January 2, 2019

Saint Nilos Erichiotis, also known as the Sanctified (+ 1334)

St. Nilos the Sanctified (Feast Day - January 2)

Venerable Nilos Erichiotis, also known as Nilos the Sanctified, was born in 1228 in Constantinople and was a descendant of the imperial family of Laskaris. He became a monk at a very young age at the famous Monastery of Akimiton, where he changed his name from Nicholas to Nilos upon tonsure. Many years later he went on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem.

Upon his return to Constantinople, he contradicted the Emperor Michael VIII Palaiologos, over the disputable - at the time - issue of the union of the Eastern and Western Churches. He was convicted for his confession and was abandoned in a boat to be lost at sea. Holy Providence however led him to the coast of Mount Athos, to the Monastery Iveron, where he stayed for three years as a gate-keeper.

Returning to Constantinople, he was honored by the new Emperor Andronikos Palaiologos, but he did not stay in the royal city for long. He started a new journey lasting for many years during which he visited many places in the Holy Land and then, passing through the Aegean islands, Peloponnese and Kerkyra, he arrived at Avlona in Epiros (Vlore in Albania), where he stayed for some years.

Some years later after an invitation from the residents of Thesprotia, he proceeded southwards to the area of Giromeri and settled at an old hermitage in the cave of a steep rock.

Soon, a small brotherhood of hermits were gathered near him. According to legend the hermits spotted a glittering light on the opposite mountain and upon investigation they discovered the icon of the Panagia Odegetria. It was at this site where the foundations of Giromeri Monastery were built.

Panagia Odegetria Icon

On the 2nd of January 1334, at the age of 106 years old, Saint Nilos died, after drawing up his will and nominating his successor. His body was interred a short distance from the monastery and is still there today. Some years after his death, when its translation was attempted, a bulky rock fell and covered the grave, by divine intervention. Nowadays, there is a small chapel over the grave of Saint Nilos.

Giromeri Monastery

The Holy Monastery of the Dormition in Giromeri is located in the northern part of Thesprotia, eight kilometers northeast of the city of Filiates, near the Greek-Albanian borders, built at an altitude of about 300 meters, on the western slopes of the mountain of Farmakovouni. Founded in the early 14th century (1310-1320) by Saint Nilos the Erichiotis, the Monastery of Giromeri was one of the most important monastic centers in Epiros. It formed an important monastic center and reached its greatest peak in the middle of the 16th century, a time when, according to Theodosius Zygomalas, it numbered about 300 monks. It served as as the Chair of the Patriarchal Exarchate of Giromeri. Twelve villages of the district and Filiates were within its jurisdiction. In the years under Ottoman rule, the Greek language and culture was taught in secret within the monastery, and the place was used as a “secret school” and functioned also as a clerical school for a short while.

Hermitage of St. Nilos

The katholikon, namely the central church of the monastery, is constructed of four cross-shaped columns with a domed roof, built in the 14th century and renovated in 1568, and is adorned with excellent Byzantine frescoes of the 16th century and secular style frescos of the 17th century. The gilded templon, or iconostasis, is an excellent example of woodcarving made in the 19th century. In the monastery several valuable articles are preserved, such as icons, manuscripts, prints, etc. The monastery celebrates on the 15th of August for the Dormition of the Theotokos, and on the celebration of its founder Saint Nilos, on January 2. It also celebrates festively on the Tuesday of Bright Week, for the memory of the Saints Raphael, Nicholas and Irene in whose name a chapel inside the monastery was recently constructed. At a short distance from the monastery, one can also visit the traditional villages of Giromeri, Finiki, Faneromeni, Sideris and Plaisio.

Chapel over the Grave of St. Nilos