The ancient stavropigiaki Monastery of saint John the Baptist of Karea, is located at a rocky stream, at a distance of appoximately five hundred meters away from the populated area of kareas. Kareas is continuously built toward the neighboring mountainside of Hymetus, where the ancient quarries, known as quarries of "Kara,"used to be.
The origins of the name "Karea" have been attributed to various sources, having to do with location, the honorable saint John the Baptist, or the founder of the Monastery. None of these attributions has been verified, and therefore, accepted without reservations.
The conditions and the date of the establishment of the Monastery--which is definitely a product of the Parish of the Church of Athens--are not known since no written documents regarding those matters are found. The Monastery is most likely originated in the Byzatine times. It is also believed, for good reasons, that the Church preexisted as a pagan temple of Apollo. Later in time-most likely from the fourth century A.D.-the temple was transformed into an ancient Christian Chapel which was later on built into a Church, in order to meet the needs of the monastic brotherhood.
The earliest written reference to the Monastery is dated in 1575 A.D. and it most likely has to do with the renovation of the Church, which is reserved to this day and consists the Church of saint John.
From the ancient building of the Monastery, the only parts that are still in existence is the Church of Saint John, the largest part of the southern two-storey building with the Monastery cells, and a small one-storey building in the northern area.
The Church is plain,"Cross-shaped with dome"standing on four columns (Helladic type). Three of the columns are made of marble and have ancient capitals with suffixes. One of the four original columns has been subsequently replaced by a square-built pillar.
The only remains of the Church frescos are a relic on the nich of the,"prothessis", which attests to the contemporary pilgrims, the existence of ancient frescos in the Church.
There is a walled-up small part of a mast in the front of the Church that is decorated with a cross and an animal that is running sideways.
A similar part of a mast, with spiral decoration and thorn-like flowers, is walled-up in the front of the preserved Monastery cells located in the southeastern side of the Church.
On the floor of the Church there was found, during its latest renovation, part of a tombstone with an inscription. The tombstone was thought to have covered the tomb of "‘Diaconissa" (a deacon woman) named Nikagori, but when it was removed, it was found that was not the case. Since then, it is believed that the slate was simply used to cover the floor of the Church during one of its renovations, and that it was either collected by people of the surrounding Monastic area, or that it was relocated from a similar construction.
Over the entrance door of the Church, there is, up to this day, a walled-up, sculptured votive Cross, which is dated from the year 1769 A.D., and it carries the following inscription: This "Holly Cross was found in the "tekes" (dervise΄s den) some time ago, and the doctor by grace from Sehades, after buying it, has offered it to this Monastery in 1769." During the seventieth century, in the Monastery of Karea, the doctor and philosopher Peter Papastamatis (Petrakis) from Dimitsana, became a monk. When he gave his vows, was named Parthenios (1686 A.D.). The monk Parthenios renovated latter on (around 1673 A.D.) the Monastery of Disembodied Archangels, surnamed "Petraki," which was until then dependent on the Monastery of saint John Karea. Since then, the Monastery was renamed after Parthenios, the monk of Petraki who contributed to the renovating works of the Monastery.
Since 1796 A.D. (may be even since 1777 A.D. according to Sigil of Patriarch Sofronios). The Monastery of Karea was deserted and fell in to decline. The monks of the Monastery, according to another Sigil of Patriarch Gerasimos the Third, which is dated in the year 1796 A.D.-- "because of the rocky and inaccessible and narrowness of the location as well as other adventures and dangers... having realized the grief and the difficulties of the monks to bring up to the Monastery food and other necessities, and the challenge of living under such conditions, they have decided along with their accrediting abbot Anthimos to secure their survival. As Anthimos became fully aware of the forthcoming dangers...he gathered the monks, who were about to desert the Monastery, in the dependent Monastery of the Disembodied Archangels... where they lived as monks from that point on, since they could no longer endure the hardships and mischief in the Monastery of Karea.
The dependent Monastery of the Disembodied Archangels was closer to the city of Athens, had more spacious sites, and offered more security to the monks. Therefore, the order was reversed and, from that point on, the Monastery of Kareas, according to the same sigil of the Patriarch, became subsidiary, to the dominant Monastery of the Disembodied Archangels, Petrakis.
From that point on, the Monastery of Karea, as dependent to the dominant Monastery of Petrakis, become "Vakoufi" (Monastery property) and came under--following petition of the Monastery of Petrakis, because of failing to pay heavy taxation--Sultana Mihrisah, mother of Soultan Selem the Third (1770-1807) and was adduced to a workhouse in Konstantinopole, under the condition of offering a yearly contribution. That way, "the dues that were owed from time to time were finally paid off, putting an end to the nuisances imposed by the rulers in Athens. The only due continuing to be paid was the standard yearly fee." Thus, the fathers "were saved and relieved from the oppressions and nuisances and other contributions they had in common with Athenian citizens, according to the royal documents given to them."
Concurrently with the adminiatrative modifications, as stated in the same Sigil, the Monastery of Disembodied Archangels and its dependent monasteries became ecclisiastically subsidiaries to the Patriarchate. The corresponding Sigil states: "in order for the Church to ensure the safety and accuracy of the decisions, we will attest to them...the privileges of stavropigion from the start. Thus, we have decided in the synod....for the Holy respected Monastery, Disembodied Archanges of Petraki, along with all its dependent Monasteries and the Holy Monastery of the Saint and glorified Prophet John the Baptist surnamed Monastery Kareas... there are, and they are known by all, Patriarchal, Stavropigion, free, and unenslaved....free of debts except the standard annual fee due to their subservience to the exarch. At the same time, the Monastery is under the obligation to commemorate during services the Patriarch himself.
From that time on, the Monastery of Saint John, Karea, is becoming progressively more deserted and decadent, but it continues to be Dependent on the Petraki Monastery, whose future and progress coincides for approximately the next two centuries.
THE MONASTERY OF KAREA DURING THE MODERN TIMES.
Following its decline in to a Dependent Monastery, the Monastery of Karea was not used to the advantage of the dominant Monastery of Petraki. It was rather used solely as a financial resource, offering profits from its quarries, as well as its pastures.
During the reconstruction of the Modern Greek state,
following the revolution and during the Vavarian occupation, following the
publication of the Royal Decree of the 25th of September 1833, "regarding
the Monasteries of the kingdom", it was commanded for the Prefecture of
Attica and Viotia, to the Abbot Dionysus of Petraki Monastery, to relocate
the soonest possible, "along with all the brotherhood," to a new location,
possibly to the old dominant Monastery of Karea, because the area of the
Petraki Monastery was considered to be appropriate for building a military
hospital. Finally, after several objections and extensive exchanges of
letters, despite the objections of the brotherhood, the Monastery of
Kesariani, rather than the old Monastery of Kareas, was considered a more
appropriate location to which they moved.
THE MONASTERY OF KAREA
The onset of the twentieth century meets the Monastery of Karea-Dependent still to the Petraki Monastery - small, poor, a neglected country Church, "a pitiful site, with inelegant buildings and extensions that were constructed by poorly qualified people" (A.D. 17, 1961/62), which despite all that continues to draw and inspire a great number of faithful pilgrims.
Building wise, there is only a Church and a few semidelapidated cells covered with masses of gravel and other leftovers from the marble and asbestos quarries of the area.
Until the beginning of World War ||, the Monastery and the area host only the workers of the quarries, the shepherds, and occasionally tourists or pilgrims from Athens, who walked their way to the Monastery, in order to pray and to ask for the intercessions of saint John.
From the archives of the correspondence of the Monastery of Petraki, we present as a sample the document dated 29/11/1938:
The Dependent Monastery was deserted and secluded and "...every time the need arose, as well as during the celebrations of the Church of saint John, one of the brothers of the Holly Monastery Petraki would go there to say the Liturgy." The "regular guarding of the Monastery" was enstrusted to "layman sacristans".
During the decaded between 1940 and 1950, the area around the old Monastery of Karea, acquired special meaning and offered unique opportunities to the residents of the Attica basin. The dense forest with pine trees, as well as the light spring waters, offered the opportunity for popular camps and gave relief to people who suffered from epidemic illnesses that were spread during the occupation period.
The summer camps were not beneficial to campers alone. They also brought up the need to open a small cafe at the premises of the Monastery, whose customers did not show proper respect to the holiness of the area and its sorrouding forest.
The dense pine forest began to slowly thin down, and its perennial trees, along with beverage sales, were sold as firewood. At the same time, the shepherds considered it to be their right, because the paying rent to the dominant Monastery of Petraki, to use the area as pasture and gather their flock, as well as to stay in the area of the Monastery over night. The board of trustees of the Petraki Monastery, in one of its usual references (specifically, in its 20/1/1947 document), to the Archedice of Athens, and to the organization of management of Church property, it states:"...we do not fail to inform you that the collected gravel behind the Holly Sanctuary cause damages to the Church, because of they produce humidity, but also because goats scramble up there - as we have seen in the past - they jump on the roof of the Church causing damages. To avoid additional damages, they have to be removed from the area the soonest possible. In addition, accordng to the tradition, it is believed that with the removal of the gravel there will come to light a small Church of Prophet Elias that is now buried under masses of gravel for many years....."
With parallel efforts from the Department of Archeology, "the works of the quarries were finally terminated before the war. Following the termination, the Church bulding of the Monastery was freed up from the remains of the quarry, free up a narrow area around it that protected it from further damage" (as stated above).
The board of trustees of Byzantine Antiquities designed a "program for the restoration and proper presentation of the Monastery, which, following the approval of the Department, began to operate in March of 1963." During the construction works, "masses of stones and marble remains, which were hanging over the Church were removed...revealing a series of quarters with arch tops, along the northern side of the grounds. During the clean up of one of those quarters, there was found a limestone, with the year 1712 engraved on it....dating of course the year of the construction of that part of the construction" (as stated above).
The construction works of the Monastery, with expenses of the Archaeology Department, were continued till the year 1971. It is worth mentioning that during those works, specifically in 1968, there was found a coppet coin of Alexios Komninos the First.
From May of 1971, when the newly-formed Sisterhood inhabits the Monastery, a new era begins for the Monastery of Karea.
The Monastery according to a) B.Δ 323 ΦEK 93/17-5-1971 and b)B.Δ. 2 ΦEK 1/3-1-1972 is elevated from a dependent status to a "dominant and independent Women's Coenobitic Monastery" and it becomes a "Legal entity of state law." Church-wise it is under the auspices of the Archedioces of Athens initially, and later on under the newly-formed Holly Metropolis of Kaisariani, Byrona and Hymmetos.
The new sisterhood, with the co-operation of the responsible Archeological Office, it continued and extended, at its own expense from that time on, the works for reforming and restoring the ruins of the Monastery, which are not fully completed yet. Thus, from 1971 to the present, the old buildings have all been preserved. Over the ground floor of the southestern wing, the cells of the second floor were restored, whereas in the Church there was placed, in the area of the old and detroyed temple, a new carved one in marble, which was constructed according to the ancient model. During the year 1986, the area surrounding the Church was quarried out, and a new two-story wing was built behind and to the east of the Holly sanctuary. That wing includes the roomy Chapel of the Annunciation of Virgin Mary, the dining room of the sisters and the series of cells. Finally, during the years 1991 - 1995, a new two-story wing was built, outside of the premises of the old Monastery grounds and as an extension of other wing, which includes a visitor's area, a library, and a series of cells.
The reconstruction of the buildings of the Monastery, along with the spiritual life of the sisterhood, is "in progress." Great efforts are made to ensure that the growth of the Monastery in numbers to be followed by commensurate spiritual growth. The vision of the Monastery is to progress as much as possible, always according to the paternal wishes and blessings of the Venerable Pastor of the Metropolitan Bishop of Kaisariani, Byrona, and Hymmetos, Mgr George. To live as "one soul in many bodies" (Basil the Great) and to provide, "For l determined not to know any thing among you" to our brothers who live close and far away “save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified” A’ Cor. 2, 2.).
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