September 8, 2014

Panagia Stomiou Monastery in Konitsa and Elder Paisios

Orthodoxy in Greece has built in the most beautiful places many monasteries that testifies to its ascetic character. In one of these places, within the heart of the gorge of the River Aoos, is the Sacred Monastery of Panagia Stomiou in Konitsa of Ioannina.

The location is spectacular. The trail to get there, about an hour walk from Konitsa (5km), is captivating.

This is the Monastery that was made more brilliant with the presence of the known Elder Paisios the Athonite, who was one of those who restored it, and whose origin is from Konitsa, where his refugee family arrived from Cappadocia.

All of these reasons make it one of the most visited and popular monasteries in Epirus. The name of the Monastery comes from the narrow ravine over which it is built.

Stomiou Monastery is dedicated to the Most Holy Theotokos, and was first built on the opposite side in 1590, but was transferred to its present location in 1774, because the miraculous Sacred Icon of the Theotokos moved there!

It played a key role in the spiritual cultivation of the villages, and it maintained many schools in the surrounding area, thus keeping alight the true light of Education, with a Greek Orthodox Christian treatment, which is what lit the fire of 1821, creating the great Epic Balkan War of Liberation in 1912-1913, and the incomparable Epic of 1940-1941. Perhaps this is why the German occupying troops burned the Monastery in 1943. The entire Monastery, except the church, remained damaged for fifteen years. The Nazi's took care for this to happen. But the Panagia took care for the reconstruction and restoration of the Sacred Monastery, when she sent her beloved child, the monk Paisios.

Elder Paisios had a desire to become an ascetic in the desert of Mount Athos, specifically in Katounakia. But the Panagia showed him visibly in his cell, like a "spiritual television", Stomiou Monastery in Konitsa, and she told him: "You will not go to Katounakia. You will go to Stomiou Monastery." The Elder knew the area, since he grew up in Konitsa.

The path to the Sacred Monastery of Stomiou from the famous old bridge of Aoos in Konitsa is more than magnificent. It is almost entirely near the river, and the entire environment with its fierce rocks, the sound of the river and the most beautiful vegetation excites the soul. The vegetation near the rocks is a true "jungle". The surrounding steep peaks, ravines, trees, springs, bold goats on inaccessible slopes form a unique landscape.

Father Paisios contributed greatly to its overhaul, even carrying with his hands heavy loads down the river, mobilizing and motivating the good residents of the surrounding villages, collecting contributions sent by the Panagia through pious people, gathering workers, and making himself frames, floors and roofs like a carpenter, even among the best, always with joy, love and prayer. Facts from his wondrous life refer to him speaking with wild animals, healing the sick, and imposing respect by forbidding parties and feasting in the area of the Monastery. Once he even jumped off a cliff in order to protect a case with sacred relics that fell. These are among the many things. In 1962 the Elder left for Sinai and returned in 1964 to Mount Athos where he remained permanently. The small cell in which he lived for four years (1958-1962) in Stomiou Monastery exists until today.

Over the last several years there have begun maintenance and restoration of the buildings. Father Kosmas is the abbot, whom the pilgrim will meet there, best upon request.

The Monastery has relics of St. Basil the Great, St. John Chrysostom, St. Alypios of Kionitos, and others. It celebrates on September 8th, on the feast of the Nativity of the Theotokos.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.