The ideal destination for religious tourism....
The Prefecture of Kavala constitutes one of the most significant cradles of Christianity, the very first place in Europe where St. Paul preached the word of Christ and converted the first people that embraced this new religion which was destined to bring tremendous changes on the planet.
Apostle Paul visited Greece during his second sojourn that was launched in the spring of 49 AD in Antioch of Syria. After crossing Galatia and Phrygia he reached Troy. There he had a vision in which a man from Macedonia urged him to travel to his homeland to preach there.
In that manner, he reached Neapoli, the contemporary town of Kavala, one of the most important ports in the Balkans at the time, which had been founded in the 7th century BC by residents from the nearby island of Thassos.
Along with Silas, Luke and young Timothy, Paul took the Egnatia Road and in a few hours reached the town of Philippoi, the most significant Roman town of Eastern Macedonia at the time.
Dedicated to his mission, St. Paul launched his sermons next to the purifying waters of River Zygaktis, a place of worship for the residents of Philippoi. It is there where he met a group of women who listened to his teachings with attention and interest. One of the women, Lydia, a person with a bright spirit, immediately realized that the God mentioned in the teachings of Apostle Pavlos was going to change her life forever. She promptly asked to be baptized. Lydia was the first European to be baptized a Christian.
A church was erected at that point – a place of baptism, now called the baptistery of St. Lydia, one of the most important pilgrimages in Greece.
Because of his teachings and the ensuing massive conversion to Christianity, as well as the miracles he performed creating great commotion at the town of Philippoi that was held by the Romans at the time, Paul along with Silas were taken to the Agora and brought before the People’s Court. The judges, claiming that the law prohibited the preaching of new religions in a Roman town – since that would bring confusion and division among the citizens – sentenced them to jail.
After they were flogged, they were locked up inside a small water cistern. The “jail” of Apostle Paul can still be found today at the same spot.
Nevertheless, there are many more important pilgrimages that evidence the religious sentiments of the locals, some of which are listed below.
THE MONASTERY OF APOSTLE SILAS
It is located at a distance of 3 kilometres off the town of Kavala. According to tradition, Apostle Paul and his companions Luke, Silas and Timothy reposed here during their visit at Philippoi. This is evidenced by a marble column on the grounds of the monastery.
In 1937, Chrysostomos, the Metropolitan of Philippoi at the time, erected here the first church. The monastery was built in 1946 and was inaugurated in 1956. Religious celebrations are held here on 30 July each year.
THE MONASTERY OF METAMORPHOSIS OF THE SAVIOUR
It sits on a verdant spot surrounded by the settlements of Makryhori, Elafohori, Dysvato and Steno, on the mountainous area of River Nestos, at a distance of 11 kilometres from the town of Chrysoupolis.
In 1969 it was established as a convent and was inaugurated in 1977.
SACRED RELICS: The miraculous icon of the Metamorphosis of the Saviour, brought here in 1922 by refuges from Asia Minor.
The Monastery holds celebrations on the day of Aghios Panteleimon (27 July), Aghios Nektarios (9 November) and the Metamorphosis of the Saviour (6 August).
THE MONASTERY OF AGHIOS PANTELEIMON – CHRYSOKASTRO
The Monastery was built in 1978 on the hill of Chrysokastro near the town of Eleftheroupolis of Paggaio. In 1981, the first convent was founded here adopting the discipline of Mt. Athos. The Monastery houses a copy of the miraculous icon of Panagia Triherousa, the original being kept at a Monastery on Mt. Athos.
MONASTERY OF ST. JAMES PAGGAIOU NIKISIANIS
The convent was founded in 1985 on the Nikisiani hill, near the town of Eleftheroupolis. The central church is dedicated to Panagia Gorgoupikoo originating from Mt. Athos. It is here where the miraculous icon of St. James is kept. The crucifixion of Christ is re-enacted here on Good Friday each year. The Monastery is very active in charities throughout the entire region of Paggaio. Furthermore, high level theology seminars are held here with the participation of university professors.
MONASTERY OF THE DORMITION OF THE MOTHER OF GOD (PANAGIA PAGGAIOTISSA) AT HORTOKOPI
It is built on a hill at a distance of two kilometers from the settlement of Hortokopi. It is a convent founded in 1978. The nuns are occupied with icon painting and land cultivation. This is where the miraculous icon of the Mother of God is housed. The Monastery holds celebrations on 15 August each year, on the day of the Dormition of the Mother of God.
MONASTERY OF PANAGIA ECOPHOENISSA
The monastery is built on a cliff on Mt. Paggaio, on the border with the Prefecture of Serres. It was founded circa the 10th century. There is a reference to the monastery in a document dated 1320. It flourished during the Middle Ages (around the latter part of the 15th century). Up until 1843 it operated at the Unique School of Common Letters. It was destroyed by the Turks (early part of the 16th century), again by a fire (in the middle part of the 19th century), by the Bulgarians (1917) and during WWII (1941-1945).
It was rebuilt after the end of WWII. Nevertheless, the monastery church was built in the 19th century on the spot where an 11th century church used to stand.
MONASTERY OF ARCHANGEL MICHAEL
It is located at a distance of 37 kilometres from Limenas of Thassos. It belongs of the Monastery of Philotheou of Mt. Athos since 1287. It became a monastery in 1974.
SACRED RELIC: The monastery houses a piece of the Holy Nail of Christ’s crucifixion, gifted by Byzantine Emperor Nikiforos Votaneiatis (1078-1081) to Philotheos Monastery at Mt. Athos.
SACRED RELICS: The monastery houses the holy relics of Aghios Arsenios Farasiotis, Aghios Ephraim the Martyr of Nea Makri and Aghios Ioannis Rossos.
It is a convent and holds celebrations on 18 November based on the Old Calendar, since it belongs of Mt. Athos.
MONASTERY OF THE DORMITION OF THE MOTHER OF GOD OF THASSOS
It is built at the 6th kilometer from Skala Marion. In 1813 it was a chapel, but in 1977 it was transformed into a monastery which was inaugurated in 1981.
SACRED RELIC: It is here where the miraculous icon of the Dormition of the Mother of God is housed. It is a male monastery, celebrating on the day of the Dormition of the Mother of God (15 August).
MONASTERY OF AGHIOS PANTELEIMON PRINOU THASSOU
It is built at a location surrounded by lush vegetation, almost at the top of Mt. Ypsario, at an altitude of 770 meters, above the picturesque village of Kazaviti. Having being a hermitage since 1843, it was transformed into a convent in 1987.
SACRED RELIC: The miraculous icon of St. Panteleimon. The monastery holds celebrations on 27 July, the day of St. Panteleimon.