By Aristeides G. Theodoropoulos
Located two kilometers from the Upper Quarter of Trikala, Corinth at an altitude of 1400 meters, on the slope of Mount Kyllini (Ziria), is built the historic Monastery of Saint Vlasios (Blaise). This aboriginal Sacred Monastery, which played a very important spiritual and guiding role in the difficult years of Ottoman rule, is a popular pilgrimage site of the historical and blessed Corinthian land with a great miraculous tradition.
The establishment of this notorious Sacred Monastery in Corinth, of which there do not exist surviving written records of the exact year of its foundation, is associated with the discovery of the wonderworking icon of Saint Vlasios in a cave, which was in a huge steep rock 500 meters from the current Monastery. According to historian Stavros Koutivas, a hermit found the icon of the Saint and erected around 1300-1400 the first chapel, while in the 17th century there was built the present church of the Monastery. Interesting also is the local tradition of the inhabitants of Trikala, according to whom a strong light emitted from the cave, leading some people to hang ropes and discover the wonderworking icon of Saint Vlasios, and then they built the first church in his honor. Tradition also tells us that the original intention was to build the church at the Belfry of the Upper Quarter of Trikala, but Saint Vlasios appeared in the sleep of the master mason and suggested that the church be built opposite the cave where the icon was found.
The finding of this portable icon of the wonderworking hierarch of Sebastea in Asia Minor, which corresponds to the form of the Saint, has 30Χ25cm. dimensions and was encased in silver in 1829 at the expense of the Papalekas family. This treasured icon is exposed for veneration on the two annual feasts of the Monastery, on February 11th for the feast of Saint Vlasios and on September 14th for the day of the discovery of the icon and the feast of the Exaltation of the Honorable Cross. In the Katholikon of the Monastery is kept the 1m. X 60cm. icon of Saint Vlasios, on which the wonderworking Saint is depicted enthroned, while at the bottom of the icon are depictions of the life of the Saint. This portable icon, which was encased in silver in 1920 at the expense of Panagiotis and Maria Nikolopoulos, is adorned with a medallion of the Metropolitan of Corinth and later Archbishop of Athens and Regent Damaskinos Papandreos. These two portable icons are venerated together with the special reliquary of relics of Saint Vlasios and other saints by the many Christians who come to the Monastery from all over Greece. This makes the historic Monastery of Saint Vlasios in Trikala, Corinth as the most important center in Greece where the wonderworking Saint of distant Sebastea in Asia Minor is honored.
The Katholikon of the Monastery has a beautiful post-Byzantine carved wooden iconostasis dating to the 18th century, and its magnificent icons are the work of the Skordilis brothers in Aigio and date to the 17th century. Memorable is an old book in the library of the Monastery, which contains replicated from the year 1867 services of Saint Makarios Notaras the Archbishop of Corinth and the Holy Hieromartyr Vlasios the Archbishop of Sebastea.
The Monastery of Saint Vlasios reached great prosperity and even attained the status of being Stavropegic, according to the surviving sigillion of Patriarch Jeremiah III of Constantinople from the year 1716. It is indicative that the Monastery had considerable land holdings, many monks and two dependencies, the Church of Panagia Katholiki in the Lower Quarter of Trikala, and the current Convent of Panagia Koryfis (Korfiotissa) in Kamari, which is a remarkable pilgrimage site of the Theotokos in the area. The Monastery had a very important and valuable role in the spiritual awakening of the Greek people during the dark period of Turkish rule, since children resorted there to obtain an education and in 1818 the notables of Trikala were initiated there into the Society of Friends and drew their revolutionary plans.
The spiritual radiance of the Monastery was interrupted immediately after the liberation of Greece during the reign of King Otto, since at the suggestion of Andrew Notaras the Monastery was abolished and became a dependency of the Church of Saint Nicholas of the Upper Quarter of Trikala. Indeed, according to the census of 1846 the Monastery was said to be dissolved with the property now in the hands of the family of Notaras. A virtuous and pious monk, whose name was Nikodemos from Valtsa in Corinth, lived in the Monastery and supported it until his death in 1898. Then the monk Panteleimon came to the Monastery, who according to oral tradition left crazy and beaten by the Saint himself. From 1918 to 1924 Dometios Kassoris from Trikala lived as a monk there, and in his days in 1918 the church of the Monastery was renovated, as evidenced by the inscription, and the decoration with frescos were done by N. Santorinaios. In 1924 the historic Monastery was taken by Abbess Thekla Stavropoulos, who thanks to her tireless interest, contributed to officially have it recognized in 1928 as a female Monastery by decision of the Ministry of National Education and Religion. Abbess Thekla was succeeded by Vlasia Markou, and in 1968 a new sisterhood moved in that had Euphrosyne Glitsi as abbess. She showed particular enthusiasm for renovation and the independent functioning of the Monastery. Two chapels have been erected, there is a new wing of cells, and the entrance of the Monastery was reformed.
Rich also is the miraculous tradition of the Monastery, since the miracles are numerous that have been done there and continue to be done in our difficult times by the Grace of God through Saint Vlasios, who according to his synaxarion is considered a healer of throat diseases and of the larynx, and he is a great physician against severe illnesses according to the inhabitants of Trikala, who testify to the fact that he even heals sick animals. This is evidenced by the numerous offerings of the faithful which adorn the miraculous icon, as well as the fact that hundreds of pilgrims arrive there from throughout Corinth and Argos in the spring and summer months, to celebrate their family liturgies in the Monastery and simultaneously fulfill their vow, which consists of sleeping on the floor of the church to receive the blessing of the wonderworking Saint and be cured of their diseases.
The special reverence that locals nourish for Saint Vlasios is confirmed by the wide dissemination of his name at Baptisms in the regions of Trikala and Xylokastros. It is worth mentioning that with the arrival of King Otto to Athens, many people from Trikala moved to the coastal area of Corinth, especially to Xylokastros and the village of Nerantza of Bocha (the old name of the village was Trikalitika), and they brought to these new locations their reverence for Saint Vlasios. This justifies the fact that in 1908 in the place of an older church a majestic and monumental Metropolitan Cathedral was erected in Xylokastros as well as a parish church in Nerantza that were honored with the name of the wonderworking Saint Vlasios. This special veneration and honor received by Saint Vlasios in Corinth led the late Metropolitan Panteleimon of Corinth to include him in the list of Corinthian Saints, where he is honored with the rest of the Corinthian Saints in a service, and is the patron of Trikala and Xylokastros. This service was composed by Monk Agapios of Crete, and contains seven hymns to Saint Vlasios composed by the late Protopresbyter Fr. Demetrios Bombolas, who served as the parish priest of the Church of the Transfiguration of the Savior for 62 years (1900-1962), and issued a special service to the Saint in a pamphlet in 1932 at the Odysseus Androutsos printing press in Kiato.
The historic Monastery of Saint Vlasios is for the pilgrim and visitor who loves God a spiritual lighthouse with a long history and tradition that goes back centuries, but at the same time is a pilgrimage center for the weary people of the 21st century, who seek hope and salvation from God, whose Providence wanted this martyric hierarch of Sebastea to work continuous wonders in his aboriginal Sacred Monastery in Trikala of Corinth.
Ιστορικόν Ιεράς Μονής Αγίου Βλασίου, Έκδοση Ιεράς Μονής Αγ. Βλασίου, Άνω Τρίκαλα Κορινθίας 2000.
Κουτίβα Σταύρου, Ιστορικά του Ξυλόκαστρου, Αθήνα 1962.
Μπουβή Αγγέλου, Το υμνογραφικό έργο του μακαριστού Πρωτοπρεσβυτέρου Δημητρίου Μπόμπολα, Δελτίο Ιδρύματος Κορινθιακών Μελετών, Τεύχος 21, Κιάτο 1997.
Σταυροπούλου Σπύρου Γ., Ιστορία Τρικάλων Κορινθίας, Πάτρα 2000.
Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.