Spend Time at Lagouvarda Monastery in Kefalonia
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Kefalonia is the largest of the Ionian island group in Greece, and that means there’s no shortage of things to do. The island is particularly known for its gorgeous natural beauty, which means that people should spend as much time as possible taking in the scenery. While here, visitors love spending time at the beaches, visiting some of the popular tourist sites, and in general appreciating all the island has to offer. It is also known for its rich culture and ancient religious history. One of the most famous sites on Kefalonia is the Lagouvarda Monastery. Here is all that you need to know about this ancient church before you set forth on your Kefalonia adventure:
History of Lagouvarda Monastery
Located in southern Kefalonia in the quaint village of Markopoulo, this monastery has a long and storied history. The monastery is most known for the myth that the annual appearance of its holy snakes bring good luck and protection to the island and its visitors. The legend dates back to 1705 when the monastery was under attack by pirates. The nuns allegedly prayed to the Virgin Mary, begging for protection from the pirates. The myth says that the nuns were turned into snakes in order to avoid being taken in as prisoners. The pirates only found snakes as they advanced on the monastery. In 1945, the church was ravaged by fire and then an earthquake caused severe damage in 1953. Despite all of the destruction, the legend of the holy snakes continues to attract visitors from all over the world.
Getting to Lagouvarda Monastery
There are two primary ways to reach the island of Kefalonia. The island’s airport services multiple routes to both Athens and Thessaloniki. These flights are each about one hour in length. During the busy tourist months, many other carriers service the island by providing routes to and from many European cities. You can also reach Kefalonia via ferry from various locations in Greece. Once in Kefalonia, the Lagouvarda Monastery is located approximately 30 kilometers from the capital city of Argostoli. Once in this bustling city, it is easy to find your way to the monastery either by guided tour or by renting your own vehicle.
What to Expect During Your Visit
The best time to visit the monastery is during the month of August when the holy snakes make their appearance. The small black non-venomous snakes are distinguished by the tiny crosses on their head and their cross-shaped tongues. Locals claim that the snakes appear every year on August 6 before retreating on August 15. The area comes alive as residents and tourists clamor to touch the snakes for good luck. Legend has it that bad luck will follow if the snakes do not make their annual appearance at the monastery. The highlight of the year comes on August 14 as residents and tourists gather with a festival celebration. Although you will encounter large crowds, this festival is a fun way to experience Greek culture.
While it may not be easy to reach this idyllic island and its famous monastery, you will be richly rewarded for your travels. The storied history of Greece and its welcoming culture are all on full display through the Lagouvarda Monastery and its holy snakes.
This post was written by Greek Boston