March 7, 2015

Saint Laurentios of Megara, Founder of the Sacred Monastery of Phaneromenis in Salamina

St. Laurentios of Megara (Feast Day - March 7)

Our venerable father Laurentios (Lawrence) was born in Megara of Attica, in the first half of the 17th century, from simple parents Demetrios and Kyriaki, devout in their Orthodox Faith and loyal to the Church.

His secular name was Lambros Kanellos. When he came of age he married Vasilo and had two sons, John and Demetrios. With his family he lived a pious and simple life in those years under Ottoman rule.

By profession he was a farmer, but he also knew the art of building. His life was absolutely virtuous, with heartfelt traditional Orthodox piety and prayer, and graces that made him a friend of God and His saints.

For this reason, when he was with his fellow citizens in a rural area cultivating the fields, one night the Most Holy Theotokos appeared to him in a vision, instructing him to go to a place she indicated in order to build a church. This place was located in the northern part of Salamina (Salamis), opposite the beach of Megaridos called Megalo Peuko (known today as Nea Peramos). The old man decided not to execute this command, so the next night the Panagia appeared to him again, urging him in a stronger way. However, because he still had doubts, the Panagia visited him a third time and commanded him saying: "Go quickly, man, to the island I told you, to perform as I have ordered."

Then the humble old man returned awestruck to his city of Megara, and told the vision to acquaintances and friends, among whom some believed in him and others doubted, and he remained in the house indecisive.

One night the Most Holy Theotokos appeared to him again, threatening him to go to Salamina to execute her mandate.

Then he made the big decision and went to the beach to make the crossing. But there was such a big storm at sea that a boat was nowhere to be found, making it impossible for him to pass over to Salamina. While he sat thoughtful and despondent, he heard an otherworldly voice saying: "Throw your cloak into the sea, and after sitting on it it will lead you without risk to the island." With full confidence in the divine command and eliminating any fear and hesitation, he crossed the sea on the cloak and arrived safe and sound on the island of Salamina. Immediately he went to the place indicated by the Theotokos, and digging in the ruins of the prior Monastery from the 13th century with much labor, he discovered a wonderworking icon of the Mother of God, blackened from the moisture, but a true treasure for the island of Salamina and for the entire Orthodox Church.

This icon of the Most Holy Theotokos was named "Phaneromeni" ("the Revealed"), because it was revealed to the Saint precisely. The Sacred Monastery, which was then rebuilt in 1682 by the Saint with hard labor, took this name, and Lambros became a Monk and took the name Laurentios. He served as Abbot in this Monastery, and there gathered to him Hieromonks and Monks, teaching them and being an example for a godly and venerable way of life, and he made the Sacred Monastery widely known and revered in his day.

Originally he built a small church, which today honors the name of Saint Nicholas, and later he built the Katholikon, which was not painted with the excellent frescoes we admire today until after his repose.

This simple man, the venerable Laurentios, God endowed with wondrous spiritual gifts, among which was the gift of wonderworking, for the Saint worked miracles even in this life. One such miracle was the healing of the wife of an Ottoman official, whom the doctors could not cure. The reputation of Saint Laurentios, that he could heal the sick through his prayers, had reached her ears, and despite her husband's strong objections, he was invited to their home in Athens, where through prayer and the sign of the Cross on her body, he saved her from certain death. This miracle led not only to the deepest respect and gratitude of her husband, but he also gave to the Sacred Monastery an estate with olive trees, situated on the opposite side of Megara, which until now is called Vlichada, having formerly belonged to the (dilapidated) Sacred Monastery, and which this Ottoman illegally held.

The Saint lived several years in asceticism and prayer, and he reposed in the Lord on the 9th of March in 1707 (according to others March 6th, as shown by a misspelled note in a manuscript preserved in the Monastery from those years), which is the feast of the Holy Forty Martyrs of Sebaste. His son John succeeded him as Abbot, who had previously become a Monk with the name Joachim.

His commemoration was transferred to March 7th apparently by the Monks of the Monastery, so that it would not coincide with the great feast of the Holy Forty Martyrs.

The honorable skull of the Saint is encased in silver, and can be venerated in the Chapel of Saint Nicholas.

Lastly, it should be noted that the wife of Saint Laurentios became a Nun, and she took the name Vassiani.

Skull of St. Laurentios

Rejoice, imitator of the Venerable Ones, and the sacred ornament of Megara; Rejoice, divine founder, protector and patron of the Monastery of Salaminos, Father Laurentios.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

Panagia Phaneromeni of Salamina (Feast Day - August 23)

More About Panagia Phaneromeni Monastery

During the Revolution of 1821, the Monastery of Phaneromeni was a hospital for the fighters and a sanctuary for the civilians. There were days when 75,000 people were fed there. The numerous animals were sacrificed for the needs of maintenance. The forest of the Monastery was cut for sheltering and heating. But, there were days that there was no flour left to make holy bread for the Divine Liturgy. The legendary abbot of the Monastery, Gregory,  was an active member of the Filiki Eteria.

In this Monastery fighters such as Makriyannis, Tzavelas, Ypsilantis, Karaiskakis and many more were hosted and held meetings and attributed their rescue to the Panagia. Kütahı attempted repeatedly to occupy the Monastery without success. In the Monastery yard lies the grave of captain Ioannis Gouras, who was killed on 30 September 1826. Also, the library and the printing shop of Athens were hosted here.

Panagia Phaneromeni

In the 20th century the Monastery started to decline. From 1938 to 1941, Archbishop Damaskinos Papandreou of Athens and All Greece came to the Monastery under self-exile. In 1944, Metropolitan Iakovos of Megara and Salamina transformed the Monastery to female and installed a sisterhood, giving life to it. The first Abbess was Christonymphi Tsigeli. Today the nuns number 18.

In the entrance of the Monastery, towards the sea, lies the residence where the poet Angelos Sikelianos lived in 1947, given to him by Metropolitan Iakovos. Here he wrote his tragedy titled The Death of Digenis.

The illustrations of the magnificent frescoes of the Katholikon were finished by George Markos from Argos in 1735, with 3500 images. The illustrating took place under Abbot Joachim, the son of Saint Laurentios.

The miraculous icon of Panagia Phaneromeni is in the south side Chapel of Saint Nicholas, in a marble shrine built in 1897. Also located there is the tomb of Saint Laurentios together with his honorable skull.

On the south side of the Monastery is the Chapel of the Holy Apostles, which was dedicated to the memory of the old eponymous church established in 1611. In here is kept high art of silver and gilded reliquaries containing relics. There are sacred objects of great worth, vestments, many manuscripts in Turkish and Greek, a manuscript of a Gospel, a wooden shrine dating back to 1744, a candelabra of the Byzantine/Avarite style, icons, and guns and swords of chieftains and young men of the Greek Revolution.

On the adjacent hill of the Monastery is the hermitage of Saint Laurentios.

The Monastery today has a large hostel and female nursing home, and it is dedicated to the Dormition of the Theotokos and celebrates on the 23rd of August, with festivities lasting three days.