Monastery of Mega Spileo in Arcadia, Greece.

The monastery Mega Spileo (Greek Μέγα Σπήλαιο ‘great cave’) is a monastery in Greece, located between the Gulf of Corinth and the small town of Kalavryta in the regional district of Achaia in the region of western Greece, on and under a rock face.

Monastery, Megaspileo, Mega Spileo, Arcadia, Greece, Edward Dodwell,
Monastery of Megaspileo in Arcadia


by Edward Dodwell.

THIS celebrated monastery was founded by the Emperor Andronicus Palaeologus, mid enriched by John Cantacuzene and Constantine Palaeologus. It is situated near the river Bouraikos, in the most mountainous and rocky part of Arcadia, at about six miles east of the town of Kalabryta, and eight miles west of the Corinthian gulf.

The name of Mega Spileo is taken from the great cave, within which the larger part of the monastery is constructed. It stands upon a narrow ridge of rock, and is built against the mouth of a natural cavern of vast dimensions. Indeed most of the interior of the edifice is within the cave itself, or projects but little beyond it. It is a white building of a picturesque and irregular form, consisting of eight stories, and twenty-three windows in front.

A magnificent precipice, of about five hundred feet in height, ascends in perpendicular masses from the cave, and impends over the monastery in such a manner that when the Albanians who pillaged many places in the Morea, found they could not take the monastery in front on account of the approaches to it, which are so narrow as to be easily rendered impregnable, they attempted to effect their purpose by rolling down large masses of rock from above upon the consecrated edifice below, hut they all fell beyond the walls; and this fortunate circumstance was ascribed by the monks to the tutelary protection of the Virgin, whose image, which is said to be the work of Saint Luke, is the palladium of the monastery; and it serves at the same time to enrich its coffers, by attracting from distant parts the pious visits and grateful oblations of pilgrims and devotees.

The monastery of Mega Spileo supports about four hundred and fifty monks, the majority of whom are generally dispersed about the country, and engaged in superintending the metochia, and cultivating the laud, great part of which consists of currant plantations, the fruit of which is embarked on the Corinthian gulf and sent to England.

The country round Mega Spileo teems with magnificent combinations of nature’s ever-varying forms. The whole locality seems disposed for picturesque effect. Trees of different species and of venerable age, dispersed in tufts or condensed in forests, adorn the mountains, which are composed of rocks of bold and precipitous height.

Source: Views in Greece. Drawings by Edward Dodwell. Rod Well and Martin, London, 1821.

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