December 16, 2010

Fire Destroys Monastery of St. John the Forerunner in Serres, Greece

December 15, 2010
Greek Reporter

The Holy Monastery of Ioannis Prodromos, which is located close to Serres town, was a victim of fire. The fire was difficult to extinguish due to snow and the fog, which made access to the area difficult. The damage caused by the fire is hard to estimate at this time. The dorter and the old gallery of the Holy Monastery were burned down. The rare holy icons, the new wing of the monastery, and the cells of the nuns remained undamaged. According to the statement of the head of the fire brigade, the fire was caused by the flames of a wood stove which was burning in the dorter of the monastery. Unfortunately, experts fear that the fire will expand within the whole monastery, as its biggest portion is made of wood and stone.

The Monastery of the Holy Forerunner John the Baptist in Serres was severely damaged by a fire on Monday night. The main wing of the monastery caught fire around 5 pm. The fire started in the roof (so far it's believed to be an electrical problem) and burned for hours. It destroyed the kitchen, the nun's dining hall, another large dining hall used for guests which is a hundred or more years old and had many old icons on the walls (which they were able to save) from when the monastery was occupied by monks. The only rooms in the monastery for hospitality, a bakery, a room with some freezers and a work room and the balconies attached to this building were all destroyed. The fire then spread to the building next to it which houses all their supplies for the bookstore and the incense workshop, everything there was also destroyed. This other building also has a chapel but it was preserved. Only the cloth on the holy altar was damaged. But everything else is all gone. The nuns, thank God, were not harmed but they are struggling to get by. The estimated damage cost is 2 million euros, so any little help will be greatly appreciated.
Please pray for the sisterhood and make a donation if you are able. Please keep Abbess Fevronia especially in your prayers as there is a lot of weight on her shoulders right now.

Here is a video of the fire:

This is the website of the monastery:

Here are some photos:

They will also be setting up a PayPal account shortly to make it easier for people outside of Greece do donate.

A Brief History of the Timios Prodromos Monastery

The katholicon (main church) was built in the 14th century and belongs to the single-aisled domed type with lite, narthex, exonarthex and an oblong roofed portico on the south side (Makrynariki)

On the north side are two chapels and the belfry. The rest of the buildings are organized around the katholicon: cells, abbot's quarters, school, refectory, library, hostel. The wall paintings of the katholicon were executed in 1300-1333 and were continued in several periods, by various artists.

The monastery was founded in 1275-1278 by Monk Ioannikios from Serres and a few years later it was renovated by his nephew, Ioakeim, bishop of Zichne. It soon developed to an important monastic centre with great financial prosperity, because it was favoured by the Byzantine emperors. Patriarch George Scholarios (Gennadios) died here and was buried in the katholicon.

As the spiritual centre of Hellenism in eastern Macedonia, during the Balkan wars the monastery of Timios Prodromos (Saint John the Baptist) provoked the fury of the Bulgarians, who took pains to strip it of its historic treasures. Greek historical documents and in particular the monastic library were carried off to Sofia in their entirety in 1912. The quest for these invaluable sources of Macedonian history has since occupied, as it continues to occupy, much scholarly research.

The monastery, still functioning today, acquired its final form with the addition of many buildings during the Turkish occupation.

In the years between 1972 and 1986 the roofs of several buildings were repaired. Since 1986 restoration has been carried out at the cells of the east wing and at the north wing.

This is the most important monastery of Serres (Serrhai).