MONUMENTS – CHURCHES – MONASTERIES – MUSEUMS (IN THE WIDER AREA)
The Archaeological Site of Delphi, added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 1987. Famous as the panhellenic sanctuary dedicated to Apollo, where the Pythia delivered her prophecies, Delphi was also known in antiquity as the “navel of the world”. The site’s important monuments include the Temple of Apollo, the Treasury of the Athenians, the Altar of the Chians, the Stoa of the Athenians, the theatre, the stadium, the Castalian spring and the polygonal wall. In ancient times, Delphi was the venue for athletic games, cultural events and festivals. Throughout its turbulent past, Delphi was protected by some conquerors and plundered by others. The Archaeological Museum, one of the most important in Greece, exhibits the history of Delphi through rich collections that reflect its enormous religious, political and artistic importance.
Damasta Monastery, dedicated to the Nativity of the Theotokos (Mother of God), which is located in an idyllic setting on a natural ‘balcony’ of Mt. Kallidromo at an altitude of 580 m. The early history of the monastery remains unknown. The katholikon (main church) of the monastery, which houses nuns, dates to the 11th century and its icon paintings to 1818. An inscription above the inner lintel of the main entrance informs visitors that the church was built with money donated by Captain Ioannis Dyovouniotis, a leader and hero of the Greek War of Independence (1821-1832). During its long history, the monastery has suffered serious damage, most notoriously during the independence struggle when it was set alight by the Turks. The blaze destroyed the library along with many precious heirlooms. The monastery celebrates on 8 September, the feast of the Nativity of the Theotokos. According to some accounts, the name ‘Damasta’ derives from the city of Damascus in Syria, from where the monastery’s sacred icon is believed to have originated.
Gravia Inn, which has recently been restored to its original state. And thanks to modern multimedia techniques, visitors today can gain a better understanding of the historic battle that took place there in May 1821 at the start of the Greek War of Independence. The presentation of the battle, available in Greek and English, makes use of virtual reality technology, developed as part of a pilot program to initially promote five monuments in central Greece. Each Spring, on the first weekend after 8 May, three days of events are held at the inn to commemorate the battle, including a historical re-enactment.
British Military Cemetery at Bralos, where rows of well tended graves contain the remains of 95 Commonwealth soldiers and seven other nationalities who fought in the First World War.
Historic square of Kompotades, where visitors can admire the group of five centuries-old plane trees that have been designated monuments of nature worthy of special protection on account of their enormous ecological, aesthetic, historical and cultural value. It was in the shade of these trees that the revolutionary leaders Athanasios Diakos, Dimitrios Panourgias and Ioannis Dyovouniotis met to discuss how they would confront the Ottoman forces of Omer Vrioni and Kioshe Mehmet, who were planning to march south to the Peloponnese to crush the revolt that had broken out there. The Greek leaders decided to take up defensive positions at the Alamana (Spercheios) river, where a fierce battle ensued. A memorial has been erected in commemoration of the battle. Also in the village, the building that houses the primary school was built in 1903 with funds donated by national benefactor Andreas Syngros.
The Transfiguration of the Savior Monastery, just above the village of Gorgopotamos, in the shade of tall centuries-old trees at Monastiri, was built in 1963 on the ruins of an 11th century Byzantine monastery. The old monastery is believed to have been the largest in Fthiotida (300 monks) and played an important role during the period of Turkish occupation. In one famous incident, rather than fall into the hands of the Turks, the hegumen (head) of the monastery set fire to the gunpowder store, killing not only himself but all the monks. The monastery was later rebuilt on the instructions of King Otto. Many architectural fragments, including marble plaques with inscriptions, which date to its Byzantine predecessor can be seen in the grounds of the monastery, whilst others are on display at the archaeological museum in Lamia. The monastery celebrates on 6 August, the same day as the festival held at the village.
Ancient Lilaia, of which Pausanias wrote: “In Lilaia are also a theater, a market-place and baths. There is also a sanctuary of Apollo, and one of Artemis; the images are standing, of Attic workmanship, and of marble from the Pentelic quarries. They say that Lilaia was one of the Naids, as they are called, a daughter of the Cephisus, and that after this nymph the city was named.” The archaeological site of Lilaia includes the ancient city’s fortifications, a fountain structure and ruins of a sanctuary. In the vicinity of Lilaia are numerous springs that continue today to feed the Cephisus river. At a short distance from the sacred place where the ancient inhabitants worshipped the river god stand the imposing defensive walls that date to the 4th century BC. The walls, sections of which are well preserved, were reinforced at intervals with massive rectangular towers, the most characteristic of which is the central tower at the top of the acropolis, which afforded a magnificent view across the upper valley of the Cephisus river.
Oiti Natural History Museum, at the foot of the mountain on the farm of the Monastery of Agathon, in a stunningly beautiful location about 20 km from the national park. The museum serves as a showcase for Oiti’s flora and fauna, providing a wealth of information relating to the geology, paleontology, climate, soils and ecology of the national park. In the same place there is also a Game Farm Museum run by the Monastery of Agathon.
Gorgopotamos Bridge, which carries the Athens-Thessaloniki railway line over the river of the same name. This was the scene of one of the first major acts of sabotage in Axis-occupied Europe during the Second World War. The British Special Operations Executive (SOE) sent a team made up British saboteurs and members of the Greek resistance groups EAM and EDES to cut the railway line connecting Athens and Thessaloniki. The objective was to stem the flow of supplies to Rommel’s forces in North Africa. The team accomplished its mission on the night of 25 November, 1942. The bridge was rebuilt in 1948. It has a span of 211 meters and a height of 30 meters.
The Monastery of Agathon, in an idyllic setting with an absolutely incredible view, on the road to Lychno and not far from Ypati, on the slopes of Oiti at an altitude of 553 m. The Spercheios valley spreads out gracefully below, painted with all hues of yellow and green. Built in the 14th-15th century, it is a fine example of Byzantine architecture and art. Down the centuries, the monastery has suffered considerable damage, particularly in 1822 when forces under the Ottoman general Mahmud Pasha, better known as Dramali, torched the main church. The monastery has a number of features that are considered to be of great importance, such as the majestic katholikon that is representative of the so-called ‘Athonite’ type (cross-in-square with dome, complex four-columned with four chapels incorporated in the main structure) and rare wall paintings. Many precious relics are preserved in the monastery, including crosses, sacred vessels, icons, vestments, codices and books. The oldest book in the library is a treatise by the Holy Martyr Justin the Philosopher, published in 1551. In the grounds of the monastery, visitors will see peacocks, pheasants, partridges, ducks and various other bird species, as well as deer, sheep and goats in a refuge covering 300 hectares. The monastery, which has in the past hosted a number of schools – theological, agricultural and forestry – celebrates on 6 and 15 August.
Bread Museum of Amfikleia (www.breadmuseum.gr). The museum, the only one of its kind in Greece, is housed in the Cultural and Educational Center of Amfikleia Municipality and was created with the support of the Hellenic Folklore Research Center of the Academy of Athens. The museum houses a fascinating collection of household utensils, woven fabrics, embroidery, apparel, loaves, etc. which bear testimony to the region’s rich cultural heritage.