The history of the Monastery of Longovarda

The history of the Monastery

NOTE: This section is taken verbatim from the leaflet in English issued by the Monastery.

The monastery of Longobarda is situated towards the North of Paros. Half way along the road from Parikia to Naousa, it can be seen, on the right, high up, between two hills known as Pachnas and Korakas, whose hill-slopes form a semi-circle around it. Longobarda is the name of the locality.

At least as early as the 15th century there was a country chapel at this place named Panagia of the Golden Spring (Panagia means All holy — i.e. the BVM, the Blessed Virgin Mary). The name of the chapel is linked with a spring — a source of holy water — which used to spring from ihe earth a few metres away behind the sanctuary of the chapel. In the 17th century the chapel came into the possession of the widow of a priest at Naousa called Christophoros Corphiatis, who in 1638 gave it to her grandson Christophoros Palaeologos, a hieromonk (priest-monk) to be restored by him and converted into a monastery. This was the first foundation of the monastery.

As soon as it began to function, the new monastery attracted the attention of the people of Paros. In 1652 the monastery was given recognition as a patriarchal monastery by the seal of the Ecumenical Patriarch Paesios I, and soon after, in 1657, it was rebuilt from the foundations by the hieromonk Joakeim Palaeologos, with the collaboration of his aforementioned brother Christophoros, their third brother Nicholas, and of their parents (see inscription on the lintel over the door of the church).

After the first foundation the new church and the monastery became known by the title The Exceedingly holy Theotokos, the Life-receiving Spnng (Theotokos = Godbearer, i.e. Mother of God). This festival is celebrated on the Friday in Easter week in all Orthodox churches throughout the world. On this day an historic event, a miracle, is commemorated, which took place in the fifth century AD in a forest near Constantinople. A devout soldier walking in a lonely place found a blind man seated by the roadside, who said he was dying of thirst. He tried without success to find water in a forest nearby, and then he heard a woman’ s voice calling him by his name Leo, and telling him that he was destined to become emperor of Byzantium. She revealed a spring of water, by which the blind man’s sight was restored, and later many sick persons recovered their health, and dead brought back to life. When Leo became emperor (known as Leo the First), he built there a church in honour of The Theotokos, the Life-receiving Spring.

The first hegoumenos (leader, i.e. prior, abbot) was Joakeim Palaeologos. He was succeeded in that office by the hieromonks Chrysanthos (1689-1696). Parthenios (1696-1731), Neophytos Kaloudas (1751-1787) and Joannikios Rangousis (1787-1800). The monastery soon began to prosper, specially during the period when Neophytos Kaloudas was hegoumen, and it won the respect of the people of Paros, who showed their affection by giving memorial offerings for the eternal rest of their souls. However, the monastery was also endangered by the cupidity of a few who, disregarding the fact that such offerings are sacred and inviolable, attempted to appropriate them. At the request of Neophytos this danger was met by the threat of a penalty promulgated on 12-12-1778 by the Ecumenical Patriarch Sophronios II.

In 1798 the Ecumenical Patriarch Gregorios V (later to be hanged by the Turks at the front door of the patriarchate on Easter Day 1821) renewed the patriarchal prerogatives of Longobarda at the request of local authorities at Naousa who foresaw future dangers. But in these troubled years when Greece was preparing itself for the fight for freedom and pirates were making invasions in the islands of the Aegean sea and neighbours were trying to appropriate the monastery’ s fields, the monastery was left without monks from 1800 to 1825.

Second period (1825-2001)
However the day would come, when it would be providentially renewed by a hieromonk named Philotheos Georgiou. He had lived on Mount Athos but when the Kollybades (a spiritual movement) were exiled from the Holy Mountain, he moved to the Peloponnese. After the death of his brother Hierotheos, who was also his spiritual father, he became hegoumen of a monastery at Kynouria known as The Aromas of the Life-receiving Spring. With five other monks he left that monastery in order to escape from the Egyptian general Ibrahim Pasha, who had arrived to help the Turks to subdue the Greek rebellion. Sailing to Icaria in the Aegean sea, they asked the captain to stop for a while at Paros, as they wished to greet a friend of theirs from Mount Athos the hieromonk Joasaph the Parian. On disembarking at the harbour of Naousa, they providentially found him there on the shore. He invited them to stay on the island and to remain in the monastery of Longobarda.

With the common consent of the leading men of the community of Naousa they took up residence on September 25, 1825. This was the second foundation of Longobarda.

Thus began a bright new period in the history of the monastery. As a result of the holy life and energy and hard work of these fathers, it became one of the best known monasteries of Greece. Gradually all the buildings which now surround the church were built (cells, refectory etc.) ending with the completion of the east wing in 1905. New purchases of property were made with the personal wealth that they brought with them, augmented by contributions made by other donors. Apart from other activities they occupied themselves with icon-painting, wood-carving, high-quality book binding (from 1935), and of course with agriculture, wine production, cheese-making, bee-keeping, candle-making etc.

Under the guidance of their hegournens (Philotiieos I Georgiou, Hierotheos I Bosyniotis, and later of Joakeim Agouros, Philotheos II Bosyniotis and his brother Hierotheos II Bosyniotis, nephews of Hierotheos I), they created a model coenobium (a coenobium is a monastery in which a “coenos bios” = common life is shared together by the monks) which exemplified the monastic ideals of ascetic training, poverty (sharing possessions in common, like the first Christians [Acts of Apostles 4, 32]), chastity and obedience, fasting, prayer without ceasing (I Thess. 5, 17), service of God in divine worship, service of the brotherhood and philanthropy. After the disaster of Asia Minor (1922) the monastery was giving food daily to 150 refugees. Along with all this the fathers exercised a wide apostolate by the example of their holy life, by cultivating the holy practices of confession and absolution, by preaching and by making persistent efforts for the preservation of Orthodox faith and tradition.

Later St. Nectarius (1846-1920), (well-known in the Greek Orthodox Church for numerous miracles of healing) stayed for a while in Paros and became acquainted with the brotherhood. It was due to his advice that Konstantinos (later to be given his monastic name Philotheos) Zervakos came here in 1907. Fr. Philotheos III became hegoumen in 1930 and held this office until his death (8-5-1980) at the age of 96. Here in Paros the Elder Philotheos is honoured as a saint; outside Paros also he is recognized by many as one of the outstanding saintly figures of the church in recent times. In his days the influence of the monastery spread worldwide throughout the Greek Orthodox Church. By the time of the occupation of Greece during the second world war, the monastery had come to number about 40 monks.

During this period it saved the lives of many Parians from death by hunger, providing them three times a week with food and help. It took part in the patriotic resistance to the Italian and German occupation by giving help and even hospitality to allied soldiers, at the risk of the lives of the fathers. Once the monastery was rescued from an explosion that had been ordered by the Italian commandant of the Cyclades. Two fathers also were sent to prison. Nicholas Stellas (a young patriot who heroically sacrificed his life for the nation in Paros during this period) and also his family, were under the spiritual direction of the Elder Philotheos.

In 1943 British commandos had sabotaged a German airfield which was under construction. The German military commander decided to execute 125 young Parians in reprisal for the implication of some unknown Greeks in the sabotage. Thanks to the miraculous intervention of the Panagia, by the intercession of the holy Elder Philotheos the young men were saved. This miracle is celebrated every year on July 23.

There followed a period of progressive diminution of the number of monks. After the departure from this life of the Elder Philotheos, other fathers carried on the tradition of Longobarda. Archimandrites Damianos Costopoulos (1980-1983 [died]), Hierotheos III Nikolakis (1983-1994) and Epiphanios Hatzopoulos (2000-2001 [d.]) in turn became hegoumens. During 1994-1999 the monastery was governed by an administrative committee of three monks appointed by the bishop under the presidency of his protosynkellos (his chief adminstrative representative) Archimandrite Alexander Mostratos.

Third period (2001 – …)
After the sudden death of hegoumen Epiphanios from a heart attack on 19-4-2001 – the day before the monastery’ s festival – Fr. Gregory Zoumis, hegoumen of the Monastery of Docheiariou on Mount Athos, a Parian by birth, who had just arrived with other monks in order to join in the celebration of the festival, was put in charge of the monastery by the bishop Ambrosios II. At his invitation a new brotherhood, spiritual children of the former Metropolitan of Fiorina bishop Augustinos Kantiotis arrived with his blessing when only three aged fathers had remained. On Sunday 27 May 2001 – feast of the holy fathers of first Ecumenical Synod in Nicaea (325 AD) and saints Elladius and John the Russian – Fr. Chrysostomos Pichos was elected as hegoumen. Thus was fulfilled the prediction of the holy Elder Philotheos Zervakos, who on being asked on the eve of his departure from this world, to whom he would bequeath Longobarda, replied “l leave it to Father Augustinos”. As is well-known Fr. Augustinos, a Parian, had been his spiritual child from the age of 10 years old.

The church of the monastery belongs to the type of free cross with a dome. The wall paintings passed through 3-4 stages of corrections. The ones we see today are painted over other wall paintings and date from the middle of 17th century, the end of 18th, the middle of 19th (1877) and 1932 (Renaissance style). In the dome according to Orthodox tradition is Christ Almighty, surrounded in the second circle by the holy angels. In the third circle are the prophets of the Old Testament and in the four pendentives the four evangelists. In the choir are scenes of the life of Jesus Christ (Baptism, Descent into Hell, Resurrection, Transfiguration etc.) and of the life of BVM. (Her Presentation in temple). On the walls of the nave are the 24 icons of the Acathist Hymn, a liturgical poem in honour of BVM. Below them nearer to the believers (as mediators to the Lord, our models and helpers) are the saints, martyrs and hermits. In the apse is the Theotokos, Ampler than the heavens (Platytera) and on the walls of the sanctuary the divine liturgy in heaven and holy bishops.

First icon on the iconostasis (templum) is the Theotokos the Life-receiving Spring, with its ex voto offerings. The icons of Christ, All-Saints, Holy Trinity etc. and the big cross above with the accompanying icons of the Virgin Mary and St. John Evangelist (in the terminology of iconography called lypitera, i.e. plaintives) are works (dated 1859) of a monk of the monastery, deacon Hierotheos Praoudakis. He had studied in the Polytechnic at Athens and in Paris and became bishop in Rethymnon in Crete. The woodcarvings (1889) are by his younger brother Methodios. The door to the sanctuary, the oldest icon of the iconostasis dated 1766, shows the archangel Michael taking the soul of a man, who was unmerciful and unrepentant, and in the right corner the hegoumen Neophytus engaged in prayer with his chaplet in his hand.

Visits: The monastery opens from 9.30 a.m. to 12.00 for men, properly dressed.

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