|Sts. Agapios and Porphyrios of Thera|
By Archimandrite Nektarios Pettas
The founders of the steep Hermitage at the edge of Mesa Mountain (or Mesa Vouno) in Santorini (or Thera), between the bays of Perissa and Kamari, are the venerable Kollyvades Agapios and Porphyrios.
In 1822 the ragged monk from Mount Athos, Agapios Metaxas, arrived in Santorini, having been born in Constantinople. He became an evangelist on the island with his pure and unpretentious preaching. Initially he lived as an ascetic in a cave of Monolithos. This hermitage was immediately converted into a spiritual spring where those who thirsted for an authentic word and prayer would go.
In the Monastery of the Prophet Elias at this time there lived the virtuous hieromonk Porphyrios Mindrinos from Gonia in Santorini, who desired to live in a deserted area. As the sole place for tranquility on the island, he thought about the solitary and steep place of Ancient Thera. He revealed his thoughts to the abbot of the Monastery, Gerasimos Mavrommatis, who refused his request to leave, since they lacked men to care for the Monastery.
The reputation of Venerable Agapios reached the Monastery of the Prophet Elias. In time Porphyrios met him and eventually followed him. Both later fled to the Monastery of the Prophet Elias in Hydra, which was friendly to the Kollyvades, and there Porphyrios became initiated in the spirit of the Kollyvades. With the blessing of the abbot of this Monastery, both returned once more to Santorini to the Hermitage of Monolithos.
Believers flooded the place in search of spiritual refreshment. Later Agapios and Porphyrios transferred to Gonia for easier accessibility to the people where they celebrated services in the Church of the Transfiguration. At that time they began to construct the inaccessible and precipitous Hermitage of Mesa Mountain, above the cove of Kioni. The Hermitage at Gonia they shaped into a monastic arena for females.
The venerable Agapios reposed in March of 1844, having been told in a divine manner of his impending death ten days prior, and his relics rested in the Hermitage. The people ordered the iconographer Mercurios Sigalas to paint two icons of his. One was placed at his tomb and the other in the Church of Saint Nicholas at the beach of Kamari. Three years after his repose the translation of his relics took place by a representative of the Monastery of the Prophet Elias in Hydra, Elder Kyprianos Ntakoutros, who came to Santorini for this purpose. The relics of Agapios were thus transferred to the Monastery of his repentance in Hydra.
After the repose of Agapios, Prophyrios was appointed to serve as the priest of the historic Church of the Honorable Cross in Perissa of Santorini. In 1845 there came to Santorini Archbishop Daniel of the Cyclades, who was an opponent of the Kollyvades movement, especially because they refused to venerate "the new western religious beliefs" of the foreign powers of Bavaria, and he asked the confessor Porphyrios to renounce his struggle, but he remained firm. After this refusal Daniel appealed to the weak and controlled by worldly powers Holy Synod of the Kingdom of Greece. He was tried in absentia without a defense and sentenced to exile in the Monastery of Evangelistria in Skiathos, where he reposed on the 26th of March in 1852.
Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.
The Hermitage of the Holy Kollyvades Fathers in Mesa Vouno
Agapios and Porphyrios belonged to the Kollyvades movement, and were particularly esteemed by the whole island of Santorini. The difficulty that people met in their effort to travel to Monolithos led to the transfer of the monks to the Church of the Transfiguration in Gonia.
At the same time, the monks desired to found a hermitage (asketerion) in Mesa Vouno. They managed to do so within two years, thanks to the contributions of the islanders as well as the fund raising in Amorgos, Paros, Syros and Hydra. For the construction of the Skete the monks worked together with the constructors, as well as with monks from the Prophet Elias Monastery, especially Joasaph Patiniotis from Astypalaia.
This Skete was located on a steep edge of the eastern side of the island, in the area of “Kioni”. It was triangular in shape, it had a narrow corridor and small halls, that led to very narrow cells. A straight path led to it, which bore a wooden cross on its edge, a typical characteristic of a skete. This cross was preserved until 1897.
Antonios N. Sigalas, in his memorandum describes the history and topography of the Hermitage (newspaper “Ethnos”, 8/15/1947):
"From then on there started gathering the believers in Kamari, either once a month or every week, in order to liturgize with all-night vigils, during which they all attended Liturgy and receives Communion.
At the same time, they started building the Hermitage in an inaccessible and steep spot above the small bay of “Kioni”, as they call it, through which they transferred with ropes all the construction material to the site.
The construction was completed after two years and it costed around 100 thousand drachmas. It was surrounded by high walls like a fortress and comprised very few single rooms, without any furniture or vessels, one storehouse where one could find whatever he asked for, and one cistern whose water was drained through pipes to the mountains.
In the slits of the rocks they had planted various flowers. Inside the Skete there was also a private room with various engraved icons of saints on the walls and a tray with holy bread. The whole building was enclosed by small iron gates, that one had to cross by bending. They also constructed an expensive road from Kamari to the Hermitage, that lasted half an hour to arrive, on which they put a cross up to the point where the people were allowed to reach.”