December 12, 2017

Skete of Saint Spyridon on the Island of Halki

The Skete of Saint Spyridon is located in the southeastern part of the island of Halki, at the steep cape that borders the so-called "Tsamlimani" (Pine Shore) of the island, due to the dense pine trees that reach to the shore. It was built in the second half of the 19th century by the anchorite Arsenios.

The monk Arsenios the Ganochorites, born Anastasios in 1840 in Ganochoros of Thrace, lived in an Athonite dependency at the Phanar. In 1862 he decided to come to Halki, to the forested mountains where many ascetics lived around a famous spiritual father, Eustratios. He stayed for five years near him, was ordained a deacon and priest and archimandrite, and became the priest at the trade school of Halki, at the Monastery of Panagia Kamariotissa.

After the death of his spiritual father Eustratios in 1863, and the monk Makarios of the 40 Churches settled in the cell of Eustratios, Metropolitan Anthimos of Seleucia urged Father Arsenios to establish his own skete. In 1868 he built his own skete at the cape above the "Port of the Panagia", as today's Tsamlimani was called. The skete was dedicated to Saint Spyridon the Wonderworker (in Turkish today it is known as Terki Dünya Manastırı).

Originally, he made a humble hut. Then, he built a wooden chapel with two cells, opened cisterns and wells, and flattened the area, with the support of the national benefactor, George Zarifes. The cemetery of the skete was made near the shore. Soon, pilgrims began to come seeking his blessing. He was also the spiritual father of many students of Halki Theological School.

In the great earthquake of 1894 the skete was flattened. But with the help of many wealthy believers, Arsenios rebuilt the skete twice bigger than it was previously, in its present form. His reputation was so great that even Sultan Abdul Hamid II financially contributed with 200 pounds of gold. Arsenios was respected by the Muslims also and during Ramadan they sent him gifts. Arsenios died on 2 February 1906. In 1913 his relic was transferred to a crypt beneath the Holy Altar of the katholikon of his skete which Arsenios himself had prepared, where it is still located.

Before 1919 Archimandrite Konstantios lived at the skete. Sophronios, a monk and iconographer, lived there for many years. He was followed by Archimandrite Kyprianos Stylianides from Caesarea in Cappadocia in 1933, who was injured fatally by robbers in 1964 and died at the age of 84. Since then only one guard, Theodoros Rokkas, has remained in the skete.

The few Romioi (Greeks) of Halki do not often visit the skete, but many Turks come in with votive offerings, putting olive oil in Arsenio's lamps and lighting the candles of the chapel. Many miracles take place at this church through the intercessions of Saint Spyridon, as evidenced by the canes, which the lame left behind after they were healed.