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April 22, 2020

Three Cave Churches of Mount Oeta

Mount Oeta is a mountain in Central Greece. A southeastern offshoot of the Pindus range, it is 2,152 m (7,060 ft) high. Along this mountain are cave churches dedicated to the Mother of God and the Holy Martyr Jerusalem (also known as Arsali).

1. Cave Church of Panagia Prousiotissa in Vardates

The Cave Church of Panagia Prousiotissa is located opposite the village of Vardates. In 1711 an icon of the Panagia was found here in a miraculous manner, which led to the construction of a church. There are remarkable frescoes from 1711 and 1748. According to local tradition, the name Prousiotissa for the icon came about because it was believed that the icon came from Prusa in Asia Minor. The church is surrounded by a monastery complex. It's primary feast day is August 23rd and Bright Tuesday. It was recently renovated by railway workers and serves as a shrine for them. Railway workers took over the church under their protection after a train derailed. The train hung on the cliff above Panagia Prousiotissa and all the passengers were saved. Since then, while the train was running, as it passed by the church, it would whistle for its protectress.

2. Cave Church of Saint Jerusalem (Arsali) in Ypati

The Cave Church of Saint Jerusalem (Arsali) is located above the town of Ypati in a steep area (altitude of 1150 m.) which one climbs with chains for about two hours. The church has some frescoes. It celebrates twice a year: on September 4th when her memory is honored, and on Bright Thursday, when Christians ascend (only men that day according to local tradition) on Bright Wednesday and spend the night in honor of the Saint, while in Ypati the same night the women and children light fires at the main crossroads, to burn the old wreaths, dancing and singing traditional songs. During the Revolution of 1821, Arsali was the stronghold and meeting point of the military leaders of the region. Only males participate in the celebration of Arsali, because according to tradition, the meetings of the klefts were held there to make decisions for the Struggle, and sometimes when a woman was found in this area out of deceit on this day, the celebration was combined with a fatal accident. On Thursday morning, the "Arsaliotes" perform a Divine Liturgy and then descend to Ypati, where the Ypataites welcome them at Perivolia with live music. A dance and folk music festival follow in the square of Ypati.

3. Cave Church of Saint Jerusalem (Agiarsali) in Tithorea

The Cave Church of Saint Jerusalem (Agiarsali or Gersali) is located on a steep rock of Parnassos. Inside, the 13th century church has an arch, a stone structure and a stone iconostasis with newer images. Above the cavernous church there is another cave called “the cell of the grandfather". It seems that an ascetic monk from Jerusalem lived in this cave. It celebrates on Bright Friday, the day on which the Life-Giving Spring is celebrated.