Monastery of Agion Tessarakonta

About 8 km northeast of Sparta, in a beautiful location near the village of Chrysafa, lies one of the most important monasteries of Laconia, dedicated to Agioi Tessarakonta (Forty Martyrs).
According to the founding inscription, the Monastery was built in 1305 during the reign of the Byzantine Emperor Andronikos the Elder (1283-1328) in a higher location, inside the ravine of the torrent Sofronis and was moved to its current location in the early 17th century due to difficult weather conditions and enemy raids.

The monastery from the 16th century was stavropegic (belonged to the Patriarchy) and had several privileges, which allowed it to evolve into a great spiritual center. In 1770 it was torched by the Turkish-Albanians and was abandoned. It started operating again in the years of the revolution of 1821, with a significant contribution to supplies and food. The monastery was torched again in 1826 by Ibrahim and in 1943 by the Germans.

The Monastery externally has the form of a fortress with a high enclosure formed by the complexes of cells and auxiliary rooms. In the center of the courtyard lies the main church (Katholicon), a cross –in -square church, built in 1620 and honored in memory of the Forty Martyrs. There are relics of the Holy Forty Martyrs, of the infants Magdalene and Artemios, who were killed by Herod. Its masonry features ceramic decoration and integrated ancient architectural members, while its interior is full of wall paintings. The murals of 1620 were made by Georgios Moschos from Nafplio, a famous painter of the Cretan School. The murals that survive to this day after the burning of the monastery in 1770, were painted by the Cretan artist Georgios Kalliterakis, while the iconostasis of the church was painted in the early 19th century. Next to the main church is the chapel of Zoodochos Pigi which dates back to 1707 and is believed to have hosted a secret school for the Greeks during the years of Ottoman occupation.

The older buildings of the monastery, like the refectory, which had wall paintings, the fotanamma, and the tower which had initially four floors are also of great interest. The monastery has an excellent library, relics and rare documents that are exhibited in its museum. Among the exhibits there is a copy of “ahtiname” (an official document regulating the Turkish state's relations with the Christian Church) describing the privileges of the monastery. In the monastery there is also a guest house for the visitors. The monastery of Agion Tessarakonta is a men’s monastery and celebrates on the 9th of March.