The monastery of Saint Gerasimos of Kefalonia (Greek: Άγιος Γεράσιμος)
Gerasimos (1506–1579) came from an aristocratic and wealthy family. He was ordained a Monk at Mount Athos, went to Jerusalem for 12 years and in 1555 arrived on Kefalonia. He spent his first 5 years in a cave in the area known as Lassi. He subsequently cultivated the area where the women’s monastery of Saint Gerasimos now exists near Valsamata. The monastery which he established cared for the poor and became a center for charity.
Saint Gerasimos is believed by natives of Kefalonia to protect them and to also heal them of illness. During the feasts of Saint Gerasimos- August 16th and October 20th- his body is passed over ill and sick persons for the purpose of healing them. Many natives of the island name their children after Saint Gerasimos as a tribute to the saint who protects them. The body of Saint Gerasimos is at the monastery, made available for veneration as it has never decomposed. After his death, his body was buried twice and exhumed intact, thus leading the church to ordain him as a saint. Kefalonians throughout the world still revere and pray to him.
The Kipouria Monastery near Lixouri
On the west coast of Lixouri, in one of the most majestic landscapes of Kefalonia, is the renowned Kipouria Monastery. It’s situated 15km from Lixouri, on the road that leads to Havriata village (the balcony of the Ionian).
Its founding goes back to the 17th century and it features post- Byzantine icons painted in an Italian- Cretan technique. Its name derives from the numerous gardens (‘kipoi’ in Greek) which the monks maintained in order to make a living. It is built on a stunning, vertical rock over the sea. The monastery church was built in 1759 and it is dedicated to the Virgin Mary’s Annunciation. A men’s communal was soon developed. A French destroyer bombed the monastery in 1915, because the smoke coming from the chimney in the fog was thought to be an enemy ship. The disastrous earthquakes of 1953 destroyed the monastery even more. Only the church was rebuilt in 1964, while the other buildings were reconstructed during the 90’s. Years ago, there were quite a few monks at the monastery, who cultivated its property. Nowadays, only one monk resides there and welcomes visitors who receive his warm hospitality and enjoy spending time with him, gazing at the sea.
Along with its spiritual treasures, the monastery is an attraction for visitors as one can also admire the unique sunset, fading into the deep blue waters of the Ionian from the monastery’s courtyard. The breathtaking scenery which harmoniously combines the rough mountain with the inaccessible sea views is not to be missed. For those of you who love wild landscapes, this would be an ideal visit! Don’ t forget to bring your camera with you!
Virgin Mary of Snakes Church (Fidousa)
Moving to the village Markopoulo, there we have the opportunity to visit one of the most famous churches of Kefalonia, the Virgin Mary of Snakes (Fidousa) which receives thousands of believers each year to see up close the wonder … small, harmless snakes that bring four small black dots in the shape of a cross onto their head! Appearing from 6 to 16 August in the rocks behind the Frankish church bell tower and crawl fearlessly among the people, in the church and on the icons.
Monastery of Our Lady of Sission
The Monastery of Our Lady of Sission is located on the road to Skala near Lourdas bay. Its built dates back to the 13th century, when according to tradition, Francis of Assisi built it, devoted it to Virgin Mary and donated it to the Latin Diocese of Kefalonia. As many other historic monuments of Kefalonia, the monastery was destroyed by the devastating earthquake in 1953 and one can now only see the remains of the old church as there is a new male monastery situated close by. A beach below the monastery is a quiet one but a long trek in the busy tourist season. If you go, take plenty of water with you and make it a picnic day.