November 30, 2014

The Sacred Convent of the Apostle Andrew in Kefallonia and the Relic of his Sole


This Convent was founded during the Byzantine era. Since 1264, in the proceedings of the Latin Diocese of Kefallonia, it is referred to as a Monastery. In the following centuries the Monastery was deserted and it was reestablished in 1579, when three spiritual sisters Benedictine, Leondia and Magdalene, originating from the first capital of Kefallonia - the Middle Age Municipality of Kastro - bought the land where the ruined chapel  of the Apostle Andrew preexisted, aiming to lead a monastic life.

Soon after it became a Convent and in 1639 the Greek Romanian Princess Roxane, renamed nun Romilia, daughter of the Protospathario leader of Moldovlachia Zotos Tsigaras and grandaughter of the sovereign of Moldovlachia Peter Voevodas, started her monastic life.

Apart from her large wealth, money and real estate, she bestowed upon the Convent a valuable spiritual treasure from Mount Athos, the Holy remains of the right foot (sole) of Apostle Andrew. The sole, wholly dislocated from the ankle, bears on it the ordinary flesh of the Saint, his dried blood together with the hole from the nail of his crucifixion. Its fragrance is distinct and very intense.

Visitors can also tour the Ecclesiastical Museum founded in 1988 by the Most Rev. Spyridon, the present Metropolitan of the island, which is located in the old Katholikon of the Convent that was preserved from the disastrous earthquake in 1953. In the first room there are walls covered with frescoes of the Church of the Taxiarchis' Monastery in Milapidia. The shroud of the Ecumenical Patriarch Gregory V, St. Nektarios' epitrachilion and the shirt of St. Panagis (priest Bassias) are on display.

The central part of the church is kept intact. The temple with superb icons is a piece of work dated back to the 17th century. The panels from the iconostasis (templon) with themes from Christ 's Sacrifice are works of the priest Theodoros Poulakis, while the side doors of the templon which represent the three hierarchs are works of Deacon Athanasios Anninos. Until the 1953 earthquake the frescoes were covered with asbestos since in 1832 the divine services were temporarily interrupted by the British. Their aim was to establish a Protestant school within the church and to damage this Greek Orthodox Center because of its negative attitude towards British rule.

The construction of the building was followed by cleaning-up and conservation work. Treasures of the Convent and icons from the Archiepiscopate of Kefallonia are displayed in the north narthex. Among them, the portrait of the Tsigara couple and their daughter Nun Romila.

In a nearby pane five of her superb handmade ecclesiastical embroideries of excellent artwork are kept close to the panels. Another display holds the hieratic scepter and the Communion Cup of his Holiness Nikodemos V Metaxas, Archbishop of Kefallonia, an important figure of the 17th century who founded the first Greek printing press in Constantinople. Two hand written letters of St. Kosmas the Aetolian dated to 1777 are also kept in the Museum.

One of the most important exhibits in the Museum is the Hieratic vestment known as a sakkos (short tunic with wide half sleeves) embroidered by the Nun Theodora Kanali from the village of Metaxata in the period between 1715 and 1721 with the themes of "Christ the Vine" on the front and the Virgin "Tree of Jesse" at the back.

The Convent celebrates twice a year: on November 30th, feast day of Saint Andrew, and on Friday after Easter, feast day of Zoodochos Pege, who is the second patron of the Convent. The Episcopical divine service is followed by an honorable procession of Saint Andrew's relic and the miraculous icon of Panagia Zoodochos Pege (dated back to 1560 along with the icon of "Panagia Milapidiotissa" (dated back to the 11th century) and the other miraculous Saints' relics of the Convent, up to the chapel of Saint Nicholas of the Scardabeli family. After that, a meal prepared with special care by the nuns is offered.

A smaller celebration takes place on August 15th (the Dormition of the Virgin) with the participation of Cypriot brothers. On this day the blessings to the Dormition of Theotokos are solemnly sung in front of the elegant and beautiful cenotaph of the Theotokos followed by a procession of this unique, flower decorated cenotaph.

The Convent includes the following chapels:
A) Archangels
B) Saint Nicholas of the Scardabeli family
C) Saint Katherine & Saint Paraskevi and
D) Panagia Eleousa "Axion Esti"

Where small celebrations take place in the memory of the Saints.

Solemn vigils are performed continuously and the Convent follows the rituals of Mount Athos. Divine Liturgy takes place every Sunday as well as on important celebrations and quite often vigils take place.

The nuns engage in knitting bishops' officiating robes, iconography, handcrafts, hospitality, agriculture and gardening. The Convent includes an operational laboratory for the preservation of the portable icons. For many years the Convent engaged in philanthropic and missionary activities amidst difficult times. Christ's love and forgiveness are mirrored on the faces of every member of the sisterhood who constitute as attractive role models for every hard working Christian.

Visits to the Convent are daily from 7.00am to 14.00pm and from 17.00pm to 21.00pm.

Additional information can be obtained from:
Holy Nun Andrianne
Mother Superior of the Convent of St. Andrew the Apostle of Milapidia
28100 Peratata Cephalonia
Tel : 0671 0 69398

For information concerning the Museum contact: 
the Director, Mr. Constantine Staveris tel. 0671 0 69700

* Milapidia is the name of the Convent locale, owed to a unique tree that grows in the area as a result of cross-grafting apple -"milo" - and pear -"apidi" - trees. The miraculous icon of the Holy Virgin was found under such a tree.