October 11, 2014

The Holy Theologian of the Mountain (Kos)

The Catacomb of St. John the Theologian

By Fr. John Perantonakis

Legend says that Saint John the Theologian would appear frequently in the plains of Kardamaina on the island of Kos.

Aspasia Sophianos would see him hovering over the crops, sitting on a throne, while others would see a meteor-like vigil lamp that would make circles and left the scent of incense.

Many times Aspasia could not understand how she arrived on the mountain and how to return below. One time when this happened she was led by a vision and tied a handkerchief at some spot on the mountain. This was the place indicated by the Saint for the villagers to come and dig. This took place after 1920. They went twice to dig, but found nothing. They punished the girl by mocking her on the return back, but she remained firm. The third time they found the door of a small catacomb.

Among those who went the third time and discovered the entrance to the catacomb were some commissioners and certain others, such as George Steletos and Kostas Plangetis. Their joy, together with that of all the villagers, was unspeakable. They considered what took place a blessing for their village. The community created a path and the parish showcased the catacomb.

At one point certain residents from Asfendiou and Pyli became involved and claimed the Monastery. The residents of Kardamaina rose up and there almost took place a big brawl. Manolis Vrontas took the lead and told them: "Since the Saint appeared in Kardamaina, the Monastery is ours." And thus it was granted to Kardamaina.

Since then, every year on September 25th, on the eve of the feast of the Translocation of the Saint, many residents of Kardamaina ascend the mountain to celebrate Great Vespers and the Divine Liturgy, and at dawn they descend back to their village.

It is noteworthy that while the climb is quite difficult, never, not once even, has a pilgrim ever "fell on their nose", as the saying goes, or been injured in any way. The path due to the rain and abandonment of the area has been damaged. The Monastery cannot be made out, because it is a catacomb, so it is useful to have a companion. On the day of the feast pilgrims light a fire on the mountain to warm up and cook over the coals, and villagers light a fire on the beach in order to greet them.

According to tradition, as it has been preserved, it says that the chapel is the work of a monk from Kos named Arsenios Skinouris, who lived around the eleventh century.

Let us mention that within the chapel there are several frescoes, but one can hardly discern the faces of the saints depicted, except for a representation of the Virgin Mary with Saint John the Theologian.

Excerpt from the book The Churches of Kardamaina. Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

My Experience Going to the Holy Theologos Catacomb

By Sophia Karagianni

This is one way to go to the Holy Theologian of the Mountain (or Theologou, as it is called by the locals). We, nine hikers, decided to find Saint John's on our return from Christos in Dikeos. A kilometer before you reach Christos on the right there is a big rock, and there begins a slope where the first arrow indicates the path to the Theologian.

The beginning of the route is admittedly very steep, and there were rudimentary signs, some arrows, so we confirmed by these that we were following the right path. At one point we lost the trail and arrows, and the path becomes quite steep and dangerous and we, personally, would have certainly given up (at one point and after we did not know where we were going) if we had not come upon by chance some hunters who pointed out the path.

The journey lasted four hours and we commonly admit that we reached our limitations and strengths. The Chapel of Saint John the Theologian compensated for the exhaustion we felt: the view is breathtaking, the location of the catacomb is unique, and there are several old objects outside the church. The experience has registered in my mind as one of the most difficult hikes but also among the most exciting.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos. All photos by Sophia Karagianni.

Read also: Did St. John the Theologian Recently Appear to a Muslim in Kos?

This is the path from Dikeos and not from Kardamaina.

When you see this cross, you are close to your destination.

The Catacomb Chapel of St. John the Theologian

Outside old objects from the original Monastery.

Interior of the Chapel.

View from the Catacomb

The nine hikers