are also of the early 19th century. The icon of the Birth of Virgin Mary (1831), where a herd of sheep is depicted at the bottom and the shepherd who approaches an icon of Virgin Mary fallen onto the ground. That is, the painter wanted symbolically to capture the tradition of the foundation of the church, according to which, the golden-faced icon of the Virgin was found by a man led by a miracle who built the church on spot.

Some books used for the service (Venice publications), a Holy Grail and a reliquary – all of the early 19th century – which are kept in Gouriana village are among the relics of the monastery.

Today, apart from the temple and the two fountains in its enclosure, nothing reminds of the old monastery. However, thanks to the idyllic nature of its area, Chrysospiliotissa Monasterycompensates the courageous visitor to go up there to enjoy the beauty of the landscape and to praise her grace.