Monastery of Panagia Olympiotissa

Monastery of Panagia Olympiotissa
The Monastery of Panagia Olympiotissa, the most important monastery in North Thessaly, though somewhat afar from the main mass of Olympus, is intertwined with the mountain’s name, history, and traditions. According to tradition, the miraculous icon of Panagia Olympiotissa was transferred for safety reasons to the current monastery in Elassona from an old Byzantine monastery in Karya, a historic, mountainous town in the SE side of Olympus. The inhabitants of Olympus, to this day, consider the icon of Panagia Olympiotissa their protector, and venerate it with heart-warming events. Back in the day, the townsfolk of Karya would head to the monastery on foot, and bring the icon to their town, considered to be the monastery’s first seat, on the 15th of August. The people of the town would keep the icon in their homes for blessing and aid up until the 23rd of August. After that, it would travel and be hosted around all the villages of Olympus until October. The tradition of carrying the icon to the village of Azoros takes places on the 7th of January, during the Feast of St. John the Baptist. The icon is transferred by car to a nearby river, from where it is hosted by hand and carried in a two kilometre procession to the village church, where it is hosted for a few days and brought from house to house to render its blessing. Adapted to modern means of transportation, this tradition of venerating the icon of Panagia Olympiotissa, as well as the custom of hosting it in the various villages around Olympus, is held up to this day. The Monastery of Panagia Olympiotitssa is a vital part of religious and national history of the region, as almost all the relics from the destroyed monasteries around Olympus, which fall under the jurisdiction of the Diocese of Elassona, were transferred to its rich sacristy. The monastery was probably established in 1295, by emperor Andronikos II Palaiologos. Its katholicon is a true work of art, with a dome and rich ceramic decoration, which follows the architectural style of churches developed during the reign of the Palaiologos dynasty in Thessaloniki and Constantinople. Its frescoes, which are akin to the high art found in the monuments of Thessaloniki and Mount Athos during the same era, are also worthy of note. One of the most valuable relics of the monastery is the carved wooden door of the katholicon, dated around 1295 or 1305, as well as the 1752 embroidered Epitaph (a symbolic funeral bier of Jesus, hosted during Easter), Byzantine icons, hand-written codices and old books. A female sisterhood inhabits the monastery in the present day.

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