Monasteries of Megalo Spilaio and Saint Laura
On either side of the town of Kalavryta are the two historic Monasteries of Megalo Spilaio (meaning Great Cave, 10 kilometers to the northeast) and Saint Laura (or Agia Lavra, 5 kilometers to the southwest).
The Megalo Spilaio is one of the most historic monasteries in Greece. It was built in 362 AD by the holy fathers Simeon and Theodore at the point where the First-Called Andrew and Luke the Evangelist showed them (in their common dream in Plataniotissa) they would find the icon of the Virgin Mary.
Almost everyone visits this important Orthodox monastery. What most do not know is that there are two very important points of interest near the monastery. From the path that goes left at the entrance to the cemetery of Megalo Spilaio (near the All Saints Church), we can visit the cross at the Place of Execution in memory of the monks and others executed by the Germans, and higher up we can see the fort (castle).
From the position of the large White Cross, the German forces executed and threw down 25 monks, workers and visitors to the monastery on the 8th of December, 1943. A few days later, on the 13th of December, the Kalavryta residents were mourning their own Holocaust.
To visit the castle, follow the path toward the place of execution at Megalo Spilaio. 1/3 of the way down the path, a steep footpath on our left takes us up (in 15 minutes) to 1,050 meters altitude and an imposing building called the Castle (Kastro) or Fort (Frourio). Very beautiful view from up here toward Vouraikos Gorge.
Among the most historically important Greek monasteries, the monastery of Saint Laura (Agia Lavra) is the official site of the beginning of the Greek Revolution. The Monastery was built in 961 AD to the west of today's location, on the site of the old monastery. It flourished during some periods, housing 960 monks at one point.
It is worth visiting the Old Monastery of Saint Laura (or paliomonastiro). It is located less than 1,000 meters southwest of the current location of the monastery, and its first church was built here in the mouth of a cave in 961 AD. Two sets of frescoes have survived on its exterior. We can get there by following a short footpath for 5 minutes (see the map).