Location - History – How to Get There
In Lousios Gorge and next to it, we will find three historical monastic complexes of the Byzantine and Late Byzantine periods: the Monastery of Saint John the Baptist (Agios Ioannis Prodromos, or Prodromou), the old and new Monastery of the Philosopher (Philosophou), and the old and new Monastery of Kalami.
In the area around the Monastery of the Philosopher and the Monastery of Saint John, and on both banks of the river, hermitages were created starting in the Middle Byzantine period that were later deserted and abandoned.
The Monastery of Saint John is also called the 'Great Cave' (Mega Spilaio) of Arcadia because it was built into the rock on the east bank of Lousios Gorge (200 meters higher than the river bed) by monks who lived in nearby hermitages starting in the 12th century. The monastery church, which was hewn into the rock, has religious paintings from the 16th century.
For the easiest approach to the monastery, on the road from Dimitsana to Stemnitsa, turn right two kilometers before Stemnitsa, following the signs for the monastery and Ancient Gortys. Following the signs for 6 kilometers from the turning point, we will reach the point where we leave our vehicle and begin our walk on a beautiful 600 meter footpath. That takes us to the entrance of the monastery, with an old plane tree and a fountain that was "restored" in 1748. A little higher up, we can find the old monastery gate, which still remains marked by the bullets of the enemies who besieged it (but failed to get it) in 1779.
For those who love nature walks, two very beautiful paths begin at the Monastery of Saint John the Baptist. The first path heads left and takes us about 600 meters through a magnificent landscape rich in vegetation, then leads down 200 meters to the Lousios riverbed, with the rapid, noisy flow of its waters. Here we will cross a new footbridge, and we will see the ruins of the monastery’s watermill and fulling mill, which were mentioned as early as 1630. On the left after the pedestrian bridge, we can find a very beautiful path along the bank of the Lousios River. After 1,500 meters, it ends in the area of Ancient Gortys.
Our second route starts at the Monastery of Saint John, following the path to the right toward the Monastery of the Philosopher (old and new sections). The old monastery is 1,200 meters away, the new 1,600 meters. About 650 meters down the path, approximately half way to the monastery, we will see a bridge linking the two banks of the Lousios. From this point we can admire the flowing waters of the Lousios and the wild beauty of the gorge.
Shortly after the bridge, the path splits. The left branch goes up to the Old Monastery of the Philosopher, and right branch continues to the new one. The Old Monastery (also known as the hidden school) was founded in 963 AD by Ioannis Lampardopoulos, a philosopher from Dimitsana who was the secretary of Emperor Nikephoros Phokas (Nicephorus Phocas). Also called the "Lady (Archontissa) of the Gorge," the old monastery is located in the most beautiful part of the gorge, the Monopori area.
The great economic blossoming of the Monastery was probably the reason it was moved to a more accessible, smoother spot 600 meters farther north at the end of the 17th century. Thus, the New Monastery of the Philosopher was created in 1691. We can also reach the new monastery by taking the road that crosses the single-arch stone bridge of Monopori.
To reach the monasteries of Kalami, we head east on the road from Atsicholos for 4 kilometers.
Alternatively, we can drive along the dirt road that starts from Kokkori Bridge in Ancient Gortys and ascends to Atsicholos. Before we reach the village, we turn left at the sign for the Kalami Monastery. In the background 2,200 meters to the left, we will see the walls of the acropolis of Ancient Gortys. If we continue for another 1,400 meters, we will reach the two Monasteries of Kalami, New and Old.
The old monastery was founded before 1705, and relocation to the new one took place in 1713. There are indications that the monastery was founded much earlier than 1705, such as a reference to the year 1691 in the founding inscription in its church. Both monasteries are dedicated to the Dormition of the Virgin Mary. Access to the old monastery (which is 150-200 meters south of the new one) is only possible on a path that starts at the new one. Both monasteries are 300 meters above sea level.
The links that refer to the Tourist Object and the basic texts of third-party sources about Arcadia for Exploring Greece