MONASTERIES AND SHRINES
Hermits Of Patmos And Hermitages
The Modern Hermitages-In the North of Patmos
1. The Hermitage of the Virginof Koumana - Makarios, of Corinthand the Kollyvades
On the northern part of the harbor of Patmos at Skala is the Mountain of Koumana. The mountain extends into the sea ending at the Cape of Koumana which closes Skala’s harbor on the north. It is not known why the mountain is named Koumana. It is possibly named after the lease-holder Koumani, common name in Patmos from the 13th Century. In the archives of the Monastery of Saint John it is mentioned that Basilios Koumanis in 1212 sold a field in the area Tropigon of the Archdiocese of Militou. Smirnakis believes that the name comes from someone named Koumano who descended from Kimi of Evia. He was perhaps a monk who died near the little church of Saint Sozon at the foot of the mount where lepers later lived in huts. In 1798 Michael, the leper from Crete, also lived there.
On the top of the range of Koumana is the Hermitage of All Saints or the Virgin of Koumana. The inhabitants prefer the name Virgin of Koumana because of the miraculous icon of the Virgin. The founder of this hermitage is Saint Makarios Notaras, of Corinth (1731 - 1805) who inspired the Kollyvades movement.
The Kollyvades movement during the second half of the 18th Century is a tradition of which the Orthodox Church is proud. The movement came about because of the argument of when memorial services should be performed. It was suggested that Sunday, the day of the Resurrection was not appropriate for this service. It resulted in the spiritual elevation of the faith of that period. The purpose of the battle of the Kollyvades was to return to the original Ecclesiastical tradition including the Liturgy, the preparation of the faithful to partake of Holy Communion often, and finally the study of works of the Holy Fathers. “The name Kollyvades was an ironic label given to them by the opposing side [tr. note: From “Kollyva” the boiled wheat used in memorial services]. However, this disdainful name became for them an honorable title. In the intellectual life of Modern Greece this name stands out for one and a half centuries and offers many of her bright pages.”
The coming of the religious refugees Kollyvades, to Patmos, including Makarios Notaras, of Corinth, Nyphon from Chios and Gregory from Gravana in Nysiros, was like a nurturing rain from the Holy Spirit. Their way of life brought richness to the spiritual revival of Monasticism and the rebirth of monastic life on the island of Saint John the Theologian.
Saint Makarios, the son of George Notaras, was born in Corinth in 1731. He was a descendant of the Notaras family, a well known family during the Byzantine Empire and even later during the occupation of the Turks. Saint Gerasimos of Kephallonia (1509 - 1579) and the Patriarch of Jerusalem, Dositheos (1669 - 1707) and Chrysanthos (1707 - 1731) are also descendants of this family. Saint Makarios was given the name Michael when he was baptized by the Bishop Parthenios of Corinth. He was educated by the teacher Efstratios of Kephallonia. Later, due to the lack of teachers at the Academy of Corinth, Saint Makarios taught the children of this area for six years without pay. From a young age, it was evident that he did not care for material things of the world but only for the spiritual ones. When his father placed him as a supervisor of an area where he could be very rich, he gave money to the poor and his father scolded him.
Burning with the desire for the monastic life, Saint Makarios left secretly for the Monastery of Megalo Spyleo (the Great Cave). The fathers at the monastery did not want him to stay because they were afraid of the great power his father had in the Peloponnese. Truly, when his father learned of his whereabouts, he ordered them to send him immediately to his birth place. In 1764 when the Hierarch Parthenios of Corinth died, all the inhabitants of Corinth, clergy and laity, unanimously elected Michael Notoras as his successor: “He was ordained and clothed in the garment of a monk and was renamed Makarios. He went to Constantinople and appeared before the Holy Synod and was immediately proclaimed Bishop of Corinth while Samuel was the Patriarch.”
Athanasios Parios mentions in his biography of Saint Makarios that when Saint Makarios became Bishop, he wanted to follow the example of St. Gregory the Theologian. He believed that “he was given the power of the Bishop not for wealth without investigation and as a means of enjoying pleasures, but as service and fatherly care and guidance for the safety and salvation of his flock for which he would give an apology to the Great Shepherd and God and Master of the Universe.” He dismissed the uneducated and old priests from the Priesthood. He forbade the priests from being involved in politics. He ordained them consciously, exactly as required by the Holy Apostolic and Conciliar canons. He would not ordain anyone before the required age. When he ordained deacons, he taught them how to celebrate the Holy Sacraments and Services. He taught catechism to all the priests so that they would learn about the faith. To the villages and towns of the area he gave large baptismal fonts so that the Sacrament of Baptism could be performed perfectly. Finally, he decided to build schools so that he could teach his flock like a good shepherd.
In 1769, during the revolution of the Greeks with the encouragement of the Russians, George Notaras and his son Makarios were accused as instigators and they fled to safety in Kephallonia and later to Zakynthos. They stayed there for three years. In the meantime, the Holy Synod of Constantinople, for diplomatic reasons, deposed Ma-karios from his position and appointed a new Bishop of Corinth. The deposed Makarios withdrew to the Monastery of the Theotokos in Hydra. After the Russio-Turkish war had ended he went to Chios and later to Athos. There he found the upheaval and agitation for the ‘Kollyvades conflict’. Very disappointed he left Athos and goes back to Chios and later to Patmos.
The Holy Cave of the Revelation and the Godly guarded Monastery of Saint Christodoulos attracted the holy soul of Makarios. Therefore with the permission of the Monastery of Saint John, he founded a hermitage with a small church to honor All the Saints on the Mount of Koumana.
This hermitage still exists today in good condition. The Church of All Saints (measurements 7.8x4.5 meters) has a dome which was surrounded by a wall to protect it from the northern winds, pirates and Turks. Recently, the Department of Archeology removed the wall from around the dome. The iconostasis of the little church is of excellent art. Most of its icons of the Twelve Feasts of the Master are preserved in good condition. On the iconostasis with Christ and the All Saints is an inscription: “Apostles, Martyrs, Prophets, Hierarchs, Saints and the Virgin Panagia fought the battle well...” On an icon stand is the icon of Panagia (Virgin) the Miraculous “The joy of all holding Jesus with a Gospel.” The little church has a narthex with two entrances from the north and south and a small house. They are both in good condition. It is said that an olive tree from the time of Saint Makarios still exists.
Saint Makarios remained in Patmos for 10 years (1782 - 1793). In Patmos he met Papa-Niphona from Chios, Papa-Gregory from Nisyros and the priest Athanasios from Armenia. The priest Gregory built cells to meditate near the hermitage of Makarios (east of the Church are ruins of Gregory’s house). Later Gregory, at the location of Grava, built another hermitage, the Panagia of Grava. Today at the Panagia of Grava, an icon of Saint Makarios and Saint Gregory is preserved. When Saint Makarios met Father Niphona, Saint Makarios was persuaded to go to Lipso (Niphona had built a little church - The Annunciation) there, at Romani or Kato Panagia. When Saint Makarios went to Lipso, he built a hermitage, but he did not remain there and returned to Patmos.
In the quietness, isolation and serenity of the holy island, instead of wasting time, Makarios hand copied the codices and wrote the biography of Saint Christodoulos.
In the library of the Monastery, Makarios found works of the Fathers of the Church. He selected materials for the Philokalia, which he later gave to Saint Nicodemos, the Athonite.
Many remembrances and manuscripts exist in the Monastery as testimony to the life of Makarios in Patmos.
The death of his father in Corinth and the need to settle the estate of his father interrupted his peaceful stay in Patmos and forced him to return to Corinth. Returning to his birth place, his father’s property was divided. He surprised everyone by not accepting his share and even more he destroyed all the debts owed to his family.
“The hands that performed the sacraments and gave the Eucharist each time surprising the invisible angels now lifted all the chains of loans and threw them in the fire.”
From that time Makarios never went back to Patmos. From Corinth he went to Chios and later to Smyrna to take care of publishing matters. In Chios, near Vrontathes, he built a small hermitage to honor Saint Peter. From Chios, he and Niphona went for a while to visit his beloved Kollyvades of the Monastery of the Annunciation in Ikaria. With the help of rich friends he completed the construction of the Monastery and then returned to Chios.
He became the spiritual father of Chios and the encourager of new martyrs Polydoros of Cyprus, Theodore of Byzantium and Demetrios of the Peloponnese.Athanasios from Paros his contemporary eye-witness wrote his Life and passes on the following from Iakovos of Chios: “Makarios lived a life in peace without pleasures and far from the noise of the cities. He lived fasting (throughout the year only on Saturday and Sunday did he have oil and wine), with little sleep and constant praying. At the same time, he practiced love for his neighbor according to the commandment of the Lord ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” In 1775 the blessed Patriarch Sophronios wrote and reiterated the same commandment to the priest Makarios: “Brother, do not think that by leaving your county you are free of your ecclesiastical obligations; God does not want this kind of freedom, but wants all of us to be servants, and farmers of the secret vineyard until our last breath. Well, do not neglect teaching with words and deeds the life saving commandments of God. Remember my wretchedness in your prayers to our Merciful God.”
But without exhortation, the God loving Makarios practiced what he preached and looked after his neighbors dutifully. Continuously he repeated the words of the Apostle of the nations: “We are God’s coworkers.” In addition he preached the Holy Word at the Church of Saint Peter. During the time of any Holy Lent he went around preaching.
He taught by his example. The people saw a humble priest with plain clothing, not receiving payment. He gave to the poor, he helped young girls get married and he paid debts of debtors.
The most important was the responsibility of publishing the works of Philokalia, the Evergetinos, St. Symeon the New Theologian, New Lemonarion and the Catechism of Platonos Moschas.
In September of 1804, Makarios had a stroke which left his right hand paralyzed. He died on April 17, 1805, after patiently praying for the forgiveness of his sins. His death is mentioned in the Brevium of the Monastery: “April 17, 1805 the priest Makarios from Corinth died at the hermitage of Saint Peter in Chios. May God rest his soul. In 1808 his sacred bones were exhumed and miracles have occurred because of them.”
When Saint Nicodemos from Mount Athos was dying he asked that the remains of the holy fathers Saint Makarios, the Corinthian and Parthenos who was his spiritual father at Kalyvi of Skourteon be brought to him. He embraced the remains, kissing, crying and talking to them: “Why are you leaving me an orphan? You went to heaven because of your virtuous lives on earth and now you are enjoying the glory of God in Heaven. I am suffering because of my sins. That is why I pray to you to intercede for me with the Lord to forgive me so that I can join you.”
This verifies that in 1809 the remains of Saint Makarios were at Mount Athos at the time of the death of Saint Nicodemos. Both in life and after death he was believed to be a Saint and many miracles occurred.
His memory is honored in Chios, Syros, Ikaria, Corinth, Lipso and Patmos. Recently, we learned that in Chios, babies are given the name Makarios and a church has been built in his memory in the village, Elata.
The choirs of the company of Hierarchs, the crowd of saints, the body of martyrs and the all the righteous are exulted together in your holy memory, today. For your grace chose you to be a Hierarch a godly example for ascetics and martyrs anointed in God.
In the Brevium of the Monastery of Saint John, we learn that other monks lived and died at Koumana after Saint Makarios: the monk and hermit Dositheos, the monk Nikiphoros, the musician, and the monk Evlogios from Philippopolis.
The American tourist Geil visited Patmos twice. He wrote about Koumana and says “50 years ago (about 1850) on the hill on the northern part of the harbor of Skala is a beautiful garden where the Church of All Saints is found. A hermitage is located there and a woman hermit lived there for many years. This holy woman lived alone working and praying. In the middle of the night she would arise and go to the all white dome of the Church and chant prayers and doxologies. From this location she could look down and see the poor lepers, their huts and the beautiful church which is now in ruins.”
This information from Geil is valuable because it is the only instance of a woman hermit in Patmos. Through this woman, Patmos had another Theoktisti!
Malandrakis (before 1889) gives another piece of information: “On the top of the hill which can not be seen from the harbor there is a lovely garden in which is found a hermitage and the Church of All Saints which is normal size and has a stone dome. They are preserved with loving care by the hermit who has lived there for many years.” Evidently, this hermit is the monk Evlogios from Philippopolis.
Unfortunately, we have no other information about the hermitage of Koumana. Today, the hermitage is cared for by the Priest Gerasimos Mihelis, who has restored and rebuilt it.
Today, visitors can visit and walk on the holy ground where Saint Makarios walked. Glancing around, the visitors feel peace and adoration and they say ‘Our God created all he wanted on heaven and on earth.’
2. The Hermitage of the Virginof Grava - Gregory of Nissyros;Niphon of Chios;Saint Savvas of Kalymnos
Oh my Virgin of Grava, little monastery.Care for my father so he can light you a little candle.
The Hermitage of the Virgin of Grava is found on the southwest part of the island. From there one can view the sea of Ikaria, the Garden of the Saint, Saint Paraskevi of Kavos, and the side of Genoupa which ends at Psalida.
The monk Gregory from Nissyros, the Gravanos, whose name is taken from the location, built this hermitage. The Brevium it states, “The monk Gregarios, who was also a hermit, built buildings in Grava. He was from Nissyros.”
The monk Gregorios from Nissyros belonged to the Kollyvades with Niphon.
Niphon, according to the world Nicholas Nicholaratos, was from Patrika, one of the villages of Mastihohora on Chios. He became a monk on Mount Athos in the skete of Pantokratora, where the most pious monks were hermits. He was later ordained a priest.
When the quarrel with the Kollyvathes started, Niphon being one of them, was forced to leave Mount Athos with the Kollyvades.
Niphon, along with the monk Gregory from Nissyros and the elder priest Arsenios, pious fathers of Mount Athos, left and went to Naxos. There they met Nicholas Kalivourtzi, who later was known as Saint Nikodimos the Athonite. What luck! The fathers from Mount Athos initiated in the fiery Nicholas the pleasure and sweetness of ascetic life. They told him of two contemporary holy people who at that time lived in Hydra (New Martyr Constantine’s birthplace). They were Saint Makarios of Corinth and the priest Silvester, who recently came from Mount Athos. The result of this blessed meeting was that the young Nicholaos would come to Hydra to visit the holy men and with their influence to become a follower of the old ascetic life. He received their blessing to follow the monastic life.
Niphon with his companions left Naxos and went to Samos. After spending some time at Saint Kyriaki, he went to Patmos. Here he built a small monastery and lived the monastic life with Gregory from Nissyros. Perhaps this is the place in Koumana where the remains of Gregory were found. Later they went to Lipso, where they built a hermitage at the location of Romani to honor the Annunciation of the Virgin at Kato Panagia, near the sea at the “Agrio Nero.”
Niphon had a special devotion to the Virgin. Therefore, he always built the Annunciation. Bothered by pirates, he left Lipsos and went to the small island of Fournous or Kousous, which is north of Patmos and East of Ikaria. This in witnessed to in a letter written on October 16, 1792. It was signed by the Abbot Symeon and is kept by the family of M. Vesti. It says the following: “Around 1775 the pious monks, Niphon and his companion left Mount Athos and went to Lipso across from Patmos to find peace. They remained there for a short time and went to Patmos where they thought they should go to the island of Koursos. They asked the owners of the island and were given permission to live in a specific place and lead their lives quietly... According to this agreement the reverend fathers went to Koursos and built their huts. There they spent enough time in peace and quiet, according to their desire to be away from the pleasures of life. The holiness of Niphon moved Constantine Kourtis and his sister Maria to give a letter donating a portion of the island from Kalamo up to Koumaro so that they would be remembered in prayers morning, noon and night. Constantine Kourtis and his sister were not the actual owners of the land, but lessees and could only use the land for crops and could not sell or donate any land because it belonged to the kingdom. Therefore, Niphon left Koursos and went to the island of Ikaria where he built a monastery and lived there until 1792.”
Later, as we are informed, near the village of Chrisomilia in Fournos, there is an old small church of the Annunciation with a dome and a painted wooden iconostasis and an old icon of the Annunciation. There are also a few small cells.
After Fournos, Niphon moved to Ikaria and he built the Monastery of the Annunciation with the help of Saint Makarios of Corinth. Because of the many monks and the lack of means to support them, they left Ikaria. Finally, they ended in Skiathos and with the economic help of the monk Gregory Hatzistamatis from Skiathos, a graduate of the Patmian School, they built the famous monastery of the Annunciation at Agalianos Valley (1794). Because Niphon was a pure representative of the movement of the Kollyvades he laid the foundation of this monastery and he organized it with its beliefs. This way it became one of the brightest centers of Orthodox monastic life of the 19th Century.
Niphon died in 1809. He is honored in Ikaria as a Saint because of his many miracles. He is considered one of the most important representatives of the Kollyvades. This is verified by the Life of Makarios Hierotheos, who led an ascetic life on Mount Athos and at the Monastery of Hydra. This information was written in 1813.
Gregory did not follow the other Kollyvades. He stayed in Patmos and lived in the area of Grava. There he built a hermitage honoring the Assumption of the Virgin Mary. He lived there with his disciple Theoktistos from Sophia.
In the archives of the monastery there is additional information about the holy monk Gregory. In 1791, he became a member of the brotherhood of the Monastery of Saint John. In 1792 he rented the area of Grava. In 1793 with a letter from Patriarch Neophytos VII he joined the elite committee, along with Saint Makarios of Corinth and Daniel, a teacher of the Patmian school.
“Gregory became a celebrity among the monks.” Being virtuous and leading an ascetic life he was revered by the people of the island. Many pious religious inhabitants came to him for confession. His fame went beyond Patmos. In fact, it is said that he was the spiritual advisor of the Patriarch of Constantinople, Neophytos VII.
Unfortunately, sad circumstances forced Gregory to leave Patmos and he went and lived at the Monastery of the Annunciation in Ikaria.
It is said that a robbery occurred in Patmos in the cell at the Monastery of the monk Daniel Fasola, who died in 1811, (it was customary for the valuables of the inhabitants to be safely stored in the Monastery because of pirate raids). The robber reported the theft and went to the hermitage and confessed to Father Gregory. He returned the stolen items to Father Gregory so that the monk could give the items back to the rightful owner, without revealing the identity of the thief.
The next morning, Gregory returned the stolen objects to the owner. The owner demanded to know the identity of the thief. Gregory asked the owner if anything was missing. Since the answer was negative, Gregory said: “What will you gain from the identity of the thief?” He then returned to the monastery.
The owner, still wanting to know the identity of the thief, went to Grava. After questioning the naive disciple of Gregory, Theoktistos, he learned the name of the night visitor.
The incident became know all over Patmos. The thief believed that Gregory betrayed him and vowed to kill Gregory. For this reason, Gregory left Patmos and went to live at the Monastery of the Annunciation in Ikaria.
Because Gregory was a member of the brotherhood of the Monastery of Saint John and he did not want future economic demands to be made of the monastery, he sent the following letter to the people of Patmos:
“I, Gregory a monk, certify with this letter that I left Patmos and came to the Monastery in Ikaria without any money. God is my witness that I did not bring anything with me. When I left Patmos, I had about 40 grossia which I spent on my trip for a ticket and other expenses. Nothing was left, not even 5 grossia or even 5 parades to give to the poor here. Therefore, ask nothing of these poor people after my oath so that you do not sin before God.
Everything I had was spent on the hermitage at Grava, thinking I would live and die there. My sins did not allow this to happen. Blessed be the name of the Lord unto all ages, Amen.
1810 December 8
Gregory the monk. I am writing with my own hand to certify all the above.”
Gregory died April 22, 1812 and was buried at the Monastery of the Annunciation in Ikaria. A watch, a holy goblet and this letter were the items preserved.
His death is recorded in the Brevium of the Monastery of Saint John: “On April 18, 1812, our brother and holy monk and hermit Gregory died. He was from the island of Nissyros and died of natural causes on the island of Ikaria. His body was exhumed in 1815 and his holy remains have performed many miracles.” Today he is considered one of the local saints of Patmos. It is said that his remains are no longer in Ikaria.
It is recorded in the Brevium that Gregory’s disciple, Theoktistos, died peacefully before Gregory died. Because Theoktistos worked hard at the hermitage of Grava, he was buried there.
The monk Meletios Kambosos later renovated the hermitage at Grava. He was the priest of the church of Panagia Eleimonetria in Chora. Because he lived at the hermitage of Grava, he was buried there when he died.
Around 1916 Saint Savvas, the new Hozebite from Kalymnos, came to Patmos. He lived at the hermitage of Grava.
Saint Savvas was born in 1862 in Herakleitsa of eastern Thrace. His parents Constantine and Smaragda were very poor. When Savvas was baptized he was given the name Basil. Before he was formally taught, he had lived and learned the external lessons of faith and piety. He was quickly led by the love of God towards true philosophy and the angelic monastic life. Reading the biographies of many saints inspired him to follow their example of the God-loving monastic life. Even though he was the only son, and his mother had often told him, “If you leave to become a monk, I’ll die.” He secretrly left for Mount Athos at the age of 12. He stayed at the Skete of Saint Anna and joined the group of followers of the priest of the Annunciation. This is where he learned iconography and Byzantine music.
After twelve years he left to go on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. He arrived in the Holy Land “where the feet of Jesus had walked,” in 1887. He went to stay at the monastery of Hozeva which was built in honor of Saint George. For seventeen years he lived as a hermit among the deserted, rugged, steep cliffs. In 1890 he joined the brotherhood under the Abbot Kallinikos (from Alatsata of Asia Minor). In 1902 he was ordained a deacon and in 1903 a priest by the Archbishop Nikodimos from Diokesaria. As rector of the Theological Seminary of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem he performed liturgies with the professor of the seminary, Chrysostom Papodopoulos, who later became professor at the University of Athens and the Archbishop of Athens.
Irregularities caused by the raids of the Arabs in the Holy Land forced him to leave and look for peace elsewhere. Patmos, the deserted island of the Apocalypse, for many, an extension of the Holy Land, attracted him. While in Patmos he lived for a while at the Hermitage of Grava and later at the Monastery of Saint John. It was then that he painted the icons of the monastery. One of the icons he painted was of the Baptism of Christ, which is found at the Church of Megali Panagia. This is verified by the inscription: “In the month of December in 1914 this icon was painted by the hand of the iconographer, holy monk Savvas the Hosevite.” He painted the icon of the Annunciation of the Virgin for the Church of the Annunciation in Kambos. At the hermitage of Apollo he painted the three Hierarchs and both Makarios of Egypt and of Alexandria.
He later went to Mount Athos, to Faneromeno, Salamina, to Hydra, and then to Aegina where he stayed for six years form 1919 - 1925, near Saint Nectarios. There he taught the nuns iconography and Byzantine music.
Finally, with the encouragement of the unforgetable Gerasimos Zervos, the husband of pious Anna, who later became the nun Monica, he went to Kalymnos. There he lived at the Monastery of All Saints, where he built some cells and three small churches: Saint Savvas, Saint John the Theologian and Saint John the Chrysostom.
Saint Savvas was known for his deep faith, his Christian life, his strict fasting, his modesty and his love for everyone. He was a spiritual leader for the Christian people of Kalymnos. He died on April 7, 1948. His remains were exhumed in 1957 and “miracles happen to those who venerate them with faith.”
Today, the monastery has assigned the caretaking of the Hermitage to the monk Kyrillos, who has restored it. The Hermitage celebrates its holiday on the ninth days after the Assumption, on August 24. On the day of the celebration the choir chants: “Let the faithful come unto the grave of the Mother of God and embrace, honestly offering heart, mouth, eyes and forehead and drawing boundless healing gifts from the eternally flowing spring.”
3. The Hermitage PartheniosMeadow of the monks and BrothersNikodimos and Amphilochios Kappos
The Livadi of Kalogerou (Meadow of the Monks) is located in the northern part of Patmos, southeast of the cape of Sardella.
It is surrounded on the north by the rocky mountain range of Kouko, northeast by the mountain range of Firos and little Koumaro, west by the Bay of Livadi, northwest by the little island of Anidros, and southwest the island of Petrocaravo can be seen. Behind these little islands, the large island of Ikaria stretches out widely. The Livadi of Kalogerou was first named Livadi of Koutrouli by its founder.
It is mentioned in the Brevium, “On the 11th of March 1560, the servant of God, the monk Matheos the Livadiot died,”
Later it was known that the rich merchant Nicholos Mathas had the Livadi of Koutrouli in his possession. He donated it for the care and upkeep of the church of Ipakoy of the Panagia along with the church of the Forty Saints and the church of Saint Andrew of Lefanou.
In the marriage settlement dated 1686, Maria, the wife of the priest Nicholas Mathas gives her daughter Kali, who was married to Theotoki Pagosta, the churches of the Hypakoe of the Panagia, the Forty Saints and Saint Andrew of Lefanos. She also gives her an additional dowry of 2000 doukata and the Livadi (meadow) of Koutroulikou.
The Archbishop of Samos, Joseph Georgerinis writes, “A rich merchant named Nicholaos Mathas built a mansion at the place named Livadi. This place was excellent for vineyards and fishing.” He later became a monk named Neophytos. He died in 1672 as it is written in the Brevium.
About the middle of the 18th century, the monk Parthenios Partheniadis one of the Kollyvades, a member of the group that followed Niphon of Chios of the Monastery of the Annunciation of Ikaria, came to Patmos to find peace. Parthenios, leaving Ikaria, told his followers, “When you see that one of the two Cypress trees which I planted has died, then you will know that I have died.” This truly happened because the Cypress tree died when Parthenios died.
When Parthenios left Ikaria he took the builders, Demetrios Soulani and Theodore Katzava who were from Marathokambo of Samos with him. He reached Patmos in 1798 and he felt like he had been there before. The owners leased the Livadi of Koutrouli to him for 25 Grossia a year. A small number of monks came with him. He became the first owner of that little monastery. That is why it is also known as the Hermitage of Parthenios. In the Brevium it says: “On February 25, 1804 the monk Savvas died of natural causes outside the Hermitage of Parthenios. Eternal be his memory.”
Because Parthenios needed money to finish the newly built little monastery, he went to Didymotycho, Thrace to get donations. There, at the same time he preached, taught the inhabitants, heard the confessions of the Christians and he advised them not to work on Sundays. This made many people angry. He advised an unfortunate young Christian girl not to have relations with an Ottoman Turk. When she told the Turk what Parthenios advised, the Turk became angry and killed Parthenios on Sunday, after the morning Liturgy on March 5, 1805. He was another Martyr of Orthodox Christianity. Briefly and modestly the Brevium mentions, “On March 5, 1805, the Priest Parthenios became a Martyr at Didymotycho, on the day of Sunday, on leaving the Holy Liturgy. They tortured him. May God rest his soul.”
Three months after the death of his spiritual advisor, his disciple, Gabriel or Gabrielakis, (because he was short) died of sadness and was buried behind the altar of the Church in May 27, 1805.
Brevium, “In 1805 the priest Gabrielakis died in peace outside the Hermitage of Parthenios before his time on May 27. The day was Saturday. May God rest his soul”.
The rest of the group remained under the leadership of Parthenakis, (little Parthenios to make the distinction from the great elder). When Parthenakis died the owners of Livadi, seeing the abundance of the crops gotten by the hard work of the monks demanded half of the produce. Because of this outrageous demand, the monks decided to leave the Hermitage. It is later verified that all the lawless owners did not find happiness in life.
It never ceased to be used as a place for prayer and peace. For this reason many monks went to stay there. In 1812, the monk Nikiphoros died at the Hermitage of Parthenios. The Brevium writes: “August 28, 1812 our brother, Monk Nikiphoros, called Trezoloukas, died at Livadi of Paroxysm. He was buried at Livadi. May the Lord place his soul with the Righteous.”
In 1816 another member of the Kollyvades and follower of Niphon, the monk Apollo left Mount Athos and came to Patmos. He lived at the Hermitage of Pathenios for two years. Because the area was too large and he could find the peace which he desired he moved to Zarroi and later to Theronia where he established a hermitage which bears his name.
From January 1830 the entire area of Livadi belonged to Theodore Kontoleonda Konelli and later it was left to different owners.
Guerin visited the hermitage before 1856. He left the following impressions, “Futher on one can see a bay around which a valley is spread. It is the Livadi of Parthenios. There you can see one of the most beautiful of the 300 or more Churches which are scattered all over the island. Parthenios built this hermitage over 200 years ago”.
Finally, the entire area of Livadi was bought by Amphilochios with the encouragement of his brother the holy monk, Nikodimos, the priest. Nikodimos lived in a hermitage near Livadi, (the field of Ralla, below Lambi the location of Urises). Earlier he lived with Apollo at his hermitage. Amphilochios restored the hermitage which was in ruins and the church of Byzantine Architecture and named it honoring the Dormition of the Virgin which he greatly revered. Amphilochios had a small group of followers among whom was the holy Monk Melitios Gianeles form Samos. They lived together for three years.
Meanwhile, the brothers got weary of many cares of their lives and the difficulty in upkeep of the hermitage and decided to trade Livadi with a field of the holy monk Meletios which was his own property in Samos at the place of “Karamouzi” of Marathokambo. It was agreed that the monks could stay at Livadi whenever they wanted. The holy Monk Meletios after his death in 1938, left the hermitage for the women’s Monastery Zoothoho Pigi.
After the brothers Kappos, the holy monk Makarios Antoniadis lived at Livadi Kalogero for a while. He later moved to the Hermitage of Apollo.
Later Galaktion from Samos lived there. He was a wood carver. A work of his hands is the icon of Saint Demetrios (0.12 meters in height) which is preserved today at the Town Hall. Nikodimos from Samos also lived with Meletios and Galaktinso at Livadi. Because Nikodimos was short they called him “Nikodimaki”. He was also a master of music. The American tourist Geil visited the hermitage before 1905 and says: “I found two monks. One cultivates the earth and the other is a carver of icons. At the portal of the church are two bishop’s staffs for the monks who pray. One monk tells him ‘You Americans have discovered everything, but how come you have not found the way of God? I have never seen a nation go to heaven. I prefer to have this quiet place instead of all of France.’”
In 1955 during the time of the Abbot Meletios Margiolis (died 1975) the monks of the Monastery of Saint John the Theologian, Nikodimos Grillis and Bartholomew Stratas lived as caretakers for the Monastery of Zoothoho Pigi. Today the holy monk Nikodimos lives there alone and cultivates the land.
“May the blessed founders, holy Parthenios, Amphilochios and Nikodimos, with boldness, pray to God, who loves man, asking Him to guide monks to the hermitage of Livadi so that they can restore it and send up: “Hymns to God and His all Holy Mother, in the evening and the morning, and at midday, and all the time”.
The Meadow of the Monks reached the peak of its success during the time of the Kappos brothers, Amphilochios and Nikodimos. For this reason it was named Livadi Kalogerou (Meadow of the Monks). In 1889 Maladrakis, in his translation of the travels of Lord Bute, writes: “The Monastery of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary was bought by the archpriest, who still lives there. After returning from Egypt, Amphilochios, the former bishop of Pelousios, organized a small community with a strict monastic life. His brother, the holy monk, Nikodimos, advisor and spiritual leader of the Monastery of Saint John, lived there along with two or three more monks. The cells are few and small and are recognized for their great cleanliness and appearance. The church is the primary building and is distinguished as one of the largest in Patmos. The interior impresses one, not because of richness, but because it is built with great taste and diligence. The iconostasis of elegantly carved wood is not all in gold leaf, but only a part of the frames of the icons are.”
This church with its well lit interior and simplicity is in sharp contrast to the church at the Monastery of Saint John, which is very dark. Here, every day for hours, the voices can be heard of people praying: ‘The Lord is pleased with the worshippers of His Church.’
The iconostasis is a good wood carving of the 19th Century with various carved leaves and flowers. The iconostasis has gold leaf and was made in 1810 by monk artists Athanasios and Agathon from the Monastery of Evangelismos of Ikaria. The icons on the iconostasis are of Christ (0.75x0.56 meters) with the inscription: “In memory of your servant Stratis, the pilgrim and his wife and children-1793.” and of the Theotokos, the ‘Eleousa’ (0.75x0.54 meters) with the inscription: “With prayers of the servant of God, Rigana and her children.” It is said that this icon was taken to Ano Chora to the home of Emmanuel Diamantis so that it would be used in the procession according to custom. When the icon was to be taken to the ceremony it could not be found where it had been left, but it was found back in the former place in the iconostatis of the church in Livadi. After that incident, no one dared to move it from its place. A third icon is of the Assumption of the Theotokos (0.75x0.54 meters) with the inscription: “By the hand of Evangelinos-1810.” The fourth icon is of St. John the Baptist. It measures the same as the other icons, with the inscription: “A prayer of the Servants of God, John and Despina.” It is worth mentioning that among the other icons there is one depicting Saint Anna, Joachim and the Theotokos with Jesus as a child. This icon was thrown into a burning forest and immediately the fire went out, and indeed the icon has a few burn marks.
On the exterior wall of the southern part of the dome there is a place for the bells. In front of the wing where the cells are located is a small beautiful column in the Corinthian style which was transported by the holy monk Meletios from the town of Geronta.
The two Kappos brothers enriched the solid spiritual foundation of the island during the second half of the 19th Century. These brothers were the last great contributors to this enlightened period.
In the Brevium of the Monastery of Saint John the description of the character of this great monk, Nikodimos Kappos is given in plain but rich phrases: “On the 14th of December 1895, Thursday, our beloved and respected brother, holy monk and spiritual leader Nikodimos Kappos died (He was 75 years old). Nikodimos Kappos along with his classmate Hierotheos (Floridis) were scholars of the Greek language. Nikodimos served as a teacher in the old renowned Seminary of the Holy Apocalypse (Holy Revelation). He taught for many years with distinction and his students were outstanding. Later, desiring the peaceful life of a hermit, he went and stayed with the virtuous and very strict priest Apollo for a few years. Afterwards, he was appointed priest of the Monastery of Zoothohos Pigi by the Abbot Veniamin Grimani. Then he became a Preacher and a Spiritual Father of Patmos in general until the time of his death. Because of his great reverence of the Virgin Mary and his zeal for the holy hermitage honoring the Dormition of the Virgin Mary, he bought the only field of Ralla which was neighboring the hermitage. He then persuaded his brother, Amphilochios, the former Metropolitan of Pilousios, to buy the whole hermitage and the area surrounding it. These properties were dedicated to God so that they would be used forever as a hermitage under the supervision and protection of the Holy Monastery for the Glory of God. God rest their souls among the Righteous. Amen.”
The Spiritual Father Nikodimos was a writer of hymns. He composed the service of Saint Leontios and hymns for Saint Christodoulos and the Apostle Thomas. Nikodimos was also a bookbinder. In the book Evangeliki Salpynx (Evangelical Trumpet) of Makarios Kalogeras, Leipzig 1765, there is the notation: “Repaired with care and love of the reverend holy teacher Hieromonk Nikodimos Kappos, the Patmian, Hieromonk in Damniatio, June 1, 1876.”
Amphilochios Kappos, the former Metropolitan of Pelousion, and his brother Nikodimos were students at the Patmiada under the teacher monk Isaac the Cretan. Amphilochios, at the same time learned of the basics of spirituality from the man of prayer and tears, Apollo. In 1832 he was ordained a reader by the Patriarch of Alexandria, Theophylos, who was in Patmos.
In 1834 he went to work in Russia where he learned the Russian Language. He was not satisfied with the worldly life because he had a fiery desire for the monastic life. Therefore he abandoned worldly pleasures and escaped to Mount Athos, to the monastery of Saint Panteleimon which was Russian. There he was received as a novice monk on May 2, 1844 by Bishop Theodosios of Samos. On September 11, 1860 he was ordained a Holy Monk by Meletios, the former Metropolitan of Loftzios, who resided at Mount Athos at that time. At the same time he was ordained Abbot of the Holy Monastery of Koutloumousios. After forty days he was thrown out because the majority of the monks were from the Ioanian Islands, which were occupied by the English. He was accused as being a friend of Russians. When he returned to the monastery which was called the Russian, he was not received there either.
Amphilochios then went to stay at the Monastery of Xenophon. On July 27, 1861 he departed for Constantinople and later for Alexandria, Egypt with Iakovos Pankosta, the newly elected Patmian Patriarch of Alexandria. On November 12,1961 he was ordained Bishop of Pilousios by Iakovos Pankosta and with the title the Exarch of all Mesembria. After the death of Iakovos of Alexandria on December 31, 1865, Amphilochios was appointed Overseer of the throne of Alexandria. During his time as Overseer an epidemic of cholera broke out and plagued the whole of the land of Pharaoh. All the lay people and clergy deserted Egypt by running away. Only Amphilochios stayed and ministered as a priest and spiritual confessor to the sick Christians. He gave the Holy Sacraments to the dying. He was not afraid to stay and fulfill his religious and philanthropic obligations. He had so much trust in his Godly mission that he gave neither attention to his diet nor to the advice of his doctors. “He ate his beloved garlic sauce and fried dried mackerel and all the fasting food without fear and with great pleasure.
For this reason the Greek Government in appreciating the dedication of the great Hierarch bestowed on him the Golden Cross of the Knights of the Savior.
In 1870, Sophronios III, became the Patriarch of Alexandria and in 1871, Amphilochios left for Patmos. On January 26, 1880 he became a brother at the Monastery of Saint John the Theologian.
In 1883 he moved to the hermitage of Livadi Kalogerou, as it was later named, with his brother Nikodimos. There he worked restoring the church and cells. Later Ampilohios restricted himself to the monastery of Saint John copying old manuscripts with his excellent handwriting. He lived simply, economically, avoiding eating meat. He helped the poor with all his heart. He was the perfect example of a pious monk and priest and was very much respected in Patmos.
Once during a drought, a litany was performed by Amphilochios. All the clergy participated in the procession holding holy relics. They gathered at Saint Efthimios on the “Freskada” (patio). There Ampilohios prayed on his knees with tears for the mercy of God through the intervention of Saint Efthimios. The ground became muddy from Amphilochios’ many tears. When he arose he started the Litany, but before he finished, although the sky had been clear, clouds suddenly came together and made the sky black. The laity and the clergy didn’t get a chance to reach Chora when the downpour started. Some people complained that they would get wet while others didn’t care if they got wet as long as it rained. In spite of the great down pour no one got wet.
When Amphilochios knew he was dying he asked that the Holy Communion be given to him quickly. He died immediately after receiving the Holy Gifts, giving his soul up to God on December 5, 1902. He was 82 years old when this pious holy hierarch died. It was the day before the Feast of the great Hierarch of Lykia. In the Brevium of the Monastery it is written, “On December 5, 1092 our holy brother the former Bishop of Pelousion, Amphilochios Kappos died of natural causes at the age of 82.
Thus, the ascetic and tradition of worship of the Kollyvades was continued on at the Hermitages of Livadi of Kalogerou and Apollo in northern Patmos.
4. Saint George of Avlaki
This Hermitage is located in the northern part of the island between the Livadi Kalogerou and the Mavra Gremna (Black Cliffs). Between the Cape of Livadi and the peninsular of Livadi the small bay of Livadi is formed called the “Bay of Saint George”. It was mentioned by Georgeirinis. The name Avlaki (ditch or furrow), according to Smirnakis, was given because of the ravine formed southwest which looked like one. Kritikos, however, has the opinion that it is likely that the name was given from some miraculous event that occurred there. The name has remained until today within oral tradition.
A long time ago a few girls went to Saint George’s church to cense the icon. A large snake appeared before them ready to attack. The girls fell on their knees praying to Saint George to save them. Miraculously the top part of the door fell on the snake crushing it. Its tail was hit with such force that it formed a furrow (avlaki). And that is how the name Saint George of Avlaki came about.
Another story is about Kera-Sourayo at Saint George. Kera-Sourayo left Chora one Saturday evening to go to Saint George’s Church to light the Vigil lights and to cense the icon as she had promised. When she arrived, there were pirates sleeping around the little church. With deep faith she entered the church, she lit the vigil lights and censed the icon. As she was leaving the pirates awoke and chased her. She then prayed to Saint George, who saved her and she returned to Chora unharmed.
There is still another story about the church of Saint George. A young boy promised Saint George an omelet if he won the game of “Taka”. Indeed, when he won the game, he took the omelet which his mother had made to Saint George. Soon after the boy left, pirates came and ate the omelet. After they ate, they became blind and could not see the door to leave. They then promised Saint George ten golden coins. Immediately their sight was restored. Leaving the little church they said, “Your omelet was delicious Saint George, but very expensive.”
This little church today has three sections. Originally it had only two sections, one for Saint George and one for Saint Mark. From an inscription on the marble found in the Narthex of the little church we learn the church was restored on June 12, 1755. Later in 1883 the former Bishop of Pilousios, Amphilochios added a third section honoring the Evangelist, Saint Matthew. Thus, the church has three sections. Because of this addition Patmos has churches honoring all four Evangelists. In the section of the church built by Amphilochios honoring Saint Matthew there is an icon of the Stabbed Virgin. (Panagia Maheromeni).
According to oral tradition, this icon was stolen from Marygo of Dakou in Chora by Pirates. The pirates used the icon as a cutting board to chop tobacco leaves. When they finished, they threw the icon into the sea. The icon washed up on the beach of Odysseus, saving a drowning man who had found it in the sea. This icon was bought by Nikodimos, brother of the former Bishop of Pilousios, Amphilochios. Nikodimos donated the icon to the little church of Saint Matthew which was built by his brother Amphilochios.
Amphilochios also built a few cells west of the church because he stayed at Saint George during the festival of Saint George while he was a hermit at Livadi Kalogerou. He also heard the confessions of the faithful that came to him at this church.
5. Hermitage ApolloApollos - Makarios Antoniadis
This hermitage is found in the place called Thermia, northeast of Geranos. Hot springs are found there. Today it is known as the Hermitage of Apollo. It is named for its builder, Apollo.
Kritikos disagrees with Smirnakis that Thermia is the same as Stazousa. This was mentioned by Archbishop Iosif Georgireinis that Stazousa is found to the right of the beach of Megalo Mersini (west of Saint Nicholas the Manifest).
This hermitage is made up of a small church and cells and it is surrounded by a wall. The small church is only 5.63x3.40 meters. It has arches and a dome with one window. The dome is surrounded by a square tower like Koumana’s church so that the enemies of the faith could not see it. Today this tower has been removed during a restoration. The height from the floor to the top of the dome is 4.89 meters.
A two storey building is attached to the Narthex. The first floor was probably used as a guest-house. On the second floor are four small cells separated by a hallway which ends outside on the south side to a wooden deck. The iconostasis is a simple carved one with golden decoration. In the middle of the iconostasis there are small icons depicting martyrdoms of saints. The top icon is of the Crucifixion.
The icons of the iconostasis have the dimensions of 0.56x0.41 meters. One is of the Panagia Brefokratousa (The Virgin with Child), and the other is of Christ Evlogounta (Blessing). These are found on each side of the Great Gate (entrance to the Altar). Next to the icon of Christ is the icon of All Saints. On the back of this icon is the date 1837. Under the icons of Jesus and Panagia are icons of Saint Basil the Great, Saint John Chrysostom, Saint Gregory the Theologian and the icon of All Saints.
On the side doors of the iconostasis are icons of St. Makarios of Alexandria and St. Makarios of Egypt. Between the icons on the top of the iconostasis and the ones underneath there is a strip with small icons of the Theotokos (Virgin Mary), Christ, Saint Christodoulos and Saint Apollo. Saint Apollo is holding a scroll which says: “A student who talks back is like a blind inexperienced archer”. All the above mentioned icons were painted by Saint Savvas, the New from Kalymnos. Saint Savvas lived at the hermitage for a while. On the south side of the little church is an icon measuring 0.40x0.25 meters depicting Saint Mark, the New and Saint Makarios of Corinth. It has an inscription; “By the hand of Agathon M. Ikariou 18....”.
On the outside of the north side of the church there is a bell tower with the inscription: “June 9, 1905 built from donations of Makarios, Holy Monk, Antoniadis from Samos”..
Close to the hermitage a threshing floor and the foundation of a windmill. From Athina Tarsouli’s plans we are informed that the windmill over forty years ago existed completely.
The holy monk Apollo was from Mount Athos and he was a member of Niphon’s Kollyvades. He lived at the hermitage. Usually Apollo was called the Peloponnesian. Smirnakis, though, writes that Apollo was from Karpenisi and that at a young age he escaped to Mount Athos to be saved from Ali Pasa. This information is verified by a handwritten note which was found in the book “Octoechos, published Venice 1837.” saying: “This belongs to Apollo, the holy monk from Karpenisi”. Bishop John from Sidirokastro believes that Apollo came from Roumeli and specifically from Agrafa. His name Apollo, comes from Saint Apollo because an icon of Saint Apollo is found at the hermitage. He was not named for the Apostle Apollo or for the martyr Apollo or for the Bishop Apollo.
Apollo was ordained a monk at the church of Saint Anna on Mount Athos. Because a Conflict the Kollyvades, he left for Ikaria. He stayed near the Holy Monk Niphon, who was from Chios, at the Monastery of Evangelismos in 1775. When Niphon left for Skiathos, where he built the Monastery of Evangelismos, Apollo followed him. Niphon sent Apollo to Saint Nikodimos from Mount Athos to ask his opinion whether he should return to Ikaria. The holy monk Isidoros Kyriakopoulos wrote of Apollo in the biography of Niphon: “Niphon sent our teacher Apollo with gifts to Mount Athos...Concerning his death, he invited the three monks, Agathon from Chios, Sisoes from Kephallonia and Apollo from Peloponnese and he told them that after his death, they should go to Ikaria and restore the Monastery of Evangelismos...The three monks Laos took along three other monks, Zenon, Ignatius and Athinodoros all from the Peloponnese and they went to Ikaria. Ignatius and Athinodoros were Apollo’s brothers”.
After the death of Niphon (1809) Apollo left for Ikaria and the Monastery of Evangelismos. Because he knew about ecclesiastical order he was appointed to supervise good order. He did not remain there very long because he did not find the peace, exactness and strictness he desired. He went to a different hermitage near the village of Rakis, but not for long. “Because of temptations and scandals, he left for Patmos, 1816”.
In the beginning he stayed at the hermitage at Livadi of Kalogerou. Desiring a more peaceful place, he went to Zarroi (north of Geranos). One day when he saw four ships from Kalymnos anchored in the Bay of Zarroi, he left immediately. With the help of a local farmer he was guided to the place Thermia, south, but near Zarroi. At first he lived in a cave. He arranged his hours of prayer by the sounding of the bells of the monastery. He was happy in this deserted place which had plenty of drinkable water. Here he built a cell and from 1818 he remained continuously for about forty years. “He lived to the fullest the life of a hermit”.
The little church which exists today was erected as follows:
During an all night vigil service at the Monastery of Saint John the Theologian, Apollo was appointed to read the Scripture related to the feast. Theophilos the Patriarch of Alexandria († 1833) lived at the monastery at that time. (He was deposed from his position due to his actions during the Greek Revolution of 1821). A certain Captain Lazaris, from the same town as Apollo, who had stopped over in Patmos because of bad weather, also attended the Vigil. He was very impressed with Apollo’s reading. After gathering information about Apollo, he visited Apollo at the hermitage. Captain Lazaris asked Apollo if there was anything he needed. Apollo answered that as a monk and a hermit, he needed nothing. Captain Lazaris insisted that a little church should be built to glorify God. Immediately the captain sold the rice which was kept in his ship and gave the money to Apollo to build the church.
God also took care of the iconostasis which had no icons. A merchant who passed by the hermitage saw that there were no icons. He told Apollo that the icons for a church of Saint Nicholas in Asia Minor did not fit that iconostasis. He believed that they would fit the iconostasis at the little church of Apollo. He sent them and they truly did fit.
He decided to dedicate the little church to the memory of the Holy fathers of Sinai and Raithu who were desolated by the Arab Blemyon (14 January). The reason he picked these names was so as not to celebrate the feast of a well-known Saint and his peaceful life. He ordered this icon to be painted by a Patmian in Russia. By mistake an icon of All Saints was painted and sent. And for this reason the church was dedicated to All Saints.
The wall around the hermitage was also built by good fortune. Because Apollo was well -educated, many came to seek his advice about ecclesiastical matters. Once the Abbot of the Monastery along with another monk visited Apollo so that he could explain and resolve their differences concerning a passage. Before Apollo would settle their dispute, as a good referee and interpreter, jokingly told them to make a wager before he solved the problem. They asked him what should the wager be. Then the sharp-witted Apollo answered, “Whoever loses the wager will build a wall around the hermitage”. And so it was done.
Apollo had planted a vineyard around the hermitage. He had also planted a Vine-tree, under which Guιrin found him when he visited him. Guιrin told us of Apollo’s daily program and the church services which were performed day and night. Guιrin was the only witness who lived with him and understood his feelings.
“Apollo’s life is always the same and it consists of acts which are repeated daily. During the day he goes to his little church twice to pray. At night, he repeats the same prayers with the three monks who live under his supervision. Freed from the worldly cares which others have, he peacefully awaits his death which seems to avoid him, respecting his bald head and long white beard. His face is calm and happy. It does not have wrinkles from worries but only the ones that come with age. The cheerfulness which gives meaning to his life is the same as the peaceful calmness of his soul.
On the day I knocked on his hospitable door, he wanted to talk with me until evening. At 9:00 he guided me to my cell and he went to his. Around midnight I heard him get up along with the three other monks. They went to the little church and soon I heard their voices chanting. His voice led and he gave the right mode to the others. I could not help but be moved when in the stillness of the night, at the foot of a deserted mountain, a few steps from the sea, I suddenly heard those four voices. Their chanting and prayers mingled with the hollow moaning of the sea with its eternal cry and this gave life to the desert.”
“.... in your courtyard, I praise You, Savior of the world and kneeling I worship Your unbeatable power.”
The three monks who were with Apollo, Guιrin mentioned, must have been the holy monk Isidoros Kyriako-poulos and his two natural brothers, the monk Athinodoros and the holy monk Ignatius.
Apollo was full of grace, virtuous and temperate. It is said that from a young age he liked to smoke a tobacco pipe, or narghile, which he continued in moderation during his monastic life. One day a devout Patmian, Ioannis Fountis, visited Apollo. He often visited confessing and escaping the trials and tribulations of every day life. (He had nine daughters and 3 sons). He brought with him his young son, Themistoclis, so that he could receive a blessing from Apollo. The, the following incident happened. When they arrived, the father told his son to go ahead and ask the monk Apollo for his blessing. Apollo, at that moment, was smoking the narghile. The child asked: “Who is the Elder?” The father pointed to the monk. The child bravely said: “That is not the Elder. Elders and monks do not smoke.”
Immediately, the virtuous Apollo broke the narghile which he was holding and said to the child, “Child, these words are not yours, but God’s. Take the pieces and throw them in the sea.” From that moment forward, he never smoked again. One admires Apollo’s humility. He placed himself below the child and heard the voice of God.
Apollo was brave and generous. One day pirates came to rob him, but he faced them without emotion and started to talk to them. The pirates, seeing his courage, said: “Aren’t you afraid of us? We are criminals.” He replied: “Why should I be afraid of those who have more than I and who can help others?”
The pirates asked him to open the door to his cell. Then Apollo shoved the door and it fell down before their unbelieving eyes. As they were leaving, they offered him money to perform liturgies for them, but he refused to accept the offer. He told them that evil doers of humanity do not need liturgies and prayers unless they stop their evil deeds. They left terrified after hearing the courageous teaching of Apollo.
Like the Apostle Paul, Apollo did not care for money. He tried not to burden the Christians who came to him with piety. He was upset because the inhabitants brought him bread and prosphora (the bread used for the Eucharist). For this reason, he asked the Elders Council of Patmos to allow him to cultivate a parcel of land so that he could provide for himself and not be a burden to anyone.
Even today, descendants of the Christians who visited Apollo tell of his wise teaching and godly advice. This he was able to do because he studied the Scriptures and the books of the Holy Fathers. He was enlightened by God. He said: “When someone has a task to do and he is not sure, he should pray with tears for three continuous days and ask for God’s help. Afterwards, he should go to the altar and open the Holy Gospel and if he finds a phrase which is suitable for his task, it was a sign that God wanted him to perform the task.”
His character was examining persons not regarding persons but the Holy Gospel and Holy Canons. Smirnakis in Patmos writes: “Apollo had so much holy zeal upholding the canons of the church that he sometimes went even beyond his proper jurisdiction. For example, when visiting the churches of Patmos if the baptismal font was made of common clay and not deep enough for real use he would break them. No one dared say anything, because they knew no one could be baptized properly in the shallow font, but only be sprinkled.” His deep piety was demonstrated in the way he advised his disciples, the holy monk Isidoros and the brother Nikodimas and Amfilohios Kappas: “When you read the prayers for the Holy Communion you should cry.”
Apollo had a library of books of the hermits he studied so deeply that he almost had the books memorized. In conversations with devout visitors he recited sections from these books. The description of his total character is given to us in a letter from the Patriarch of Alexandria, Theophilos Pancastas, the Patmian (1819): “I, abba, can see the God-loving and soul that you have philosophizing in exactly the same way, whether you are at peace or in temptation.”
Besides his two real brothers, Ignatius and Athinodoros (1851), who were also hermits with him, he had disiples under his supervision the brothers Nikodimas and Amphilochios Kappos. They were all taught and inspired by the hermit Apollo. Stamatiadis, on page 98, of his book Ikariaka includes a letter from the monk Isidoros which contained the biography of the monk Niphon from Chios and was addressed to a monk named Nikodimas. This monk Nikodimas must be the same monk Nikodimas Kappos with whom Isidoros was a hermit along with Apollo at the hermitage in Patmos. The one who lived with Apollo the longest was the holy monk Isidoros Kyriakopoulos “who inherited and imitated the virtues of Apollo and passed them on to others.”
Isidoros was born in 1819 in Marathokambo, Samos. At a young age he was drawn to become a monk by the great fame of Apollo. He came to Apollo and lived with him for 20 years serving the strict Elder with great patience and obedience until he died.
Because of Isidoros’ dedication, he was invited by the Abbot Haritonas (heir of Agathos, a student of Niphon) of the Monastery Annunciation of Ikaria to become the Abbot of the Monastery. He would be the fourth Abbot since the founding of the monastery by Niphon of Chios.
As Abbot Isidoros worked with great zeal for both material and spiritual needs. He planted vineyards and olive groves. He built a watermill near the sea, which had never been seen before in Ikaria. He also built a library.
After 10 years of godly service to the monastery, Isidoros resigned and returned to Samos. He withdrew to the foot of the mountain Kerketes where he built the Hermitage of Saint John the Almsgiver. Later, the Government of Samos appointed Apollo Abbot of the Holy Monastery of the Prophet Elias and afterwards Abbot of the Monastery of Megali Panagia, where he died on September 7, 1892 at the age of 63. Apollo was a man of great virtue and piety.
Apollo also ordained the monk Arsenios Kourtikou on April 3, 1843 and named him Agapios.
On January 20, 1859, Apollo died after serving for forty years, twenty of which he was healthy and twenty of which he was suffering from a horrible deformity (elephantisis), which he endured patiently, continually worshipping and praising God. He proved that he was always a man of pious virtues and one of the best among his contemporaries. In the Vravio, we read “Tuesday - January 20, 1859 our brother Holy Monk Apollo died at the age of 90. God rest his soul among the Righteous.” He died on Feast day of Saint Efthimios the Great.
Before he died, his disciple, Isidoros from Samos, addressed him with respect: “Elder, in a short time Saint Efthimios will greet you in heaven with all the saints.” The modest old man was embarrassed by these praising words and scolded him saying: “What are you saying old-onion head (Isidoros’ village was famous for onions)? Does your village have other prophets like you?”
The descendants who knew of Apollo’s virtuous life and his godly teachings, which uplifted the souls of the holy island, believed that he was a Saint. After his remains were exhumed, they appeared to be holy. The holy monk Isidoros came from Samos and received Apollo’s skull and the two thigh bones. Smirnakis in Patmos writes that some of Apollo’s relics are still at his hermitage.
Apollo left the mountains of Roumeli while still young, went to Mount Athos, and later went to Patmos. There he lived with prayer and strict ascetic life on the island of the beloved disciple of Christ, Saint John, and at the end, Apollo found the peace he desired. For about forty years as the hermitage stood weathering the rage of the wind and the waves, so Apollo stood like a piece of a mountain, unshaken by the numerous attacks of trials and sorrows. He never stopped praising God in his prayers-morning, noon and night. “I will bless the Lord at all time. His praise shall continually be in my mouth.” (Ps. 34: 1).
“But I am poor and sorrowful: let Your salvation, O God, set me up on high..” (Ps. 69, 29).
“O God, You have taught me from my youth; And to this day I declare Your wondrous works.” (Ps. 71: 17).
“Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all you lands! Serve the Lord, with gladness. Come before His presence with singing.” (Ps. 100: 1-2).
Now Apollo is happy near his Lord, whom he served from his youth.
His successors, the holy monks Isidoros and Kallistos, did not remain at the hermitage as Apollo, had foreseen. Later Nikodimos Kappos, Paphnoutios, Dionysios and Ignatius Gazas (Frios) (+1918) came. They stayed for 35 years and came from Kentronisi where they were hermits.
Afterwards, Makarios Antoniadis, who was born in 1841 at Marathokambo of Samos came to the hermitage. He had been a student at the seminary of the island and had served temporarily in Romania. He finally decided to come to the Monastery of the Assumption at Ikaria of Niphon when the Abbot at the monastery was the holy monk Isidoros Kyriakopoulos. Makarios became Abbot of the Monastery of the Prophet Elias at Karlovasi after Isidoros had been the Abbot at this monastery. He left Samos in 1887 and came to the Island of the Revelation, Patmos.
At first he settled at the Livadi of the Kalogerou, where he built a residence on the right side of the church. Mostly he was attracted to the Hermitage of Apollo. For this reason, he moved there replacing the holy monk Ignatius Gazas. At the hermitage of Apollo, he met the American Geil who wrote: “I found a hermit who was holding a cotton bag which contained the relics of Apollo who lived about 100 years ago.” Geil photographed Makarios near the spring while he was holding a relic of Apollo. Geil wrote, on page 323 of his book Patmos that Makarios did not give money to the community, but the community sent oil for the upkeep of a vigil light that never went out. This was done because George Markoulis had killed his mother in 1852. This information is also mentioned by Smirnakis in his book Patmos.
Makarios was among the brothers of the Monastery. He was a strict follower of the services of the Church. The fisherman knew it was exactly twelve o’clock when they heard the bell ring at night. He celebrated the Liturgy in a manner worthy of a priest. He officiated every Sunday and of all the church holidays. He desired to officiate every day if at all possible. This attention to the rubrics of the divine services with the deep, hidden meaning in it, is characteristic of Orthodox Mysticism.
Every year on January 20th, he celebrated a memorial for the founder, Apollo. He always kept Byzantine time. On Sundays, he started at 1 (6 in the morning) and he finished at 6:30 (12:30 in the afternoon). Many people attended the Divine Liturgy from the neighboring village. Afterwards he offered them the traditional Patmian Coffee and some advice. He recommended suitable attire to the women and not to work on Sunday to the men. He scolded the fishermen of Kambos about fishing on Sunday because they forgot to attend the Sunday Services. He often told them with strictness and irony “Go take fishbait and venerate that!” To those who follow him, but did not heed his advice, he said: “Why do you come, you listen to my advice, but do not carry it out?” To those who did not make the sign of the Cross proper, he said: “Make a Cross, don’t play the fiddle”.
An old woman from Chora, Garoufallio, went and asked him to write her name in the diptychs. “Oh my poor woman”, he said, “I will remember you, but your deeds will remember you first”.
“If his sons forsake My law and do not walk in My judgments, if they My statures and do not keep My commandments. Then I will punish their with the rod, And their iniquity with stripes.” (Ps. 89, verses 31-32).
Many went there for confession by foot, donkey or boat. Monks from the monastery, from Kambos, from Lipsos, and Kalymnos all sought refuge the Spiritual Father. He was frequently visited by the Reverend Gerontios who came by sail boat. Father Gerontios was a monk from a monastery on Samos. Strangely, he preferred to live in solitude on his boat rather than in his monastery. His boat was transformed into a movable cell (!) with icons and a holy Pyx so that he could partake of the Body and Blood of Christ. He celebrated the services and his prayer-rule on his boat. Once in a while, if it happened to be a special holiday he would approach a harbor where he knew he would find a little monastery so that he could attend services.
Gerontios often came to the Hermitage of Apollo to confess to Father Makarios.
As a confessor he enforced the canons and rules of the Rudder and Confessional of Saint Nikodimos of Athonite. The usual penance was strict diet, five hundred prostrations and other things. For every Christian he ordered thirty-three prostrations. He forbade dancing. “Why, Father,” they asked. He explained: “Saint John the Forerunner was beheaded because of dancing.”
Makarios’ spiritual influence was especially great in Kambos. The father gave spiritual advice and was strict with everyone. His words were stamped in their hearts. Even today you hear people saying: “This is what Makarios said”.
He avoided gatherings and idol talk. After he heard people’s confessions, he asked if they were leaving. If they stayed, he would give them a prayer rope and send them to the sea shore to pray.
Saint Isaac the Syrian said: “Oh, how bad it is for hesychasts to be with many people and talk with them! Oh my brothers, indeed monks are harmed by contact and conversation with people”. (Logos 13th)
Makarios greatly desired solitude. He did not have contact or correspondence with his relatives. He received letters, but he never answered them. When his relatives came from Samos, he received them, but he never left Patmos from the time he first came.
He never left the hermitage except to go to the monastery rarely or to celebrate the Liturgy at Panagia of Geranos and Saint Panteleimon.
When he became old and weak and unable to work hard, he worked as a book binder. There are still books that he bound with the initials: M. I. A. This stands for Makarios, Ieromonahos (Hieromonk) Antoniadis.
The monk Bartholomew Stratas finished school at the age of twelve. He desired the monastic life. So he went to serve, be taught and supervised by Father Makarios at the Hermitage of Apollo. Bartholomew remained at the hermitage for two and a half years. He then went to the Monastery of Saint John. After some interruptions he returned to the hermitage for ten years where he lived with the younger Apollo’s relative, Pantelios. He remembered and retold many incidents from the austere life of Father Makarios.
Three days a week on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, they kept the “ninth hour”. In other words, they ate once a day at nine o’clock, Byzantine time. That is 3:00 in the afternoon. The meal consisted of boiled rosemary for drink, tahini, olives and bread. During Great Lent, they kept the “ninth hour” without oil during the whole week with the exception of Saturday and Sunday when they ate oil.
Makarios was very strict concerning fasting. Sometimes Apollo asked that the Presanctified Liturgy be celebrated earlier so that he could eat and go to work. But Makarios would not allow any changes. “You go, do your work (without eating) and return when the bell rings for the Presanctified Liturgy”, he would tell him.
When they were working they should say the Jesus Prayer according to his instructions: “When you say the Jesus Prayer, work becomes a prayer.”
In Patmos on Great Thursday of Holy week, because of the service of “The Washing of the Feet”, people were allowed to eat oil which was not permitted during the rest of the Holy Week. Makarios, followed the Rudder faithfully, and would not allow any exceptions. Once Apollo followed the Patmian tradition and ate oil on Great Thursday, and worse he hid this fact. When Makarios found out he became upset and would not allow Apollo to partake of Holy Communion for Pascha. Apollo was not allowed to take Holy Communion until the Ascension. Makarios added, “Don’t you dare put your schema on and come up for Communion at Easter and upset me!”
He was also strict in following his monastic rule. Father Bartholomew said, “Even though I was a boy of fifteen years, he gave me two prayer ropes with full kneeling bows and three ropes with simple bows. He himself had three with simple bows and twelve with full kneeling bows. (Each rope has one hundred knots). With each knot I had to say, ‘Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy upon me,’ and at every little red bead I had to say, ‘Most Holy Mother of God save us.’”
Apollo’s nephew on his mother’s side, Nicholas M. Grillis lived at the hermitage for fifteen years and vividly remembers many incidents that occurred during his stay near Abbot Makarios. “He was very strict in following the canons. Apollo and I would finish our hundred knots prayer rope very quickly”. Makarios would take his time, praying slowly and clearly saying, “Lord, Jesus Christ have mercy of us”. Then he would say to us who had finished so quickly: “You did not pray correctly. You must repeat it!”
“One night I did not attend the service because I was very tired. The next morning when I saw Father Makarios, I greeted him with “Your blessing, Father”. “Why did you not come to the service last night?”
“Father, I was tired because I was digging.”
“You were working for the body. What about your soul? Orthros is for the soul.”
Makarios did not light lamps at night. He said, “This is a hermitage. Light is not needed”. His bed was two tripods with boards on top on which lay a mattress made of straw. Across from his bed he had placed a sign which said: “I fear death because it is bitter. I fear hell because it is endless. I fear Tartarus (the underworld) because it has no warmth.” On the other wall he had a picture representing a tomb with a dead person inside. This is the known subject-matter of Abbot Sisoes.
Before we started to eat, we had to make the sign of the cross over the pot with the serving spoon. Then we would serve it up. The first plate was always for the “unexpected” visitor. This would be placed on the shelf to be given to anyone that might pass by.
Makarios, faithfully, observed a strict fish only diet, which he made his dsciples observe. Apollo, did not eat meat from the age of 15. Once, when he was very old, he became very ill and the doctor advised him to have some chicken. He refused. But after much pressure he had some broth, which he vomited immediately.
Someone asked Makarios if he should eat fish on Palm Sunday.
He answered, “If you eat fish, you will be blessed. If you do not, you will be blessed three times as much”.
“I’ll eat fish so that I can be blessed”, he said.
“Glutton”, Makarios said, “you will eat for your stomach”.
The Blessed Father Amphilochios Makris, left the Monastery without permission and went to the Holy Land in order to avoid being ordained as a priest. When he returned, he was ordered by the Monastery to go live at the Hermitage of Apollo. The monastery knew the austerity of Makarios and sent any monk who needed discipline to the hermitage. This was the most severe punishment. For Amphilochios this time at the hermitage was a blessing. Makarios tonsured him to the Great Schema and made him a very special monk. He initiated him in noetic prayer, which is the most important attribute that a spiritual father should have.
Theoktistos Triantafillou, from Kalymnos, lived with Makarios for 5 years. He was later tonsured a monk. He served at the hermitage at the Spring of Geranos, near Saint Demetrios. He often came to Father Makarios for confession on the weekends and he chanted at Vespers on Saturday night. He would leave for his hermitage after the Liturgy on Sunday.
For a time in 1914, Saint Savvas, the new Hozevite, lived with Makarios. He painted the icons for the iconostasis of the church.
On November 13, 1935, Makarios died at the age of ninety four. This was the day that the blessed Father Amphilochios was elected Abbot of the Monastery of St. John the Theologian. Makarios was buried by Father John Nikitaras, (+1981), Father Theophanis Krikris, (+1966), Father Parthenios Fegaros, (+1988) and the Deacon Hierotheos Gavalas, (+1968).
“May God, whom you praised and glorified with your service and ascetic life, bless you. Now that you are with Him, you can sing His praises along with His Angels, saying: Blessed is the God of our Fathers”. After the death of Makarios, his disciple, Apollo, the monk, the younger Pantelios, a Patmian, remained as a hermit at the Hermitage of Apollo. He continued the ascetic life and teachings of its founder.
Apollo served as night watchman at the Monastery of Saint John from 1940 through 1945. The monk Leontios from Cos lived with Apollo for a while at the hermitage. The monk Phanourios from Kalymnos, who had come from Mount Athos, lived at the hermitage for one year until he died. Apollo died on January 20, 1966. He was over eighty years old. His relics are kept at the hermitage.
The Hermitage is now under the care of Father Nicholaos Yiameos. It awaits a hermit who will live there permanently, praising God.
Today, a faithful worshipper visiting the Hermitage of Apollo, can enter the small church and pray before the same icons that the holy ascetics prayed before. One can visit the cells with piety. The cells are clean and decent. One can still see the utensils used by the old Kollyvades. The threshing floor, the wind mill and the running water will unwillingly take one back in time. Imagination lets one visualize scenes from the lives of the hermits.
In the peaceful, dim light of the little church, holy images send up hymns and glorify our Merciful God. In the cells, these images can be found repenting and wetting the ground with their tears. Another scene has a disciple confessing his thoughts to the Abbot. One can visualize the monks working in the fields, watering the garden, threshing the wheat and grinding the wheat in the windmill.
As these pictures follow each other in one’s mind, one can forget himself and become like one of these holy hermits and can feel joy and contentment in the presence of God.
6. Hermitages: Zarroi, Yenoupas, Petrokaravo, Psalidi: Theoktistos
The Hermitage Zarroi was built by Theoktistos. When Theoktistos was forty five years old, he left Koulouki by boat and reached Cos. He was planning to visit the Holy Island of the Revelation, Patmos, where the voice of God had been heard. He wanted to visit all the places in Patmos and Euboea where Saint Christodoulos had lived. He desired to venerate the ground where Saint “feet had walked”.
He was born in 1822 in Thyateira (Axari), in the East, the cradle of Orthodoxy. This was the fourth of the Seven Churches of the Revelation, where the Lord presented “the Morning Star”. Smirnakis mentions that Theoktistos went to Vlachia for business when he was young.. Because he did not like the vanity of the worldly life there, he went to Mount Athos. There was a rumor in Patmos that Theoktistos was a bishop, but he kept it a secret. Maybe he told someone his secret, but he wanted it kept quiet until he died. He never mentioned anything about his personal life before he came to Patmos.
He was tonsured a Great Schema monk in 1858 at the Monastery of Esfigmenos at Mount Athos. As it was customary for many monks on Mount Athos, he went to the Holy Land thirteen years later in 1871. There he proves himself with his masculine gigantic figure during the bloody conflicts regarding the place of pilgrimage in Bethlehem while Prokopios II was Patriarch of the Holy Land (1873 - 1875). These conflicts were caused by the diplomatic interference of France on behalf of the Vatican.
Theoktistos went to Patmos in 1875. He was attracted by the holiness and peacefulness of the island like St. Christodoulos. He went to the Patriarch of Constantinople and asked for permission to stay in Patmos. Blessed by the Patriarch, he returns to the Monastery of Saint John in Patmos. His reputation preceded him and the Fathers of the Monastery gladly accepted him as a brother and asked him to stay with them. But Theoktistos, being deeply attracted to the word of God, desired to live the ascetic life. Saint Isaac the Syrian writes: “Whoever loves to speak with Christ, loves to live alone...” He used to say that when he was living the worldly life he met people trying to do the good while they sinned. He did the same. For this reason, he found the only way for his salvation was live alone, hurting no one. The hermit cannot harm anybody.
Thus, the monk Theoktistos left to find a hermitage. He was described as having an olive complexion, dark eyes, thick eyebrows, a thunderous voice and a beard that reached his knees. When he worked, he either braided his beard or divided it into two pieces, throwing them over his shoulder and tying them in the back. He was very strong and hard working. He was not afraid to work. He could move boulders which normally required two or three men, all by himself.
It was in his character not to remain anywhere too long. He would build hermitages and then abandon them. For forty years, he lived at many hermitages in Patmos. Smirnakis verifies, according to information gathered from older people and from his personal contact with the hermit himself, that he lived at the following hermitages: The Hermitage of Apollo, at Zaroi, at Asomato, at Kentronis, at the cave of Yenoupa, at Petrokaravo and at Psalida. Later he lived at Vrasta and at Kypous near the hermitage of the Panagia of Mandalaki. While he was living at the hermitages he would occasionally stay at the Monastery of Saint John, where his cell still exists under the cell of Father Ieremias. He also stayed at the Cave of the Apocalypse where he died on March 16, 1917 at the ruins of the old Patmiada School. He had prepared his own grave and he was buried there.
In 1912 when the Dodecanese were taken over by the Italians, the people from the islands considered the Italians to be liberators from the Turks. During a Pan-Dodecanese conference, which was held in Patmos, it was secretly decided to declare independence for the Dodecanese islands on June 5, 1912, and to raise the Greek flag at the Holy Cave of the Apocalypse. The young monk Ampilochios Makris while carrying flag pole, said that it was pole, for the support of the staircase of Theoktistos who lived at the Apocalypse. This incident is taken from Smirnakis.
Theoktistos was drawn to desolate locations. At first he was attracted to the hermitage of Apollo where he remained for four years. Perhaps the monk Ignatius Gazos was still there. Later the monk Makarios Antoniadis went there. We learn from Nicholaos Grillis, who is over 80 years old, and the nephew of Apollo Pantelios, the following incident concerning the stay of Theoktistos at Apollo. Theoktistos had workers dig to a depth of 0.7 meters for a new vineyard. It was on a Wednesday during Great Lent that he told the workers they could eat oil. But they replied they are Christians too and they would fast. Theoktistos said you are working and must eat. Then he told them to each put a ball of dirt in their belts and he did the same. That evening he asked each of them where is the dirt. They answered that it fell apart and dissolved. He said that this did not fall apart. “This is what happened with the oil you ate- it dissolved. For sure it was not necessary for me to eat oil, but it was for you.” In this way he justified that the workers should eat oil.
The following advice was given at other times: “When you are a guest at someone’s home and they are celebrating, go ahead and break your fast so you do not appear to be a hypocrite. When you return home resume your fasting.” He was distinguished by his discernment.
After Apollo he went to Zaroi. This hermitage is located on the north side of Geranos. A huge rock separates Zaroi from the Hermitage of Apollo and it is easier to get to this hermitage by boat. This location was given to him with the permission of the Elder’s Council in 1883. The word Zaroi was given because the location had a lot of water (Za means a lot, roi means flow). Here Theoktistos built a two storey building as well and planted a vineyard, fruit-bearing trees and a garden. He gathered water from all around and stored it in a reservoir that had a wall around it, which he had built.
Geil, the American tourist, met Theoktistos at Zaroi and wrote: “I met an 80 year old man who was modest, sweet, kind and holy. He offered us lunch under a tree.”
He worked hard with his hands, but his heart was continually praying. The prayer of the hesychasts is short and continuous. “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me.” He prayed noetically without ceasing. He did not read many services, but he constantly said the Jesus Prayer. He was so absorbed in prayer with all his heart that one had to approach him closely to be noticed. He once revealed secretly to another brother: “I feel such ecstasy in prayer that I can not sleep at night. When I say the Jesus Prayer it is as if I hear thousands of angels singing.” He studied the Philokalia and took Communion often. These are characteristics of the genuine Kollyvades.
His garden had exceptional produce. From four or five tomato plants he would gather about 600 pounds of tomatoes. His work continually progressed. His vineyard was the best in the region. No one could find better grapes. The vine growers of Kambos would come to see the special vineyard of Theoktistos. When this happened, Theoktistos knew it was time to move. He deserted everything and left. He would tell himself: “Theoktistos, you have many goods. Eat, drink and be merry!”
When he was asked for the reason for his departure, the hermit of Zaroi would answer in a thunderous voice: “Temptation!”
Success for Theoktistos meant temptation. Today if you visit Zaroi, you find ruins. You can see the first floor, the separation of the two cells which have thick walls of 0.70 meters. They were built of stone and white washed on the outside. In addition, you will find a staircase leading to the second floor, the reservoir which held the water for irrigation, and to the west a spring which still has a little water. These are the only signs left to help a person bring back to life the hermitage which was built by the hero of asceticism with his own hands. One reverently kneels, touches the ruins, and somehow feels that there is something holy in this location.
Our hermit, Theoktistos moves to Kentronisi, a little island across form Kavo of Geranos. There he builds a small dwelling where he could meditate. He remained there for only two years. Ruins at Kentrosini bare witness to his stay there. Later, Theoktistos went to the little Monastery of Asomaton where he stayed for four months.
In 1898 Theoktistos could be found at the cape of Yenoupa. It was a barren and deserted place which was known as a terrifying place. During the time that Saint John the Evangelist was exiled on Patmos, an evil magician named Kynops, an enemy of Saint John, had his secret hideout in this cave. The people believed that Kynops was possessed by the devil and made to do evil things. The people of Chora were so afraid of Yenoupa that when the sun would set they would close all the windows facing Yenoupa.
Theoktistos would say in his thunderous voice, “I will go and beat him in his cave”. Yenoupas or Yenopas (aderivative of the word Kynops, which means dog-face) or Pilafi Mountain descends southeast towards the Bay of Kouvari and northwest towards the Bay of Agia (Saint) Paraskevi near the cape of Psalida. It is a Mountain with two peaks. On its southeast rocky slope, there exists a small cave 2x4 meters and 7.5 meters high. On the walls of the cave one can see stalagmites which are white and pale yellow. Unfortunately, today it is impossible to reach the cave of Yenoupa because of the quarry which blocks the way.
In July of 1898, Theoktistos was the first inhabitant of this impassable, pathless area. His first task was to build a reservoir to collect rain water. With the help of two workers, he dug the floor of the cave where he found a lot of human bones, lanterns, tearducks, oil vials and many ancient coins. As soon as this discovery was made known, the Ottoman authorities immediately investigated. Many stories were told. The explanation given to the discovery of so many bones, is that, near that place, there was once a community and they placed the remains of their dead in a ditch in the cave.
Because of the constant visits of curious people, Theoktistos was forced to abandon this cave and settle on the opposite side of the mountain in another rectangular shaped cave. This cave had a little depth like a porch which opened on the southwest toward the sea. He erected a wall with large stones to protect against the strong winds and dampness. He built a reservoir for water and he carved a bed out of the rocks. There he would sit and gaze out at the unending blue sea while he prayed using his prayer rope or he chanted: “Oh, Gladsome Light” (Phos Hilaron). The light of the islands of the Aegean and especially of Patmos is unbeatable. It is as if this light is a foretelling of the light of the Heavenly Kingdom. Because God is Light. Christ, who is continually called upon in Theoktistos’ heart, is the Light of Lights, Who came to give Light to humanity. Theoktistos would sit on the rock with his long beard, as if another prophet, and he would close his eyes, satisfied with the Glory of God. Once in a while, he modestly confessed that he could hear in the tranquillity of hermitage instead of the noise of the wind, the harmonious music of the heavens. He remained there for five years. During this time many came seeking his advice and confessing their sins. Even shepherds from the surrounding area came seeking his advice and confessing their sins. He greeted all of them with pleasure.
One day a young man saw a snake crawling near the hermit’s foot. Immediately the young man raised his staff to kill the snake. “Stop”, shouted Theoktistos, “He is one of my friends. Every night a dozen of them come to sleep with me in the cave”.
One other day Father Amphilochios Makris (he was a very young monk then went to visit Theoktistos with the monk Antipas). At midday he allowed them to rest in the cave while he remained outside. When they saw the snake, they screamed. Theoktistos came in laughing and he told them that the snake was a friend who kept him company at night. What a wonderful attitude! Theoktistos, like all the hermits, loved all the God’s creatures; humans, animals and all of nature. Apollo never even killed a flea. Saint Nektarios put out water for ants to drink, Saint Silouan of Mount Athos would suffer when a guest would cut a stem from a plant for no reason.
The Abbot Isaac from Syros writes: “What is a merciful heart? A merciful heart is burning heart for All Creation. In other words, love all humans, animals, birds and even demons and all of creation. When you see or remember them all, tears flow from your eyes. He also prays for crawling things from his great mercy which moves his heart without measure in the likeness of God”.
When visitors came and found Theoktistos praying, they would stop so as not to interrupt him. But the birds that were with him would make noise when visitors approached and this way Theoktistos would know that he had visitors. He would stop his prayers and would greet them happily.
His appearance was distinguished and austere. He wore his usual cape. He usually did not wear shoes. He had some slippers which he had brought with when he came from Mount Athos and socks which were given to him. But he only wore them when he went to the Monastery. He never wore shoes at his hermitage. His diet was very plain. He only ate oil on Saturday and Sunday. He mostly ate greens, boiled cabbage, roasted garlic and paximadia (dried bread).
At that time there were many hermits in Patmos. On Saturday evening, the people, especially the women, would take them figs, almonds and paximadia.
Marigo Vesti, who was over eighty years old tells us that her grandmother, Irene, took paximadia to the hermit, Theoktistos, in a basket. This basket was kept reverently in her home.
The hieromonk Ezekiel Karelakis (+ 1911) went to visit him one Friday and heard him saying to himself: “Stop stomach. Today Christ is crucified. Blood is flowing from the cross”. This gave him the strength to be strict in his fasting and deny himself food which his body desired. He would make two thousand full prostrations a day using his long prayer rope. During this time he cried for forgiveness of his own sins and for the sins of others. He would say: “If we do not know how God created us, we will not know how we will be after sinning”.
When Theoktistos was asked if he was afraid of living at Yenoupa, he would reply: “Why should I be afraid. I have my weapon which is unbeatable”. Then he would show his cross. He had faith in God and was not afraid of the darkness of the night or the dangers of the day.
His appearance was stern, but there was a sweet glow reflecting the Holy Spirit. He never stopped giving advice. “One should never be idle. Either work or pray”, he would tell the people. At other times he would suggest if you can earn ten grossia a day, eight should be for you and two should be for God.
Theoktistos foretold of the misfortune that would befall the holy monk Ezekiel after the theft of the Porphyro Codika. (Purple Codex).
Laymen and Clergy alike went to Theoktistos for confession. He was a very good listener and very trustworthy. He would say, “Come let us talk. I am a sinner, too. You should not only provide for your children’s food, what are they, animals? You should take care of their souls too. When I was young another boy hit me and caused my head to bleed! The devil made you do it, I told him. As soon as my Mother heard that she burnt my tongue saying, “Never say that again.” Sure, I was healed, the heart first and then the wound”.
When visitors would leave Theoktistos he would bless them saying: “Go with the blessing of the Panagia and with that blessing of Christ. Christ blesses”.
He was a philanthropist and very hospitable. Whatever was given to him, he shared with others. He never kept anything for himself. He would deny himself even needs for his own body to help others. For As Abba Isaac the Syrian (in his fifth sermon) writes: Whoever helps the poor, God will take care of him. Whoever becomes poor for the Lord will find unending treasures.”
Theoktistos had absolutely no property. When he died, they found nothing in his cell, not even a second cape in which to bury him.
People often called him when they had troubles or when they were in need. He would leave his hermitage to go to Chora to reconcile fighting parties and bring peace to their families. When he heard of fights among the people or he heard of some disaster, he would knock at the door of the house that was disturbed by the devil and would say, “Christ sent me to knock on your door. Do you want me to come in? If you don’t want me, then send me away, but Christ will be sad.”
The people accepted him with great respect because his ascetic appearance was imposing. When he heard a bad rumor he would say: “You are all at fault from the youngest to the oldest.” His thunderous voice shook everyone.
Smirnakis in Patmos writes: “Theoktistos especially scolded the misers, the unjust and the pleasure-seekers. He emphasized to all, particularly the monks, the dangers of sins of the flesh until their old age. He never trusted any to live with him in his cell even at this age. Not even his mother, who was holy, was allowed to care for him. About flowers he would say that smelling a flower was the same as kissing a women.”
Often he sent messages from his hermitage to families to be careful because they were being tempted to sin. He would advise fishermen that they would lose what they gained illegally.
A seventy year old Patmian Captain once told the Heromonk Gerasimos Smirnakis: “I was once a guest of the owner of property at Diakofti. He offered me pickled whitebait in vinegar and a lot of wine. I decided to visit Theoktistos later and I started for Yenoupa. Even though I am not very religious and I do not believe in miracles, I could sense something special. A sweet smell became more intense as I approached the peak of Yenoupa, behind which was hidden the hut of Theoktistos. When I reached the top of the peak, I could hear Theoktistos’ thunderous voice saying: “Here comes the drunkard Nicholas”. He could not have seen me or known that I had drunk a lot of wine. When I appeared before him, he even told me that I had eaten pickled fish. His words astonished me and they were vividly imprinted in my memory.”
Whenever Theoktistos came to the monastery, the other monks greeted him with great respect and piety. When he entered the church, everyone rose to their feet, even the Abbot, who would offer him his special seat. Theoktistos would not allow himself this honor and told the Abbot: “You are the Abbot. Stay in your seat. God placed you in this position either for a blessing if you are good or punishment if you are bad.” Then Theoktistos would withdraw to a corner. His opinion was highly respected by all.
The hieromonk Arsenios, an uncle of Marigo Vesti, now over eighty years old, had related the following story. The Patriarchate sent three Metropolitans to the Monastery in Patmos to investigate a problem. All the monks were anxious and overcome with agony. They invited Theoktistos for advice. The meeting included all the monks and the Metropolitans. Theoktistos was among those seated lower than the rest. He looked down and he wore the cap he had from Mount Athos. The Metropolitans asked about Theoktistos. They were told that he was a hermit and a brother of the Monastery. One of the Metropolitans asked Theoktistos for his opinion. Theoktistos answered: “I can not give an opinion. You are holy and you should judge what is right after much prayer so that God can enlighten you.” The visiting Metropolitans were impressed by his wisdom and they began their task.
At the end Theoktistos spoke with each of the Metropolitans individually and they each asked him for his blessing.
After Yenoupa, Theoktistos moved to Petrokaravo. His stay there was heroic. Petrokarvo was a barren, desolate little island with no water or vegetation. It must have been used long ago as a hermitage because there were ruins of an old building, some cells and a small church. Petrokaravo is located between Patmos and Ikaria, but much closer to Patmos. It has no harbors and has steep cliffs (about 120 meters) descending to the sea.
Theoktistos came to Petrokaravo in 1902 and remained there for one year. He missed not having cabbage to eat as he had been accustomed. But God took care of him. Birds dropped seeds and cabbage grew there for the first time. Even today, cabbage grows there. During the war, people would go to Petrokaravo to gather cabbage. This helped them survive during the famine.
The monastery and the pious people of the island never forgot him. Whenever the weather permitted, they brought him water and paximadia. The boat of Koufon regularly went to Petrokaravo.
Information about the stay of Theoktistos at Petrokaravo was given by Michalis Sifounios. His family was the caretaker of the Hermitage of Panagia of Kykkou at the Kipi (Gardens) for the past one hundred and ninety years. Michalis Sifounios’ Grandfather, who was also named Michalis, often brought water and paximadia to Theoktistos at Petrokaravo. One time a storm forced Michalis to remain at Petrokaravo for several days. Michalis witnessed Theoktistos waking up at 2:00 am and praying with his prayer rope. During the day Theoktistos worked, making a kind of cement with white wash, shells and pieces of broken clay. He used this mixture to build cells. At the same time he gave advice to Michalis. Theoktistos gave Michalis a carved cross that he had made with his own hands. This cross is kept at the altar of Panagia of Kykkou with the date March 1900 engraved on the back of the cross. It is a priceless heirloom.
Theoktistos was a wood carver. He learned this art while living on Mount Athos. He would go to Euboea to get his special wood whenever he needed it for carving. He carved beautiful spoons with handles showing a fish or a fish eating a snake. Whatever he made, he gave away. He never sold anything. Some of his pieces can still be found in some Patmian houses.
Petrokaravo had no water. Water was brought to Theoktistos by boat. Because the weather sometimes would not permit the boats to come with water, Theoktistos wanted to build a small reservoir to collect rain water. One day Theoktistos saw a crow digging the ground with his beak. He thought that the crow was digging up something dead. When the crow left, Theoktistos went to see what was there and he found a hole with damp dirt. He investigated further and discovered what must have been an old well that had been used by hermits long ago. This made him very happy because he found a ready made well. After he cleaned it, he prayed and thanked God. He asked God: “Lord, who showed me the little well, please send some rain to fill it!.” And by a miracle, it rained and the little well filled with water.
At another time during the summer when the well was empty and the boats could not approach Petrokaravo because of the wind, he would pray to God to have mercy on him. Then he turned around and saw water coming out of the rock. He was puzzled and wondered what it was. Then he heard whistling. He realized that this was a satanic trick. He said to himself: “I will not drink it. I will drink sea water instead.”. The devil had tempted him before and had grabbed him by the shoulder. But Theoktistos was not afraid and he freed himself by making the sign of the cross and asking help from Christ. “Christ is with in all of us and He gives us the power to withstand any enemy. Those who believe in the Lord can defeat the worst enemy by looking to Him for help.” (Theoctistos by Gorainoff on pages 294-295 and the ..... in the First Plagal mode 2nd and 3rd Antiphons).
Theoktistos always had Holy Communion in the Artophorion (a designated place on the Altar). He took Holy Communion, as was practised by the ascetics of earlier times, in a special dish and cup. An old cup which was used by the earlier ascetics can be found in a small corner of the altar at Saint Paraskevi of Kavo. This information was given by the nun Theokliti Yanarou. She lived at the Hermitage of Saint Paraskevi with her family.
Living on the desolate rock Theoktistos was protected from intruders as well as the devil.
During the summer the northern winds, would blowing and no boats could come to bring supplies to Theoktistos. The unmerciful summer sun somehow nailed Theoktistos to the rock where he roasted. He remained without water for forty days. The little water from the well evaporated. The vinegar was finished and the vegetables dried up.
One would guess that Theoktistos would eagerly await for the boat that would bring him life-giving water. In vain he searched the horizon with his eyes. Nothing came. “His tongue cleaved to his throat while in a dry thirsty land, where no water is.” He was often in a semi conscious state, but his heart was alert and his mind turned to God for salvation. “Make haste to help me o Lord!” Heaven answered: “You open Your hand, they are filled with good.” Although the sky was clear, a round cloud appeared from nowhere and stopped above the rock where Theoktistos had fainted. It rained and filled the well of the servant of God. All these events are documented in Patmos by Smirnakis and Theoctistos by Gorainoff.
This trial of being without water at Petrokaravo was the main reason Theoktistos decided to leave Petrokaravo. The Monastery also thought it necessary because it was dangerous for the boats to bring him supplies. In addition, pirates used the island of Petrokaravo for a hideout and as a storage place for the good that they had stolen. All these reasons made him leave Petrokaravo and return to Patmos.
He returned to the Monastery where he remained for a while and later he moved to the Cave of Apocalypse at the ruins of the Patmiada (the old seminary in Patmos). The American tourist, Edgar Geil, visited Theoktistos there and he gave us his impression with many details. “The hermit greeted us wholeheartedly. He was dressed in an attire that resembled a fireman’s uniform. It was black from the shoulders down to the ankles and he wore a belt. This was the only clothing he had and it was greasy. He had long hair and mostache, but his face was kind and spiritual. Once in a while a sparkle came from his eyes.... He invited us into his small home. It was a small room built in a corner of the ruins. A strong fishy smell revealed that he had an octopus nailed to a stick near the ceiling. He offered me the only chair and the others sat on boxes. He filled a very clean cup with water and offered us some sweets. We all had sweets from the same spoon and drank water from the same cup. After a while he felt comfortable and began to talk freely. He spent his early life in Thyateir and it was a natural thing that he spent his old age in Patmos. He spent fifteen years on the island choosing, in the beginning, a dark, desolate place far from the people. When the people heard that he had made a beautiful garden, they came to see it and speak to him. This forced him to leave and go live among the ruins. He spent his time carving wide wooden spoons with handles shaped like birds or fish. He gave me a spoon, but was insulted when I offered him money. When I told him that the money was a gift, he accepted it. I wanted a photograph of him, but he was very shy and I left without being able to take any pictures. Was he all alone? Not really. Some people came to stay with him and they brought along some of their friends. They ate his simple food of roots, herds and this type of natural food. This natural diet as well as the peaceful life with him did them good with him. His needs were simple. A primitive bed was on the floor. An old rug and box covered with cloth were his pillows. On a wooden hook hung a round loaf of bread with sesame seeds. Looking around I saw a very small room that he used for prayer. It had a small window with bars. The only contents were a few small candles, a stand with an open bible on it and a human skull with a black cross painted on it. This made an impression on me and I wanted to know what it meant. Here is what he said: “I keep it to look at it. This skull reminds me of what I will be in a short time. It keeps me humble and orders me to prepare for death and whatever comes after death. I knew the man to whom this skull belonged very well. We had many conversations in the past.” He added that when he was ready to go to Constantinople, a friend from here asked him to bring back a mirror. When he returned from the trip he said: “Here is your mirror. Once it was like you are now. Here was the hair. Here there were eyes, once, shining with love or anger. His lips once uttered good or bad words. He either helped people or he harmed them. In a short time you too will be like him!”
“I dedicated my life to God.” continued the hermit. “When I lived among the people, I met some that tried to do good, but they sinned. Unfortunately, I did the same. So I decided to live alone so that I could not hurt anyone. I pray for God to forgive my sins so that He can finally take me to heaven. I know that I am going to die and I must appear before God and I wonder what I am going to answer!” His words were full of reverence and his manner impressed me. He was for sure a good conscience.
When we left he accompanied us to the door and he stood there watching us as we ascended the hill. After a while I glanced back and I saw the old hermit still standing at the door. He saw me look at him and he waved his hand. I returned the greeting and yelled: “Hermit of Patmos, hail!”.
Theoktistos did not remain long at Cave of the Apocalypse. He went to a slope of Yenoupa which faced northwest and ended at the cape of Psalida. It is written in the Brevium, that at Psalidi, 1715 the priest Makarios Angelos fell and drowned when he was coming from Nisyros.
The rugged, rocky and inaccessible shore once more guaranteed Theoktistos the desired isolation which he sought. There, he once again built a hut in which to live.
But the people looked for him and eventually found him. The pious inhabitants of Patmos continued visiting him so that they could confess their sins and feel forgiven. They also found compassion and relief.
In 1908 Father Amphilochios accompanied the hieromonk Athanasios Danieleon on a visit to Theoktistos. Hieromonk Athanasios related the following account of the visit. “Father Amphilochios led us to the hermitage of Holy Theoktistos. Theoktistos lived in a very small hut near the cape of Genopa. This was the place where the sorcerer Kynops performed his incredible sorcery and where the wind possessed by demons blew him into the sea. This hermitage is about one and half hours away from the Cave of the Apocalypse. Father Theoktistos was about eighty years old. He was strict in his behavior and sweet in his manner. He greeted us very warmly. It happened that he was from Mount Athos and he asked me about many people and things from there. Theoktistos was greatly respected in Patmos and truthfully he deserved it, because he was a great hermit. He left the Cenobium of Esfigmenos of Mount Athos as a monk over forty years ago for Patmos. We enjoyed our visit with the Holy Father Theoktistos and we benefited from our conversations with him. After receiving his blessing, we left for the Holy Monastery of Kalogeron (monks).” This quotation is found in the Library of Danieleon. It is from the handwritten journal of the Holy Monk Athanasios Vittos, iconographer and the first assistant of Daniel Katounakiotis.
Amphilochios often visited the hermit, Theoktistos. He faithfully followed Theoktistos’ example in noetic prayer. This later became Amphilochios’ constant endeavor.
Theoktistos spent his nights in his little hut and his days in the cave so that he would not be disturbed by visitors. His sight was damaged either from the fumes or the dampness of the cave. As the years passed and Theoktistos was very old, the winter wind was too much for him. He had to abandon his little hut and return to the Monastery of Saint John. He remained in seclusion and only left his cell on Sunday for the Liturgy. The people still sought him out and he could not find peace. This was the reason why he left the Monastery once again and went to Vrasta, an old hermitage (northwest) of the Monastery of Evangelismos (Annunciation). This old hermitage belonged to the Monastery of Saint John. Theoktistos restored the old hermitage in 1903. Here, as the name Vrasta (means boiled), suggests, the climate is warm and the high rocks that surround it, protect it from the wind. There was abundant water from the waterfall of Kera - Leousa. Because of the warm climate, citrus trees grew well and even today there is a lemon tree that lives from the time of Theoktistos.
At Vrasta of Kalogeron (Monks), as it is called, Theoktistos had a snake for company. This was a snake that ate rats of which there were many in this area. Around noon, one could see the old hermit come out of his little home holding a metal cup with milk. After placing it on the ground he would cry out with his characteristic loud voice: “Come poor thing. Come unfortunate thing. Come unlucky thing that no one loves.”. After this invitation, a thick large snake would crawl down the rock, drink the milk and return to hide in the crack in the rocks. This incident is related in both Patmos by Smirnakis and Theoktistos by Gorainoff.
The hermit stayed at Vrasta for a year. He no longer had a steady walk, his eyesight was very poor and his once straight, robust body now was bent. The Monastery which respected and loved him, always was concerned for his well being and was afraid that he might fall among the rocks. This was the reason that he was sent to “Kipous” or “Kipi” (gardens) to a little house which now belongs to the Monastery of Evangelismos, near “tambakia” (curry leather). This was on the southern part of the bay.
Spyros Bournis, over eighty years old, and the father of the deceased Abbot Theodoritos, at the age of thirteen often went to Kipous because his father was a tanner and he visited with Theoktistos. Bournis told us: “Every time I went to Kypous, I would go straight to the little house where Theoktistos lived. I would lift the crow handle which opened the door and inside I would find Theoktistos asleep on a rug in a corner of the little house. Theoktistos was blind now and would ask: ‘Who are you?’ I would answer: ‘Elder, I am Spyros.’ He would correct me: ‘Spyridon, you know where to find the loukoumia (sweet candy).’ I would then go and get a loukoumi that he offered.”
During the time that Theoktistos lived at the Gardens, even though he was blind, he would hear confessions. He had an assistant, Dimitri Ouranakis, a former musician and barber. Ouranakis had two sons who were novices at the Monastery of Saint John, but at the ages of between eighteen and twenty, they both died, perhaps from meningitis.
Makarios Antoniadis often went for confession to Theoktistos. The hermit advised him at one confession to stop playing the violin. Makarios Antoniadis listened. Faithful and pious women of Patmos would send Theoktistos paximadia, loukoumia and coffee with Makarios.
When Paisios Ferentinos returned to Patmos from the United States, he went to visit Theoktistos at the Gardens. He was very saddened to see the conditions in which Theoktistos was living and especially that a lay person was caring for him. That was when he took measures for Theoktistos’ transfer to the Monastery. He was moved during the week of Palm Sunday of 1917 to the Monastery at Apocalypse at the old Patmiada School.
People came day and night to get strength, advice and blessings. Christodoulos Dalaris, a musician, once found Theoktistos kissing repeatedly the feet of the crucified Jesus. The feet of Jesus had faded from the tears.
“Elder, He does not have feet.” Dalaris told him.
“Yes, I know.” said Theokistos, “I took the feet of Jesus, because I am unworthy to take all of Jesus.”
“Elder, when you die can I have this Crucifix?” asked Dalaris.
“Yes, you can have it.” answered Theoktistos.
Theoktistos died holding this crucifix.
While he was living at the Gardens, Theoktistos suffered from an intestinal ailment. He had the same problem when he lived at the Apocalypse. Even though he was advised to see a doctor, he refused. “My doctor is God.” he would say.
A few days before he died, he had a premonition that he might die. He said: “My angel told me to be ready. On a certain day we will leave together.”
The head of the Monastery of the Apocalypse at that time was Gregorios Gennis. Gregorios took care of Theoktistos and it was to Grigorios that Theoktistos told about his coming death. “On Holy Tuesday, I will die.”, he said. When he was asked what he had seen, he answered: “Don’t ask too much.”
Until his last moments, he never stopped giving advice: “Love Jesus Christ. Keep His Commandments. Read the Gospel.”
Questioned if he was a priest, he would answer: “I am a sinner. I can not be greater than the angels. Let me be humble. Leave me with my God.”.
Whether he was a priest or not, he hid the fact and he was perhaps even a bishop.
When he felt his time had come, he told whomever was near him and cared for him: “Praise the Lord. Now speak no more.” After this he recited the whole Divine Liturgy starting with the Proskomidi. During all this time that he knew that he was dying, he took Holy Communion every day.
On Holy Wednesday morning they realized that he was dying. They asked him if he wanted Holy Communion.
“Yes,” he answered.
Immediately, they had the priest speed up the Presanctified Holy Liturgy. After the priest finished, he went and gave Theoktistos Holy Communion. That afternoon, as the sun was setting, he laid down and, with a smile that lit up his face, he left for heaven and his Master.
It is written in both Smirnakis’ Patmos and in the Brevium that Theoktistos died on March 29,1917. Deacon Christodoulos was with him at the time of his death. Deacon Christodoulos prepared him for burial according to the tradition of the Monastery. His relics were taken to the Holy Cave of the Revelation.
The news of his death spread like lighting to Chora, Skala and Kambos and to every corner of Patmos. People gathered at the Apocalypse around the body which once held the Holy Soul of the Hermit. Men, women and children fell on their knees and reverenced his body. Sad faces of hard working people had tears running down beaten cheeks. Women were gasping and children’s faces were reddened from their tears. The leaders of the island, the sea captains, the merchants and all who happened to be on the island that Easter came to pay their respects. All the clergy and monks surrounded the stretcher holding the body. Deacon Christodoulos stood and read from the Psalms. “Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the Lord”. “I am like a pelican of the wilderness. I am like an owl of the desert. I watch and am as a sparrow alone on the rooftop... For I have eaten ashes with my bread, and mingled my drink with weeping... My heart is stricken and withered like grass... My days are like a shadow that declines and I am withered like grass.” (Ps. 102)
Every so often one could hear sighs and gasps. People would whisper their prayers with trembling lips. They wondered about the void that would be left because of the death of Theoktistos. No matter how hard they would try, they would never be able to find him again. Where would they tell their pain? Where would they confess their sins? Who would soften the torture of injustice? Who would hold them up when the winds of evil would try to bend them down? And who would guide their children to God’s path?
On Holy Thursday, after the service of the Washing of the Feet, clergy and the Abbot came to the Apocalypse to read Service for the Departure of the Soul from the Body.
At the end of the service, all the clergy and the people kissed Theoktistos’ body for the last time.
The clergy and the monks, more than anyone else, knew what the Monastery and the people of island had lost.
When they were ready to place him in the grave, Father Amphilochios Makris and his uncle Nikitas, who was the father of Father Paul, were overwhelmed when they felt the signs of his holiness. He was light like a dry leaf. This was the man who four men had difficulty to bring to the Apocalypse a short time ago.
His body was placed in a grave that he, himself, had prepared a few years ago at the Apocalypse. He had said: “Since God brought me under the roof of the Monastery of Saint John, here I will remain.”
A rosemary bush grew on his grave even though no one had ever planted it.
On April 19, 1920, about three years after he had been buried, the grave was opened. A heavenly incense spread all around when his holy relics were removed. His Holy Crown (Skull) is found today in the Narthex of Saint Anna at the Apocalypse.
Theoktistos died in peace and he is now enjoying everlasting joy near his Master in heaven. Today, his memory is still very much alive in Patmos. The many hermitages where he lived or visited speak with their muted tongues. Many elderly Patmians, either from their memories or from the stories they heard from their parents and grandparents, have a lot of stories to tell of the holiness of Theoktistos.
With reverence and respect they mention his name. “He was the model of hermits of old times of Thebaid in Northern Egypt.”
7. Hermitage Kouvari
The hermitage of Kouvari is located on a hill to the left of the bay of Stavros near the river Vrihonas. The top of the hill is named “Kefali tou Grillis” (Head of Grillis). There is a cave there that was used in earlier times as a hermitage by ascetics.
The founder of the hermitage was the Elder and hieromonk Amphilochios Makris. He was born in Patmos in 1899 of very pious parents. At his baptism his Godfather, the Metropolitan of Pilousios Amphilochios Kappos, gave him the name Athanasios. The Metropolitan of Pilousios Amphilochios paid for all the expenses of the baptism. Athanasios was educated at the Patmiada School and at the age of seventeen he went to the “great monastery”, as the Monastery of Saint John was called in Patmos. In 1918 he was ordained a deacon and in 1920 he was ordained a priest. When he was ordained a deacon, he was given the name Amphilochios, the same as his godfather.
His spiritual father was the hermit, the Elder hieromonk Makarios Antoniadis. Father Makarios lived at the Hermitage of Apollo at that time and he was the one who tonsured Father Amphilochios with the Great Schema.
Father Amphilochios possessed a heavenly kindness. His sweet facial appearance was sympathetic and he had a flowing white beard. He was known for his hospitable personality, his kindness and his tactful manners. He showed these attributes to each person in different ways. He only spoke Greek, but everyone, including the non-Greeks, who visited him, left carrying a vision of light and peace. “In the Heavenly Kingdom we will all speak the same language”, he would tell the visitors who spoke different languages. His only demand was, Love, as was the demand of Saint John the Theologian, the Patron Saint of Patmos.
“My children, love one another,” He would tell people.
He died on April 16, 1970. On his tomb is written: “We know that from death we go to life. We love our brothers.” and “Love God and your neighbor and thus you follow the Commandments and the words of the Prophets.”
During the Italian Occupation of the Dodecanese in 1935, Father Amphilochios was elected Abbot of the Monastery of Saint John. The Italian authorities pursued him because of his patriotic activities. For this reason he was forced to leave Patmos and go to Athens. There he found hospitality at the Brotherhood of “Zoi” (Life). He served there as a priest. His work took him from Athens to Ioannina, to Thessaloniki, and even down to Crete. He had spiritual children and was called “Pnevmatikos” (Spiritual Father) everywhere.
Father Amphilochios dearly desired the renewal of Orthodox monasticism. In other words, he wanted it to go back to its pure, original foundations. He was influenced in these beliefs by Saint Nektarios of Aegina, from whom he learnt the science of hesychasm and the Jesus Prayer. He visited Mount Athos and he spoke frequently about his stay at the Russian Monastery of Saint Panteleimon.
He lived his whole life as a true monk. He had great respect for Saint Seraphim of Sarov and together they would both declare: “There is nothing better than the Monastic Life”.
In 1920 he met the teacher from Kalymnos, Kalliopi Gounari, who became his spiritual daughter and later his co-worker. Together, in 1937 they decided to build a women’s Monastery on Patmos with the name of “Evangelismos (Annunciation, Mother of the Beloved)”. The nun Efstochia, his student, became the Abbess of this new monastery and remained in this position all of her life.
With the pure souls fired up with zeal for the monastic life that he gathered together to fulfill his dream. That was, the return of true monastic life and to build the Monastery of Evangelismos on Patmos.
After the reunion of the Dodecanese with Mother Greece in 1947, the Metropolitan of Rhodes, Timotheos, and the Naval Commander of the Dodecanese, Ioannidis, asked Father Amphilochios to help the orphans of Rhodes. They were without any support after the departure of the Catholic Nuns. Father Amphilochios sent some nuns of the Monastery of Evangelismos to Rhodes and they organized the Orphanage for Girls in Rhodes.
At the same time he built a small Monastery for men at the Kouvari. In earlier times this place was used by hermits. This location was purchased by his sister, Kalliopi Nikitaki. Kalliopi Nikitaki later became a nun with the name Martha. She donated this land to be used for a small Monastery.
The first monk that lived at Kouvari was the Monk Nikiphoros, the former Nicholaos Lapas from Kalymnos. He had lived for some time prior under the supervision of Saint Savvas, the New, from Kalymnos. He lived the strict monastic life with prayer, work and obedience to Father Amphilochios.
When the Monk Nikiphoros, a very old man over eighty years old, recently visited the Monastery of Evangelismos he related some incidents which he remembered regarding his life at Kouvari. He was a cobbler by trade and knew nothing about fishing. Father Amphilochios advised him to pay close attention and learn from the fishermen who fished at Kouvari. Following Father Amphilochios’ advice, he learned how to fish and how to mend fishing nets (it was impossible to buy fishing nets at that time). Fishing was necessary at that time to supply food for the Monastery.
The monk Nikiphoros related this incident which he remembered. “One time Father Amphilochios sent me across from Kouvari to Psili Ammo (fine sand) to buy fish from the fishermen for the nuns at the Monastery. The fishermen were afraid of trying to sell their fish in Skala because the Germans would take the fish away from them. At that time a storm was approaching. The sky was dark, lightening tore across the sky and the thunder rumbled loudly.
‘Father, do you expect me to go out in this weather to buy fish?’ I asked Father Amphilochios.
‘Yes, my son. The nuns need it,’ answered Father Amphilochios
“May it be blessed, Father,’ I said, and immediately I set off for Psili Ammo. I just made it in time to buy the fish. On my way back to the monastery, it started to rain heavily. The lightening pierced the black sky. It was as if the world was coming to an end. Loaded with the basket of fish, I ran fast to reach Kouvari. But because of my haste and anxiety, I got lost and found myself at the edge of a cliff. I did not know what to do or where to go. The rain came down in torrents and the thunder and lightening surrounded me. Then from the depth of my heart, I prayed: ‘Lord, My God, save me. I am lost. I assumed this task with the blessing of Father Amphilochios.’ Immediately, by some miracle, I found myself, not knowing how, in front of my little hut at Kouvari!”
“At another time, Father Amphilochios called me to the Monastery of Evangelismos. When I arrived, he said: ‘My son, today we have guests. You have to go and get us some fish.’
‘At this time, Father,’ I said, “one cannot find any fish.’
‘Yes, my son. You will go down where the boat is tied and there you will find some fish,’ he told me.
‘May it be blessed, Father,’ I replied.
Truly, with deep obedience, I returned to Kouvari, even though in my mind I was certain that at such a time, I would not be able to find fish. I headed straight towards the boat as Father Amphilochios had told me. As I was reaching the shore, I noticed near the boat a large dark object. I thought that it might be a piece of fabric that was being washed up from the sea. When I came closer, I discovered that indeed it was a large fish! I stabbed it with a spear and with great joy I ran back to the monastery with the fish.
Father Amphilochios’ blessings always followed me in all my difficult tasks and times.”
The monk Nikiphoros lived at Kouvari for about twenty years (1940 - 1960). He returned to his native Kalymnos where he continued his monastic life under the name of Savvas at the Hermitage of Stavro. This hermitage is located at Vrasta of Kalymnos.
The monk Joseph Spangos, from Samos, lived the austeremonastic life at Kouvari for a while. He, then, went to Mount Athos, where he died in peace.
As time went on, many spiritual children of Father Amphilochios gathered at Kouvari. Some of the names of those who came were: Father Paul Nikitaras, Father Nafkratios Tsoulkanakis, Father Amphilochios Tsoukos, Father Elias Kalantzis, Father Gregorios Zoumis, Father Gavriel Gouvris and others. Father Amphilochios formed a blessed group of followers.
He sent this group to different spiritual centers of Greece and abroad to study. Unfortunately Father Amphilochios was not able to live long enough to see all of his work completed.
Father Elias Kalantzis lives at Kouvari today. He is the Spiritual Father of the Monastery of Evangelismos.
The little monastery at Kouvari is dedicated to Saint Saint Joseph, the Betrothed. The preference for this name was given from the following incident.
When Father Amphilochios was a young monk, he, along with the Monk Antipas, went to visit the hermit Theoktistos at Yenoupa. One day Theoktistos asked them: “Who do you think was the greatest saint of all?” They mentioned many different saints and their lives and accomplishments, but Theoktistos did not agree with any of them. “Saint Joseph the Betrothed was the greatest saint because he was the protector of the Lord and the Theotokos (Mother of God)”, he told them.
After that conversation, Father Amphilochios decided: “When I am able to build a church, I will dedicate it to Saint Joseph the Betrothed.”
When it was time to fulfill this dream, Father Amphilochios could not decide the exact location for this church.. This was the reason why he asked the Monk Nikiphoros of Kouvari to make special prayers so the God would show them the exact place for the church. One night, while Monk Nikiphoros was praying, he saw a light which frightened him. He ran out to see if there was a fire. At the location where the church was later built, he saw a fire that was not burning anything. He was frightened because he realized that this was not a natural phenomenon.
The next morning he told Father Amphilochios what had happened. Father Amphilochios asked to see the exact location of the fire. He realized that it was the will of God that the church should be built there. And that was the location where the church of Saint Joseph the Betrothed was built.
The next concern of Father Amphilochios was the obtaining of an icon of Saint Joseph, the Betrothed. This task was given to Father Paul Nikitaras, who was a spiritual son of Father Amphilochios. Father Paul was studying in Athens at the time. He also had been a former Abbot of the Monastery of Saint John the Theologian in Patmos.
In spite of all his efforts, he was unable to find an Icon of Saint Joseph the Betrothed. No iconographer would undertake the task or responsibility of painting it because they had no knowledge of this subject. He even went to Paros to the Monastery of Logovardas for this purpose, but he still was unable to have this icon painted.
God solved this problem in another way. Father Paul discovered a large beautiful icon of Saint Joseph the Betrothed in the basement of the church of Saint George in Nea Ionia in Athens. Father Paul served at this church while he was studying in Athens. Many icons that had been transported to Greece after the disaster in Asia Minor by the refugees were stored in the basement of Saint George Church. Also included with these icons were icons that were released by the Turkish Government under the Agreement of June 10, 1930 concerning the Exchange of Possessions and under the Agreement of friendship of October 30, 1930 which was signed by Eleftherios Venizelos and Ismet Inonu.
With the permission of the council of the church of Saint George and the approval of the Archdiocese of Athens under the auspices of Basilios Atesis, assistant to the Bishop, the icon was given to Father Paul who brought it to Patmos with much delight. As soon as he arrived in Patmos, he took it directly to the Hermitage of Christ which was the summer residence of Father Amphilochios. Father Amphilochios was so pleased that he immediately summoned the Monk Nikiphoros to come to “Christ” from Kouvari.
When the Monk Nikiphoros arrived at “Christ” from Kouvari, he told Father Amphilochios, “I know why you summoned me. It is to take the Icon of Saint Joseph the Betrothed to the church at Kouvari.”
“How did you know this, you blessed thing?” asked Father Amphilochios.
“Last night I had a dream about Saint Joseph. He had lit all the votive lamps, which he had filled with oil!” said the Monk Nikiphoros.
This was the way the Church of Saint Joseph the Betrothed obtained the beautiful icon. In 1966 a larger church dedicated to Saint Joseph was built. The former small church was rededicated;. this time to Saint Ephrem the Syrian.
The church of Saint Ephrem has a small iconostasis with only one entrance, the Great Portal. On the one side of the Great Portal is the Icon of Jesus Christ the Merciful and on the other side is the Icon of the Virgin Mary Diassozoussa (The Saving). On the right side, enclosed in a wooden holy icon stand which is artistically carved, is the Icon of Saint Ephrem the Syrian, portraying his Falling Asleep (Death). All of these icons were painted by iconographer nuns of the Monastary of Evangelismos (Annunciation).
The church of Saint Joseph the Betrothed is one of the few larger churches of Patmos. It was built by the gifts of the Monastary Evangelismos and other pious contributors. The building was supervised by the Holy Monk Amphilochios Tsoukos.
Kouvari, today, reminds visitors of the location at Mount Athos. The closed Bay of Stavros was for Father Amphilochios, the “Sea of Gennesaret”. When Father Amphilochios’ spiritual children would see a fishing boat near the cave of Glykonikita, they would think it was the fishing boat, “Tiberias - Agios Iosif” (Saint Joseph). This brought back nostalgic memories of the days when Father Amphilochios lived among them. It also reminded them often of the joyful incident when once they were fishing and they caught many fish in their net. This incident was similar to the incident in the Bible at the Sea of Tiberias, which occurred after the Resurrection. “They counted about one hundred and fifty-three fish.” (John 21 verse 11).
8. Islands of Balamo or Valamo
The most important hermitage on the island of Patmos is the “Apocalypse”. It is the cave of the Revelation where Saint John the Theologian lived when he was exiled to Patmos. It is one of the places where the Voice of God has been heard on the earth. This cave is where Saint John had the prophetic vision of the Revelation. This is the reason why it is such a holy place.
Before the conclusion of the study of the Hermitages of Patmos and the holy people who lived in them, another location should be mentioned. It is the islands of Balamo or Valamo. These islands are important because they are where occurred miraculous appearances by Saint John.
The little islands of Balamo or Valamo are located in the sea, northeast of Patmos and north of the mount of Geranos. They are before the Bay of Lambi and across from Hondro Kavo or the Cape of Balamo. Oral tradition tells that Saint John appeared before a Patmian boatswain in the Cape of Balamo near the three little islands. We also find in the Synaxarion, about the following Saint Irene, who was the Abbess of the Monastery of Chrysovalantou in Constantinople.
The following is the narration that can be read in the book Synaxarion:
“.......When the boatswain came to Saint Irene, they greeted each other, prayed and sat down. She then asked him why he had come. He told her that he was a sailor from the island of Patmos and that he was coming to Constantinople to serve. When we were sailing from Patmos and were at the end of the island, we saw a handsome and godly old man on the land. He called out to us to wait for him. We could not stop because we were near the land but there were a lot of rocks which made it very dangerous. The wind was also making our ship go faster. He shouted even louder and ordered the ship to stop. The ship miraculously stopped and the old man walked on the waves and came on board. He offered me three apples which he took from under his cloak near his chest and he said: “When you reach Constaninople give these three apples to the Patriarch and tell him that our Merciful God sent them to him from Paradise by his servant Saint John!” Later he took out three more identical apples and he said: “These three apples, give to the Abbess of the Monastery of Chrysovalantou, Irene, and tell her to eat them because her good soul desired them. I just came from paradise and I brought them!” After he said all these things, he praised God and blessed us. Immediately the ship set sail and he disappeared. I gave the three apples to the Patriarch and I brought the other three to your holiness.”
When Saint Irene heard this, she cried with joy and gave many thanks to Saint John, the Beloved Disciple and Apostle of Christ. The sailor then took the three apples which he had wrapped in a silk and gold woven scarf and he gave them to Saint Irene with great piety. He had saved them honorably like holy objects”.
From this narration we realize that apple-giving miracle from the protector of the island, Saint John, to the boatswain occurred between the Cape of Geranos and the islands of Valamou. These little islands were given their name by Saint Irene, the Abbess of the Monastery of Chrysovalantou which is associated with the apparition of the boatswain.
Reference to this apparition can be read in Smirnakis’ Patmos, in Doukakis’ Synaxaristi, on page 449 published in July 1893 and in Agapio’s, Kalokerini, printed in Venice in 1861.
When the boatswain returned to Patmos and told everyone about this miracle, the people decided to name the little islands Valantou or Balamou in commemoration of the this miracle.
One hymn of Saint Irene mentions this miraculous incident.
“As a modest virgin, the Disciple of the Virgin Mother sent apples from heaven showing us your closeness to God.”
“Though the King of Ages, incorruptible, invisible, the only wise God, honor, glory and praise unto the ages of ages, Amen!”
1. The Archimandrite Gerasimos Smirnakis, a brother of the Monastery of Saint John the Theologian, visited the Hermitage of the Incorporeal Angels (Asomaton) and he described it in his book, Patmos. The following is the description of the Hermitage as it appeared before 1935.
“The little church was of the Byzantine era with only one room. It had a low dome which was supported by a square base and four columns. The columns were almost triangular in shape. This was the common construction design of all the domes of the churches in Patmos. “This little church’s walls were covered with frescoes of average artistry. The miracle of St. Michael at Chonai was painted on the right side of the church and underneath it was shown the Monk Savvas, the founder of the church. Holy relics of saints were kept in the altar. On the simple iconostasis, which had only the Great Gate as an entrance, the following icons were displayed: 1. The Virgin Mary holding a heart. This icon was of good Byzantine art. 2. Jesus Christ, the King of Kings as the Great High Priest. 3. The Lady of Angels. 4. The Gathering of the Incorporeal Angels. Under the frescoes was painted the Holy Forerunner, Saint John the Baptist and the God bearing Saint Ignatius. On the north side of the little church, high up, was a small opening for sunlight.
On the outside, of the north side of the church, an arched tomb is attached. On the inside of the tomb, a fresco is painted. It is of the Crucified Christ, the weeping Mother of God and Saint John the Apostle. There is no doubt that many of the monks who had lived there had been buried in this tomb over the many years.” Smirnakis, Patmos, 1966 - 1969.
Father Elias Kalantzis has been the caretaker of the Hermitage since January, 1990.
2. The oral tradition concerning the Gardens of Saint Christodoulos is as follows: When Saint Christodoulos was living in Patmos, he planted a garden to supply vegetables for the monks. The monks who had worked very hard building the Monastery were very tired. They refused when Saint Christodoulos asked them to dig for water. Saint Christodoulos then fell to his knees and prayed all night long for God’s intervention. His prayer was so warm that at the place where he had dug, which was in the shape of a cross, a clear, pure spring emerged. The monks then realized their bad behavior and acknowledged the Holiness of Saint Christodoulos. The garden has been kept up since the 11th century and is named the “Kipos of the Saint” The spring was covered with an arch and since then it has been called “Holy Water” or “Water of Saint” or “Water of the Holy Father”.
Today, only the foundation from the time of Saint Christodoulos remains. The upper part was reconstructed at a later date. Besides the Spring of the Saint, other springs have come up near the first one. These are still in existence from those days. Near each spring, a reservoir was built to store the extra water. Once there was a huge boulder on the side of the cliff overlooking the “Kipi” which rolled down threatening the destruction of the garden. Saint Christodoulos again prayed warmly and deeply and this prayer was able to stop the boulder and made it so secure that it remains in the same place today. This was truly another miracle.
During the times when people were more pious and believing, they would go to the boulder and lean on it for healing purposes on the same spot where Saint Christodoulos had leaned on it to stop it from rolling down to the gardens.
There is another story that once a Byzantine Princess lived in Patmos and that she had hidden a treasure near the boulder. It has never been found, or if it was found, it was never reported.
3. Makarios Notaras of Corinth once lived near the Monastery. At the Hermitage of Evangelismos (Assumption of the Virgin Mary) there is an old icon on the iconostasis depicting Gregorios of Nissyros with Makarios of Corinth.
4. Kouvari or Mountain of Kouvari is a hill which is seen on the left by those sailing toward the Bay of Stavros. It is near the river Brihouna.
The French archeologist Guerin gave an impressive description of the area. “A few steps toward the south, the shore disappears and the mountain of Kynops (Yenoupas) reaches almost vertically to the sea, forming a big cape of 290 meters. To the west one can see a mixed pile of boulders, terribly steep which threaten disaster. They form scary cliffs and deep caverns. It is said that the famous warlock Kynops lived there. One can see two caves which served as his dwellings. One cave is almost on the top of the mountain to the west. It is very difficult for anyone to enter it because of the steep boulders. The other cave is a wide gap toward the south. The waves of the sea rush into the cave with force, noisily churning the water.”.
On the floor of the cave, which is found high up on the west side of the mountain, there are signs that the cave had been used by hermits a long time ago. In more recent years, the hermit Theoktistos lived there.
On November 12 1732, the sandal maker, Efstratios Glykonikitas, went to the cave of Kouvari to get his boat and go fishing. This was the cave which is on the south side of the mountain. It is the one that is near the sea and in which the waves come in. There, pirates captured him; locked him in the brig in the bottom of the ship; and took him to Algiers where they sold him into slavery. His family searched in vain all the surrounding beaches and little islands. Finally, his wife, in despair considered him dead and had his memorial services.
Efstratios prayed continually to the Virgin Mary to help him become free and to return him to his family. One night his prayers were answered. The Virgin Mary appeared to him and miraculously returned him to Kouvari. This was the place where the pirates had kidnapped him. Out of gratitude, he collected every piece of precious metal that he had at home and he took it to the silversmith so that the icon of Panagia Diassozousa could be covered in silver. This icon is in the church of Panagia Diassozousa in Chora. The genuineness of this miracle was confirmed by the Ecumenical Patriarcate of Constantinople. Kriticos, Patmiki Topon, Page 62, Guιrin, Description, page 62 and Smirnakis, Patmos, pages 1947-1950.
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