The historical monastery is idyllically located in the heart of Roumeli (Central Greece), surrounded by chestnut trees, firs, and sycamores, just 4 km north of Artotina. It is situated on the Nafpaktos/Lidoriki – Pentagii – Artotina – Grammeni Oxia – Gardiki Phthiotis road axis.
The picturesque village Grammeni Oxia is situated to the north of the monastery, while opposite to it to the east, the imposing massif of Vardoussia rises. River Evinos flows from the roots of the slope on which the monastery is built.
The monastery’s building complex comprises the church of St John the Forerunner, the cell of Athanasios Diakos, the Archontariki (guest house), and a modern building that serves as a dining room for the pilgrims. Both the church and the cell of Diakos have been declared listed monuments (R.D. 644/1965). On the south side of Diakos’ cell, there is an inscription that reads:
“CENTENNIAL CENTRAL COMMITTEE, 1830 – 1930.
HERE LIVED CLOISTERED THE CHILD OF ARTOTINA, ATHANASIOS DIAKOS”.
The inscription was placed by the Committee in 1930. This coincided with the occasion of the official unveiling of Athanasios Diakos’ bust in the square of Artotina, by a government delegation.
The chapel of St Panteleimon is considered to be an extension of the monastery, along with the oratory of St Paraskevi, half a kilometre below the monastery. The monastery also includes the “secret school”, remains of which have been discovered about a kilometre away, in an inaccessible and invisible location within a thick forest.
A date carved on a cornerstone of the Archontariki gives evidence of the existence of the monastery since at least 1728, while the church was built in its present form in 1806, as an inscription carved above the eastern entrance suggests:
“1806. Hasan Agha, Mehmed Agha. Property of Gerasimos, Iakovos, Panayiotis, Pagkratis, Anagnostis Fasitsas, Triotis” (written in capital, illegible letters)
The first two names belong to the Ottoman aghas of Lidoriki and the reason why they are mentioned is in exchange for the permission they gave to rebuild and expand the church in its present form and dimensions. The next four names belong to the friars of the monastery. Anagnostis Fasitsas was the principal man (kodjabashi) of Artotina, who got the permission, while Triotis was the master builder. According to historical records, the friar Pagkratis signed as “Papa-Pagkratios from the monastery of St John the Forerunner”, along with Anagostis Fasitsas the “avowal of the villagers on the holding of Koutzikis”. The declaration refers to the father of the famous warlord of Artotina, Andritsos Safakas. The monastery is in possession of large stretches of fertile land that used to be cultivated by sharecroppers from Artotina, as well as of many fruit-bearing trees (mostly chestnut and walnut trees). The monastery also featured a watermill (“Monks’ Mill”), which was destroyed in the 1850s, and a large fir forest (“Kalogeriko”), which is exploitable today.
At the church of St John and in the premises of the monastery, the service and other events have been taking place for many years on the feast day of Artotina, in August 29. On that day, hundreds of visitors from nearby villages flock to the monastery.
Every year, on the Saturday that is closest to the feast day of St John the Forerunner, in June 24, a celebration dedicated to apiarists is organised and a service is conducted in the monastery. After the service, near the water fountain, in a special area designed for that purpose, regional treats are offered and festivities are held.
Source: Artotina Association “Athanasios Diakos”