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Lousios Gorge is a picturesque canyon in Arcadia region of Greece carved by
erosion of the Lousios River. Lousios Gorge empties into Alfeios River 2.5 km North-
West of town of Karytaina. Despite the fact that it is a fairly small in
size (15 km in length and 2 km in widest part) it houses several historic
Eastern Orthodox Monasteries that date to the Medieval Byzantine Period that
gave Lousios Gorge its nickname "Mount
Athos of the Peloponnese". It
also contains ruins of ancient town of Gortys.
or Gortyna is an ancient Greek settlement in the Lousios Gorge along a road
between Elliniko and Atsicholos. The name of the city comes from a mythical
hero Gortys, son of Stymphalus and a legendary king of Arcadia.
whether it is true or not, but the first humans settled in the are of
Lousios Gorge during
the Bronze Age. The city went into decline after Megalopolis was found near
by in the 4th century BC. The residents began to migrate to a new location,
but by the 2nd century the city still existed. Gortys was probably
conquered by the barbarians during the Dark Ages and subsequently completely destroyed.
The ruins of the city contain ruins of the military fortifications, baths
and several temples. The most prominent religious building in Gortys was
the Temple of Asclepius, Ancient Greek god Medicine and Healing, constructed
in the 4th century BC. Baths were built around the same time period.
Near Gortys you can also find a medieval bridge Kokkoras that
served the main road between Ileia and Arcadia as well as
Byzantine Greek Orthodox church of Agios Andeas (Saint Andrew) that dates
back to the 11th century AD.
Prodromou Monastery ("Monastery of the Holy Forerunner"
in Greek) is a medieval Greek Orthodox monastery that
was constructed on the east bank
of a Lousios Gorge in 1167 during rule of Byzantine Emperor Manuel
Comnenus. It was dedicated to Saint John the Baptist the Forerunner.
Many monks settled these empty lands to escape large
settlements to pray and work here in solitude. They settled in natural
crevices along the Lousios cliffs that they later increased in size. Over time the monastery
grew and expended. It especially increased in size during Ottoman
Turkish invasion it the 15th century. Many peasants, monks and priests
fled their farms to hide from the marauder soldiers. Monks took many
in and helped them to hide in the dense forests that still grow in
Lousios Gorge today.
Religious complex of Prodromou Monastery contains two
churches that is perched on a side of a cliff face. The oldest church is
very small and measure by 2.25 meters by 4.90 meters. Nevertheless the
monks managed to cramp an altar and a colorful iconostasis date to the
late 16th and early 17th century centuries in the available narrow
space. Living quarters were later added on balconies that hang high
above the Lousios Gorge. A second church was added in 1911 at some
distance from the monastery. It is dedicated to Saint Athanasios of
Christianoupolis who lived here at the turn of the 18th century and who
also buried here in the Lousios Gorge.
Today Prodromou Monastery is opened to the public. Keep
in mind that it is an active male monastery (currently with about 15
monks) so you need to dress appropriately.
In case you forget this tip you can take old grandma's clothes that hang
outside of the entrance of the monastery. It is customarily to offer
guests coffee, tea and lokum, traditional Turkish candy powdered with
sugar. It is tasty, but it sticks to your teeth. However it is also
customarily not to refuse kindness of hosts.
Emialon Monastery or Moni Emialon (Lousios Gorge)
Emialon Monastery was built in 1605 in Lousios Gorge at
the foot of Klinitsa mountain. Emialon Monastery is named after the
monks that came from a Greek region of Emialon Messinia. It was
dedicated to the birth of Virgin Mary. You
can enter the abbey through a tunnel carved into the rock cliff. Emialon
Monastery has a "T" shape in the cavity of the cliff rock. Katholikon is covered with a barrel vault with frescoes that date back
Monastery Paleo Philosophou (Lousios Gorge)
Philosophou Monastery (Μονή Φιλοσόφου) is probably some of the oldest
Greek Orthodox monasteries in the Lousios Gorge. Byzantine religious
complex was constructed on the western cliff in 963 AD just opposite of
Prodromou Monastery just across the valley. Its name (Philosophou or Filosofu) can be translated as
a "Monastery of the Philosopher". It is dedicated to memory of founder
of the monastery monk John Lambardopoulos (lived in the late 10th
century) who got a nicknamed "Philosopher".
Today much of the
original Philosophu monastery lies in ruins. It has been badly damaged by
earthquakes and natural erosion. Since there is no one here left to
renovate its walls and buildings it keep on crumbling. It is
nevertheless has its own untouched and mysterious charm. It lies about
500 meters from the Lousios Gorge and can be reached by a footpath.
As you walk toward the monastery you can notice that
external walls of the abbey you can notice that they indistinguishable
from the rest of the cliff side. It is constructed from the local rock
and during Ottoman period it was well hidden from the Turkish forces.
During Ottoman occupation of Greece Paleo Philosophy Monastery became
one of the few educational centers where the Greek traditions and the
Orthodox religion was preserved hidden from the power of sultans.
Monastery of Nea Philosophu or Filosofu (Lousios Gorge)
Monastery of Nea Philosophu (New Philosophou) or
Monastery of a New Philosopher is a 17th
century monastery on the western slope of the Lousios Gorge. It is
a fairly new abbey by the standards of Ancient Greece as it was built by
the monks who left Philosophou Monastery in 1605. Philosophou Monastery
is also known as Palea Philosophu (Old Philosophou) and hence new
monastery became known as Nea Philosophu (New Philosophou) or simply
Philosophy Monastery. Its well preserved wall
frescoes date back to 1663 AD.
Monastery of Nea Philosophu is covered by beautiful
colorful frescoes that were painted ("written" in Greek Orthodox
tradition) by artists from the Cretan Artistic School. Some of the icons
were signed by a certain Victor Cretan.
Dimitsana (Lousios Gorge)
Village of Trikolonoi
Hiking in the Lousios Gorge
Hiking in the Lousios Gorge can be either really hard
or really simple depending on the skill lever and difficulty that
you want. On one hand most many landmarks in valley can be accessed
from Epar Od Kato Davias- Dimitsanas road, by taking a hike up a
slope. On the other hand you can take a hiking trail between
villages of Demitsana and Trikolonoi along the Lousios Gorge that
is about 35 km in full length. It is hard and fairly steep in
places, but it is probably the best way to see the gorge. In
addition to large landmarks like monasteries or villages here you
can see hidden shacks, buildings and other small stractures that
usually don't make to the tourist travel guides.