The Monastery of Prousos is located in the prefecture of Evrytania. It is 31 km south of Karpenisi, 53 km northwest of Agrinio, 2 km from the village Prousos and it is considered the spiritual and pilgrimage center of the entire region. It is built on a majestic landscape, in a steep, rocky area between the mountains Kaliakouda, Helidona and the mountain range of Panaitolikos, which is full of firs. The Prousos Monastery is dedicated to the Assumption of the Virgin Mary and celebrates on August 23.
During the 10th century Konstantinoupoli intensified its efforts for the Christianization and assimilation of the barbarians living on the Empire. Two adventurous monks, Dionysius and Timothy, following the commands of the Emperor and the Patriarchate, arrived in this wild place with the herding populations, full of enthusiasm and with one purpose : to make the residents Christians. To make the new religion acceptable, they erected a shrine and settled there, at that place where the sacred heart of the region was beating for centuries. Where the beat reflected in the souls of the Greeks and the barbarians. In the place where for many centuries was the –no longer existent- Oracle of Odysseus. They also lit a torch permanently, a torch that reflected its light on the rocks and charmed the locals.
Because of this torch the monastery built there in the 12th century was named ‘ the torch Monastery’ (“Orthodox book of Saints”: Gathering of the Virgin the one “in the Torch of Evrytania” on 22-23 August). In 1587 the church was destroyed by fire. Afterwards it was rebuilt immediately and was decorated with frescoes. The image of the Virgin Mary was created around 1600 A.C.
Within the centuries the name changed from “Pirsos” (greek word for torch) to “Mpoursos”. The name was considered inharmonious so, in 1845, the monastery and the village were officially renamed to Prousos Monastery and Prousos respectively (Government’s Act XXV of 5 December 1845).
The Monastery remained active over the years that followed, though its reputation was not very broad, because of the roughness of the region. In 1748 the monastery became Stauropegic.
Political guidance center
Infirmary-Convalescent home for the injured.
Few years before the national revolution of 1821 Cyril Kastanofillis, confessor in Mount Athos, was sent to the monastery as an abbot. He was a member of the Filiki Eteria and the pretext was to correct the monastery’s alleged spiritual and moral decay. Immediately and according to a specific plan he organized and operated the “School of Greek letters ‘ (1818-1828). The Monastery was a center of political leadership during the liberation struggle (there are letters of Mavrokordatos, Greek fighter of 1821, diplomat and politician who played an important role in political life during the Revolution and the first post-revolutionary decades, etc.). Its role in the management of the Siege of Mesologgi and in the salvation of many after the destruction brought by the ‘Output ‘ was crucial. It operated, throughout the national revolution, as a sanitarium and convalescent home for the wounded. Karaiskakis kept his headquarters there generally, not just for the six months that he stayed there as a patient. The rest of the time he was forced to plough through Roumeli. He even donated the silver cover of the Holy icon in gratitude for his cure from the ague during his stay in the monastery. Karaiskaki’s weapons are still kept in the Sacristy of the monastery.
A big part of the monastery was burned by the Germans on 16 August 1944, because it was a support center of the guerrilla’s during the resistance. Many relics, utensils, manuscripts and books were destroyed but thankfully not the precious icon of the Virgin Mary, which was hidden in a crypt.
After the Civil War the rebuilding of the Abbey begun anew by Abbot German and it continued in the 1970s by Gregory, the –at that time- Abbot of the monastery and later Abbot of the monastery of Docheiariou on Mount Athos.
According to tradition, the monastery’s name derives from the miraculous image of Panagia Prousiotissa. This image originates from Bursa in Asia and is believed to be the work of Evangelist Loukas. The monastery was founded in the 9th century. At that time the Byzantine Emperor was Theophilos (829 – 830), who was an iconoclast. The image of the Virgin Mary was in the Temple of Bursa, but in fear that it would be destroyed based on the Decree of the Emperor, it was taken in Central Greece. Tradition connects the refuge of the image, the current location of the monastery, with miracles that occurred when transferring the image there. The young man who transferred it, along with one of his servants, decided to create a monastery at this place as they found that it was impossible to move the picture from there. They themselves became the first monks, with the names of Dionysius and Timothy.
The Prousos clock, as seen from the monastery.
The monastery of Prousos is one of the few monasteries preserved in Evrytania. The monastery’s church is cross-like with a dome. In the west side of the church, at the root of the rock, there is a crypt transformed into a chapel. The surviving frescoes were created around 1785. On the exterior side wall inside the crypt there are preserved frescoes of the 13th century, while inside there are two layers, one of which dates to 1518. Very remarkable is the wood-carved iconostasis of the crypt, which dates back to 1810.
The Sacristy of the monastery contains a wealth of valuable handwritten codes, images, holy vessels, reliquaries and books. Many treasures are also kept in the monastery’s museum such as images from the 15th and 16th century, sacred vestments, silver and gold chalices, handwritten codes, typography books and the sword of Karaiskakis.
Outside the monastery there are two castles, one to the left and one to the right, which are called Towers of Karaiskakis. There is also a church of Agioi Pantes, built in 1754. Finally, there is the building that -during the Turkish occupation- housed the ‘School of the Greek letters’, fully restored and preserved.