December 24, 2020

Venerable Agapios the New (+ 1812)

Monastery of the Philosopher in Dimitsana

Venerable Agapios the New, known in the world as Antonios Antonopoulos, also known as Agapios Papantopoulos, was from Dimitsana, a mountain village of the Peloponnese, and was born in 1753. As a youth he was educated at the Holy Monastery of the Philosopher, where he was taught by such teachers as Agapios Leonardos and Gerasimos Gounas.

The Monastery of the Philosopher is located in the ravine of the river Lousios, south of Dimitsana, in the Prefecture of Arcadia. The monastery consists of two monastic complexes, an old and a new one, which are located a short distance from each other. It is dedicated to the Dormition of the Theotokos and celebrates on the Apodosis of the feast, on August 23. The old Monastery of the Philosopher is the most historic and oldest monastery of Arcadia and one of the oldest Byzantine monuments in Greece. It was founded in 963 by John Lampardopoulos from Dimitsana, the so-called "Philosopher", who was the secretary of the emperor Nikephoros Phokas. The monastery took its name from his nickname. It was built inside a cave, above a steep ravine and today is preserved only a small church of Byzantine style of the 10th century with its remarkable frescoes. Of the rest of the monastery, only the ruins of cells and other buildings survive, as well as a cistern.

The old Monastery of the Philosopher is also known as "Hidden School" or "Secret School" (Κρυφό Σχολειό), because there was a school there during the years of Ottoman rule, which later developed into a great theological school that operated at Nea Moni in Chios. Many teachers, priests, monks, senior clergy, as well as leading figures of the Church attended this School. From it emerged four Patriarchs of Jerusalem, two Ecumenical Patriarchs, seventy Metropolitans, and many high profile ecclesiastical men (such as Ecumenical Patriarch Gregory V, Bishop Germanos of Old Patras, etc.).

The Secret School of the Monastery of the Philosopher was founded in 1764 by Agapios Leonardos and Gerasimos Gounas. They called it the Greek Museum (Ελληνομουσείο), which was a name commonly given to schools by Greek scholars under the Ottoman occupation. When the school was closed during the Orlov Revolt, Agapios followed Gerasimos Gounas to Smyrna, where he continued his studies at the prestigious school of the city, under the scholar Hierotheos Dendrinos. In Smyrna he was tonsured a monk. Later he followed Gerasimos Gounas to Chios, and finally returned to his hometown Dimitsana, where in August 1781 he became the director of his old school.

The famous School of Dimitsana at the Monastery of the Philosopher owes its reputation primarily to Agapios the New, who for 32 years performed his duties as director of the school with unique diligence, hard work and honesty. Another characteristic of Agapios, was the simplicity and austerity of his life, as we learn from his correspondence. He wrote to Anthimos Karakallos: "I live like a native of Dimitsana. Sometimes eating mallows, sometimes nettles, sometimes avronies, sometimes ayran, and sometimes only bread."

We do not have any of his writings, however his influence as an instructor was the root from which many excellent teachers and clergy of the period came forth. He reposed in peace in 1812.