September 5, 2019

Monastery of the Prophet Zechariah in Grammos of Kastoria

The Monastery of the Prophet Zechariah is located 63 kilometers west of Kastoria, near the Greek-Albanian border, in the region of the Grammos mountain range, in a picturesque location, 1200 meters above sea level, in a village named after the monastery called Agiou Zacharia.

This hard to reach location was originally a monastic settlement established in the late 16th or early 17th century that evolved into a surrounding village, which in 1928 had 31 inhabitants, but during World War 2 it was completely abandoned.

The church of the monastery is a single room, arched with a dome and externally cruciform, while the narthex to the west of the church appears to be a later construction, from 1921, all stone-built and covered with slate roofs.

The octagonal dome of the temple is made of carved stone and on each side carries a blind arch in the window area, with a thin slit in the middle for illumination and the arches of the windows bear radially laid bricks, while a series of bricks erases the outside arc.

The temple has three arched windows at regular distances between them, on the south side of the temple, with the same thin slits that illuminate the interior slightly.

On the east side of the temple, high on the pediment, there is another similar slit without border.

There is also another in the center of the sanctuary that complement the lighting in the temple.

Another window, probably opened later, is on the south side of the temple.

Above the lintel of the entrance to the temple, there is an inscription that is unfortunately very damaged and only a few words can be read, most with great difficulty, which certainly bear witness to the inscription, but they are not enough to draw any conclusions.

In the place of the inscription where the date should have been, it is completely destroyed.

For the possible dating of this monument only some morphological elements could help us, including:

* Absolute lack of sculptural decoration, there is not a single element, which is also due to financial hardship in times of slavery.

* Lack of brick decoration, as there are only four brick belts and some bricks in the arches of the windows only in the nave of the sanctuary.

* Use of masonry except for the dome and the arch of the sanctuary.

* The lighting fixtures of the temple, which are confined to narrow slits, instead of windows, with a wider opening in the interior, which helped fighters to capture a view in battle.

The above indicates that it probably dates to the Turkish occupation, which is further confirmed by the frescoes inside that date to this time, though it is diffuclt to be accurate with their dating due to the smoke and salts.

The church celebrates Great Vespers and a Divine Liturgy every year on the feast of the Prophet Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, which is September 5th.