It was a July noon in Mani, in the area outside Areopolis village. And it was hot. Very hot.
I passed by some coastal villages and ascended to Oitilo village searching for a monastery that I had seen on the military map.
It was not hard to find it. There was a sign. If you come here you can see it too. You can see it while you will ascend towards the beautiful Oitilo village and just before you reach the village’s houses. You will follow an intersection to the right which leads you to the historic Ntekoulou Monastery.
I have seen the monastery written elsewhere as “Ntekoulon”. I did not care much that afternoon. I was feeling very hot, I had almost been fried inside the jeep and I was looking for some shade to cool off.
One little girl showed me the entrance, she gave me the key. I saw none else around. There were many local cactus bushes (frangosikies in Greek) in the yard and stone walls burned by the summer sun. The view to Limeni bay from the courtyard of the monastery was blurred, that time. But it was great.
I walked inside enjoying the soothing coolness of the temple. It is one of the few monasteries in Mani and it maintains a very picturesque look with old stone buildings around the long-standing but very well preserved church.
The monastery was built in the 16th century and here, at the premises of the monastery, the leaders of Mani did consultations and secret agreements with the Russians to launch the revolution of 1770 – known as the “Orlov’s revolution”.
I sat in a pew and enjoyed the silence. The patina of the oil and time over the wooden handles gave off a pleasant, comforting smell.
The church is dedicated to three holy figures: the Life Giving Spring, Agios Nikolaos and Agios Panteleimon. The altar is elegant, wooden carved and the icons of its decoration are the work of the post-byzantine iconographer Elias Kouloufakos, from Nomitsis village.
The walls of the church are full of well-preserved frescoes with vivid, brilliant colors. They were painted In 1765 by the painter Antonis Maniatis Dimangelou, from Thalames village and among the paintings there are scenes of the Second Advent and of the Hell with the sinners, punished in torture. The art is not great but the excitement of the artist was trully great. The colors are superb. Fascinating topics … He painted being in great inspiration.
I looked up the roof painting. The Pantocrator on the ceiling is very interesting as it is surrounded by the zodiac circle. I saw the symbols of the zodiac, framing the form of god, some monstrous animals, scorpions, crabs, rams. ” The composition smells a little paganism…”, I thought. A thin little voice took me out of my thoughts.
“Did you see the signs?” asked the little girl. She stood on the stone threshold and stared at me all that time. She was probably staying at one of the neighboring farmhouses.
“Yes … the signs … “I said.
“You’re … what are you? … “What’s your zodiac sign, huh? …” asked laughing somewhat impudently.
“Cancer …” I said.
“Aaah … I’m … Libra… “, she answered.
“You came here to see the zodiac signs? “, I asked.
“Noo … not at all… “she said with great irony on her face. “I watch them better ‘on TV … “
True. Well it’s right, good answer, I deserved it, I was asking for trouble…
I left with a small salute to the monastery.
“I know even the ascendent …» she shouted while I was leaving.
I left before her parents wake up. Something told me that they would not show me the zodiac signs…
Not at all…
Where am I?
The Ntekoulou Monastery is located in Mani, just outside Oitilo village and next to the main road that connects Aeropoli village with Kalamata town. The best and quickest way to reach the monastery is by car, driving on the central road through Sparta and Gythion.
(The residents of the buildings adjacent to the monastery have the key of the church).
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