The Monastery of the Holy Apostles: Kato Karkasa
The Monastery was probably founded during the Second Byzantine period (961-1204) by Circassian Christians who moved into the area and gave their name to it (Karkasa). From the original monastery only the primary church and ruins of the cells survive. Inside, the walls are covered in paintings that they have plastered over to protect them, as you can see on one of the photos. Kato Karkasa was a small monastery that supervised the neighboring monasteries of Pano Karkasa and Panagia Vagionea. Many important religious personalities lived and wrote in Karkasa. The low wall around it with a gate and bell and the building to the side are very recent editions.
In the late 14th century, the scholar monk, writer and theologian Nilos Damilas lived in the monastery. He was known for his action against the pro-Western theologians of the era and left important writings.
The area around Kato Karkasa is wild and beautiful with rock formations and pine trees, a very nice area for walking!
Kato (Lower) Karkasa is only 423 meters from Pano Karkasa, but there is only a disused footpath to get to it. To visit, drive up from Nea Anatoli through the greenhouses. There are no signs to follow, and the maps are not accurate, so check google maps or ask a local. The last part of the road there is a dusty road that starts out ok, but gets worse the further you get. Officially it’s jeep-only road. When driving a normal car, it’s best to just leave it when the road gets worse and walk the rest. After Kato Karkasa the road continues, but is very bad with large rocks sticking out everywhere, so only drive that way if you have a good jeep. It is a beautiful part though, and the road ends up near Myrtos in the end.
The monastery of Sotiras-Christ the Savior: Pano Karkasa
From the original monastery, only the central little church and some ruins of its cells remain. It is a single-naved, barrel-vaulted church. Also here there are frescos on all the walls, covered by the same plasters. This church is newer than the church of the Holy Apostles of Kato (lower) Karkasa. The buildings (ruins now) on the west of the church were used as a shelter during the German occupation by residents of various villages in the region who were in need. One of the outer buildings is used by the local shepherd, and his dogs guard the church as well, barking constantly and circling around me the whole time..
To get there you take a dusty road that comes of the main road just before you get to Anatoli. There are (also) no signs, so figure out beforehand which road to take, and where to go at every crossing. Most of the road is ok to drive with a normal car if you go very slow, but it would be a good idea to do it with a 4WD as officially the road is only for 4WD/jeeps. After the rains start in autumn/winter, the road gets worse, then a 4WD is essential. There is also a foot path that comes from Anatoli and takes about 45 minutes to walk (from down to up as a small sign next to the road says). The road stops after the church, so you have drive back the same way. The views from up here are beautiful!
Panagia Vagionea – Our Lady of the palm trees
The nunnery of the Virgin Mary was established around 1400 by Nilos Damilas. The only building that survives from the original monastery is the simple single-nave barrel-vaulted small church. The north-side is built against a rock and it has an unusual shape. It’s tiny inside, but beautiful and quiet (no cell-reception! )
This little church is in Nea Anatoli and easy to drive to. From the road it is hidden between the trees. Drive through Nea Anatoli and up, there’s a little side-road to the church. I love this little church and the quietness inside!