The religious centre of Kefalonia is undoubtedly the Monastery of Agios (Saint) Gerasimos at Omala.
The monastery is located 15km from Argostoli where twice a year, thousands of believers gather to worship Agios Gerasimos. A few people vow to go to the monastery on foot from their houses just before the celebrations of August 16th, to honour the Saint for supporting them.
Ag. Gerasimos was born in 1509 in the village of Trikala Corinthia, Peloponnese, descendant of the Notaras family, a well known Byzantine family during the reign of Constantine Palaiologos. He was reared in piety by his parents, Demetrios and Kale and studied the sacred writings. At a young age he visited Constantinople. It was during this visit that he was moved with compunction for the number of Christians who martyred and made the decision to commit his life to monasticism. With this in mind, he went straight to Mount Athos and remained for around five years. He then moved to the Holy Land and remained in Jerusalem for twelve years. He also visited Mount Sinai, Egypt and Crete; where he remained in a cave for two years. From there he went to Zakynthos, where he also remained in a cave for around five years, and at the age of around 50 ended up in a cave in Kefalonia
In 1560 Ag. Gerasimos arrived at Omala where he rebuilt the country chapel of the Dormition of The Virgin, establishing at the same time a convent with many members naming it “New Jerusalem”. In 1582, on October 20th, the removal of his relics took place. Since then the Sacred Relic of Ag. Gerasimos is kept unparished and fragrant for blessing of the faithful. It is dressed with the burial robes of the Saint and it is displayed for worship inside a glass relic-case that is embodied in a larger silver magnificent larnax (casket) which is placed above the Saint’s tomb.
Also preserved in the church is the Saint’s hermitage that can be reached by descending a ladder three meters high which leads into a cave divided via a narrow hole into two chambers. Within the grounds of the Convent are preserved the two big plane-trees planted by the Saint, the three wells with 37 smaller ones dug by his own hands thus benefitting the arid area, together with two thrushing fields that he developed and worked on so as to ensure the necessities for the Convent. Under the direction of the Departed former Metropolitan Spyridon, the new church of the Saint was completed and inaugurated by Seraphim – Archbishop of Athens in 19th July 1992. From its establishment to date, solemn vigil Holy Mass is held in the Convent from 03.00a.m. till 07.00a.m.
The Convent celebrates five times a year: On 16th August (the Dormition of the Saint) and on 23rd August (“nine days” after the Dormition of the Saint). In the period between the two celebrations it has been decreed by the former Metropolitan , to perform Holy Week in honour of the Saint with Episcopal Holy Masses, divine services and sermons.
On the 20th and 26th of October (the removal and the granting of the remains of the Holy Relic) there are grand celebrations. The glass case bearing the Saint’s Relic is positioned upright on the south door of the iconostasis (templon) until the Sunday after Easter (St. Thomas day) when a Celebrated Episcopal Holy Mass is performed. Each day during this period litany processions take place with the participation of the clergy and thousands of pilgrims. Following the litany procession, food, prepared with special care by the nuns, is offered. The nuns engage in hospitality (the Convent has a guest-house) and agiography. They have also developed rich charitable and missionary activities. Divine services are performed continuously and the Convent follows the ritual of St Savva’s Monastery in Jerusalem.
Visits to the Convent can be made every day between 04.00a.m. to 13.00p.m. and 15.30p.m. to 21.00p.m.
Agios Gerasimos, Omala |
Additional information can be obtained from: Holy Nun Kassiani Mother Superior of the Convent of Ag. Gerasimos Omala, Kefalonia, 28100 +30 2671 0 86385 & +30 2671 0 86205