Δευτέρα, 16 Ιανουαρίου 2017

The greek monastery in the Bulgarian village

Monastery of Agios Georgios Trimorfos: The greek monastery in the Bulgarian village

The monastery of Saint George Trimorfos (greek: Agios Georgios Trimorfos) is situated in northern Greece, and especially quite close to the Greek-Bulgarian borders. More specifically, it was built on a hill, southern of Belasica, whose name used to be Kara-Dag (Turkish: Black Hill) and that is why the monastery is sometimes mentioned by travellers in their notes as "Panagia Karadahis". Moreover, the fact that lake Butkovo (bulgarian: Butkovo, turkish: Butkova, today's name: Kerkini) is 5 kilometers away from the hill, was also the geographical reason that the monastery received another name, "Moni Butkovu" (The monastery of Butkovo), widely used, mostly by the local people. The most interesting fact about its location could be that it is situated very close to the borders of  two ecclesiastical provinces, as these used to be valid during the Late Ottoman Period: The Melnik's one and Polyane's one.
 
The monastery is the green dot on the map. Really close to it, is the village Butkovo (it is noted as "Μπούτκοβ", Butkov), next to the homonym lake. The ecclesiastical Metropolises of Polyane (in the western side) and Melnik (in the eastern one) are underlined. Source: "Map of the ecclesiastical provinces of the Patriarchate in European Turkey", 1905 (from the archive of the Institute of Researches of the Balkan Peninsula).
Thus, the regime of the monastery was not clear, and during the period 1880-1912 it is connected with both provinces. Some priests from Melnik were sent to it, while there are documents proving that there were also others who were under the jurisdiction of the ecclesiastical Metropolis of Polyane, but in different periods. The same confusion continues concerning the taxes towards each Metropolis: the monastery was paying the necessary taxes to both. The monastery's location also affected its history. During the Greek-Bulgarian national competitions in the Ottoman lands (1880's-1912), some local historians, based on a document, support that it was used as a base of the Greek guerillas, or andartes.
Concerning the time and the way of its establishment, according to tradition there was in 1805 a christian who had several dreams with Saint Demetrios, coming to him and saying "Take me away from there", meaning the hill. So, he went to the Turkish bey of the region at that time, Deli Hasan, and he asked a permission to search in the hill, in order to find an icon of Saint Demetrios. Deli Hasan told him that he will let him search only if his son will recover from the heavy disease he had. In addition, he promised to have a church built there in that case. Thus, the icon of St. Demetrios was found in a log of a tree and Deli Hasan built the church. The christian who found it, is thought to have become the first priest of that church, having received the name Neofytos. He was the one who depicted this story in a wall of the temple. However, it is not known why Neofytos did not build a church for St. Demetrios and he preferred to build one, dedicated to Holly Mary.
 
The icon of Saint Demetrios from the tradition, placed above the main entrance.
The monastery began to operate in 1837. The Christians of the village in the downside of the hill, which was called Deli Hasan (as the property of this bey), were using it for their needs (rituals, funerals etc). During the next decades, some other constructions took place. The temple's iconostasis was constructed in 1842. As it seems at the wall-painting of the history, there were some rooms for the monks, a big farm, where the animals of the monastery were and a school. The last one, is mentioned in Deli Hasan's testament, and existed even until the Greco-Bulgarian competitions in the beginning of the 20th century.
 
The gravestone of a peasant. The inscription is in Greek:
ΙΣ ΧΣ - ΝΙ ΚΑ (Jesus Christ wins),
O ΔΟΥΛΟS ΤΟΥ ΘΕΟΥ (The servant of God),
ΗωΑΝΙS EΤΟΣ (Ioannes Year)
1841 ΣΕ 8 (8th September 1841)
Once the monastery was constructed at that time, decades before the Bulgarian national struggle in the Ottoman lands, the language used in its rituals was Greek, even though in the village the christian peasants were Bulgarians (there were among them some muslim turkish families, by the soldiers of the bey Deli Hasan). Even today, there are inscriptions (donations to the monastery, tombstones), in which Slavic surnames refer: Ekaterini Staiku, Andon Petko etc. So, when the Bulgarian national awaking began, the christian community of Deli Hasan was divided into the Patriarchists and the Exarchists, and this division was not really smooth. There are documents concerning 2 different attacks against the monastery between 1904-1908, one of which was organized by the (Exarchist) peasants of the village. The Patriarchists were just a small group, which was getting smaller day-by-day: They are noted as 80 in 1906, and just 5 in 1912, while the other group was around 300. They continued to use the monastery for their needs, while the Exarchists were using the churches of other villages nearby.
During the Greco-Bulgarian competitions in the region, there was indeed a small armed group of guerillas (6 people), hosted in the Monastery, but it should not have been a center, where the Greek captains were organizing their plans. Probably, this armed group triggered the attacks of the peasants by keeping the school and the monastery Greek, at a time when the majority of the peasants did not want to.
 
Greek map, probably based on information before 1900, illustrating the Greek (blue) Bulgarian (red) schools, and the Greek churches in Ottoman Macedonia. Next to the lake of Butkovo is noted a Greek school with the inscription Mon. Butko. (Moni Butkovu, the monastery of Butkovo) Source: Geographical Institute of Rome De Agostini, 1903.
In 1913 the region was incorporated into Greece. After the Balkan Wars, as well as the First World War, most of the Bulgarians left the village and only 25-30 left behind. In 1924, the population of a Greek village, Akalan, of Eastern Thrace was settled in Deli Hasan, which was now named as Monastiraki (Greek: little monastery), due to the presence of the monastery nearby. They brought with them the bell of their church and the unique icon of 3 saints: Saint George, Saint Demetrios and Holly Mary. That is the reason why the monastery is now called Saint George Trimorfos (the one with three shapes), and not Monastery of Butkovo or Panagia Karadahis.
 
The icon of the 3 saints (in the middle)
Later on, in the 1950s, another church was built inside the village and the monastery was abandoned until 1990. During that time, it is said that some of its icons and precious items were stolen, while some individuals were coming often to search for golden coins, supposedly buried by some people, phenomenon really usual in the Late Ottoman Period. Then in the 1991, the monastery was declared as unique example of existence both Byzantine and Arabic art, which means that it should be preserved, and it was decided by the ecclesiastical Metropolis of Sidirokastro, to sent some monks there, as it happened. Since then, the monastery of Agios Georgios Trimorfos is operating regularly.





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