Cave Hermitage of Pythio

Cave Hermitage of Pythio
Hermitages are simple constructions, made in natural rock cavities, where retreating monks live, practicing their religious duties away from the monasteries. Depending on the shape of the cave, narrow cells with walls for one or more monks were constructed in the hermitage, as well as a main temple and auxiliary rooms. On the west side of Olympus, above the village of Pythio, two hermitages in ruinous condition were saved: that of Timios Stavros (or Agion Taxiarchon) and Analipseos tou Kyriou. They are a short distance apart, date back to the Byzantine era and contain rare 14th century frescoes. The hermitage of Analipseos is formed in a spacious cave of about 10 x 10 meters, and partitioned into five areas created with the walls – cells for the monks and a small temple on the rock. A few 14th century frescoes are preserved, albeit in poor condition. The hermitage of Timios Stavros is of greater importance. It consists of three areas, formed in the cave from the rock’s natural and man-made walls. The chapel with a narthex was created from natural rock and thickly coated with mortar so as to paint the fresco. Despite its abandonment and subsequent vandalism, many important and rare frescoes in the chapel were preserved in the narthex and cell. According to the inscription found above the entrance of the church, the cave was frescoed in 1339. In the cave’s ceiling and vertical walls, various depictions are preserved, such as the Birth, Baptism and Resurrection of Christ, the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary, Apostle Peter, St. Simeon the Stylite, the Three Holy Hierarchs etc.

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