Sacred Spaces: Monastery of Panagia Elona

Photo by C. Cummings. Via


Located on a rocky crag of Mount Parnon, at an altitude of 650 meters, is the Monastery of Panagia Elona.  “The crag rises inside the Dafnon gorge, one of the many steep, wild gorges carved by the Dafnias River.” The Monastery is an impressive feat of architecture and one of Arcadia’s most amazing monuments.  Built in the 14th century, the Monastery is dedicated to the Dormition of the Virgin Mary. 

The Monastery’s history can be traced back to 1300.  “According to tradition, the icon of Panagia Vrefocratousa was found here and the first two monks settled in to protect it.”  The icon, one of the evangelist Luke’s creations, features the Virgin Mary and is made from beeswax and mastic.  Apparently, shepherds in the area saw a light shining from an inaccessible point up in the mountain.  Eventually, it was discovered that the light was coming from an oil lamp illuminating an image: the icon.  

Tales of the icon’s power spread throughout the Ottoman Empire.  The area around the monastery saw its economy flourish and battles fought in the region saw the Empire victorious; feats which have been attributed to the power of the icon. 

 It is unknown how the Monastery came to be known as the Monastery of Panagia Elona.  One theory is that it was named after the area the icon of the Virgin was found. “The official patriarchal document that bestowed the monastery its stavropegial status refers to the monastery as “located on the site of Elona[,]”” which supports this first theory.  Other theories state that the Monastery was named after an earlier icon brought to the area or that “Elona” was the name of a nearby cave.   

Via Pinterest

The Monastery consists of many buildings on the cliff’s edge which offer spectacular views (a hanging balcony at the base of the Monastery is an especially popular spot).  There are guesthouses and bunkers, all at various levels along the crag. “Here the different levels, diadromooi, archways and stairways compose a harmonious whole building which testifies to the existence of an internal life and movement.”

There is also a small basilica (“built according to rubble masonry”) dating from 1809 (a bell tower was added in 1831).  It doesn’t have aisles, nor does it have wall paintings; only a beautifully-carved wooden screen.  “At the church’s altar area there are showcases with relics, gospels, sacred relics and dedications.”

In 1971, the Monastery was converted into a women’s monastery.  Today, it is a popular destination for pilgrims from across the world. “The monastery celebrates the feast of the Dormition on August 23, but its main feast day is the Virgin’s Presentation to the Temple on November 21.”

Tour the Monastery of Panagia Elona

The video below offers a wonderful look into the Monastery and the beautiful views surrounding it (click here to view directly on YouTube). 

Sacred Spaces Blog Series

Want to learn more about the world’s most unique and fascinating sacred spaces? Follow the links below to other pieces from our Sacred Spaces blog series!

Basilica di San Marco (Venice) | St. Issac’s Cathedral (St. Petersburg) | Monastery of the Kiev Caves (Kiev) | St. Nicholas Naval Cathedral (St. Petersburg) | The Duomo (Florence) | The Hagia Sophia (Istanbul) | Cathedral of St. Sophia (Novgorod) | Church of Our Savior on  Spilled Blood (St. Petersburg) | The Church of the Ascension (Kolomenskoye) | St. Basil’s Cathedral (Moscow) |The Churches of Kizhi Pogost


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