A Greek Monastery
In our family’s travels in Greece in the 1960’s we visited a lot of Greek Orthodox churches, monasteries, and ruined cities. All of them seemed terribly old to me as a young teen ager, which of course, they were. One of these was built against a tall vertical cliff. The approach was via a trail perhaps a half mile long. My mother rode a donkey but the rest of us walked. The area was wooded and the main door of the building just suddenly appeared in front of us. The door was made of very large, old wooden timbers. My Dad pulled on the heavy iron ring used as a knocker.
Boom, Boom, Boom!
In a minute or so the door opened and a bearded older man wearing the clothes of an Orthodox monk (a black robe) invited us inside. The entry room was not large, with stairs leading upward and closed doors inward with barely enough room for the seven of us. The monk excused himself and disappeared through one of the doors, coming back in a few minutes with a tray holding seven small shot glasses filled with a liquor. I had no idea what it was; brandy perhaps. Even Melodie, who was seven or eight at the time, drank hers (which we all were surprised at). This reception alone was memorable in a family where alcohol was infrequent.
Eventually we were shown to dormitory rooms – one for men and one for women – which contained metal framed single beds, each with a stack of green US Army stamped blankets. I’m sure we were offered food – it was late in the day – but I do not recall supper. We were in bed as soon as it was dark as there weren’t any lights or heat in the old stone building. The weight of blankets seemed suffocating, but it got very cold and were all necessary. At midnight my Dad woke me up and took me to the chapel where they were celebrating midnight mass. There were quite a few brothers, perhaps fifty in all, and the most fascinating things to me were the chanting and the incense cantor swinging and releasing puffs of smoke.
I am not sure where this monastery is, although as cold as it was it must have been somewhere in northwestern Greece in the mountains. I’ve looked for photos of the front door, as I believe I could recognize it, but the views available on the internet now are likely very different – they probably have a paved road and parking lot and a sign to make it easier for tourists to find them. The image shown is Mega Spelio, which we did visit on that trip.
Growing up as a preacher’s kid was always interesting.