2018-06-13 / Front Page

On the Road in Greece: Dimitsana in the Spring

By Catherine Tsounis

Dimitsana. Western and Eastern civilizations recognize the fact they have been influence in some way by Greek and Byzantine civilizations that assimilates all, keeping Greek language and culture alive for over 5,000 years. I recently travelled to the mountainous village of Dimitsana in late spring. Green mountains with wild flowers gives a spiritual peace. I hired local taxi driver Demetri Tsokas to show me around town. Dimitsana was active in supplying the fighters with the essential material for ammunition. “We had powder; Dimitsana made it,” wrote Theodoros Kolokotronis. Gunpowder is an important element of the area’s cultural identity. It is kept alive in memory and narratives.

A donkey was in the coble street, waiting for owner. We stopped at Lousios Café Zaxaroplasteio (Pastry) House for snacks. Traditional, straight out of a movie, everyone greeted us with Greek hospitality. Graviara sandwiches in thick country bread, melomacarona (honey dipped cookies) 10 euros per kilo ($12 per 2.2 lbs.), chocolate loukoumi, ravani, kataifi and other pastries. Charalambos N. Baxevanos, the Vice Mayor of the municipality of Gortynias was present The Lousios Café displayed his Dimitsana specialty pastry. A Papou (Greek grandfather) and staff member Valentina Petrova told us the history of the Café.

Dimitsana is a stone-built village with remarkable mansions, most of which are now A donkey was in the cobble street, waiting for owner.
A donkey was in the cobble street, waiting for owner. restored. It is a typical sample of Gortynia's architecture and it is registered as a traditional one. The statue of Patriarch Gregory V dominates the central square and the family houses of both him and Germanos III of Old Patras can be seen.1
Dimitsana's Library contains today about 35,000 books, manuscripts and documents. In Dimitsana's Museum, housed in the Library, there are collections of weaving, looms and handicrafts and an archaeological one. The Elementary School was built 1898–1910, by a donation of Andreas Syngros, and is a characteristic sample of that period. It operated as a girls' school until 1930 and later as county court. The museum preserves the bones of Metropolitis Germanos III of Old Patras (Palaion Patron Germanos), which were transferred to Dimitsana from Patra, in a bronze reliquary. You will also find the saddle of Papaflessa’s horse, as well as other portraits of great figures of the Nation and a folklore collection.2

Demetri’s friend is Father Panagiotis, who is from Kandila, the village next to Paleo Pyrgo, our village. He is protopresbyter of the three Dimitsana churches of Agia Kiriaki,
Agios Haralambos and Agioi Taxiarhes. Agia Paraskevi was damaged by the Greek Civil War of 1945. The mountainous villages, who were intensely pro- monarchy and Greek patriotism, suffered the most at the hands of the communist guerillas. Every nation has its own painful story. Many believe the 2018 economic crisis is worse than WWII, because their land and monuments are in the hands of foreigners.

Father Panagiotis showed us the iconography many in the style of Russian iconography, chalices, vestments and religious banners. “Our church is Russian style,” he explained. Three rows of icons over the main altar screen, half domes over columns on the sides, ornate chandelier and a half dome reminded me of the churches I saw in St. Petersburg and Moscow. The holy relics of Agia Paraskevi, Agiou  Panteleimon, Agios Athanasius of Chrisanoupolis, the Wonderworker and protector of Gortynia, and Agios Dionysios tou Sophou (who was born in Dimitsana and became Patriarch of Constantinople (1467-71) are worshipped in Agia Paraskevi.

It is not politically correct to state  this fact: Only through the Greek Orthodox Church could young men gain an education and elevate themselves through the priesthood during the five centuries of Ottoman slavery. The martyred statue of Patriarch Gregory V dominates the central square. We visited from the outside his family home and Germanos III of Old Patras. The Orthodox Metropolitan of Patras Germanos III (1771–1826), was born Georgios Gotzias. He played in important role in the Greek Revolution of 1821, having diplomatic and political activity. Germanos was born in Dimitsana, northwestern Arcadia, Peloponnese. Before his consecration as Metropolitan of Patras by Patriarch Gregory V, he had served as a priest and Protosyngellus (Chancellor) in Smyrna.

A monument overlooking the mountains hold special significance to Dimitsana.
The memorial honors Filotheos Hatzis, the Cypriot Metropolitan of Dimitsana who fought for his flock and the Greek Revolution of 1821. The Hellenic Spiritual Group of Cypriots in Greece (EOPK) remembered the life and work of this spiritual man in cooperation with Mayor Demetrios Vlachos Dimitrios Vlachos and the commissar of Katokopia, Nicosia, Cyprus Andreas Fragoulidis. The 2010 memorial made, Dimitsana and Katokopia twin cities, sealing their unbroken ties.

The statue of Patriarch Gregory V dominates the central square.
The statue of Patriarch Gregory V dominates the central square. "The Cypriot Archbishop, as they used to say at the time, is a man of the Church who still makes us proud today," EPIC President Iraklis Zachariades, who also publishes the Greek Cypriot newspaper "Cypriot Hellenism", explains in the "Phileleftheros". The representation of the person of the Cypriot Metropolitan was discovered by H. Zachariades after a persistent search in the sources. Filotheos Hatzis came from the villages of Nicosia. At the end of the 17th century, a young man left Cyprus and went to Constantinople to serve in the Ecumenical Patriarchate as Secondary of the Deacons of Cypriot descent, Patriarch Gerasimos III (1794-1797).

Filotheos remained a metropolitan there for 26 years. One of his first works was the erection of the episcopal mansion. Great emphasis was given to the famous School of Dimitsana. He was very interested in education, by establishing or strengthening schools in his episcopal region. He was introduced to the Filiki Eteria secret Society by the Bishop of Old Patron Germanos. He was totally given the fight. Hatzis gave the spirit of the revolution together to the entire population of Dimitsana, which is a unique phenomenon of the Greeks' struggle.
 Filotheos did not live to enjoy the uprising of his people. At the beginning of 1821, he was invited by the Turks to Tripoli, then the administrative capital of the Peloponnese, along with other hierarchs of the Peloponnese, the bishops of Monemvasia, Christiania, Olenes, Nafplion and Argos and Androusis.

Symbol of Byzantine empire and Greek Orthodox Church.Symbol of Byzantine empire and Greek Orthodox Church.The Turks in 1821 Tripoli knew the Revolution was  about to erupt. They demanded the appearance of every area’s clergy and staff to come to Tripoli with the purpose of imprisonment and torture. The clergy knew if they refused to go to Tripoli, the revolution would not begin, resulting in genocide. For the good of the nation, they sacrificed their lives, endured martyrdom.  Later they were beheaded, with their heads being paraded in the streets of Tripoli. All of them total of 18 people, were arrested in Tripoli and imprisoned with bulky chains around the neck. The Cypriot hierarch, who was not able to withstand the tough life in prison, died there by the hardships on September 10, 1821. 

Dimitsana is linked with the Greeks of Smyrna, Constantinople, Cyprus, secret Greek society of the Filiki Eteria and Russia. Catherine the Great’s “Greek Plan” in the 1770’s that resulted in the Battle of Tseme, off the coast of Chios immortalized by the sea landscapes of Ivan Aivazovsky, was backed by the Greeks of Dimitsana and the Peloponnese.

The Orlov revolt was a Greek uprising in the Peloponnese and later also in Crete that broke The memorial honors Filotheos Hatzis, the Cypriot Metropolitan of Dimitsana who fought for his flock and the Greek Revolution of 1821.
The memorial honors Filotheos Hatzis, the Cypriot Metropolitan of Dimitsana who fought for his flock and the Greek Revolution of 1821. out in February 1770, following the arrival of Russian Admiral Alexey Orlov, commander of the Imperial Russian Navy during the Russo-Turkish War (1768–1774), to the Mani Peninsula. The revolt, a major precursor to the Greek War of Independence (which erupted in 1821), was part of Catherine the Great's so-called "Greek Plan" and was eventually suppressed by the Ottomans.3

After the Orlov events, some inhabitants of Dimitsana bearing the name "Tasoulis" (Greek: Τασούλης) migrated to Minor Asia fleeing the Albanian ravaging of Peloponnese. Upon arrival in Koldere, in 1777, near Magnesia (ad Sipylum), they changed their name "Tasopoulos" (Greek: Τασόπουλος).4 This constant movement from the Peloponnese and Crete to the safety of the historic 2,500 year Greek cities of Asia Minor continued until WW I when the Western Powers divided up the Ottoman empire.

“Come back  and see our beautiful monasteries in the Lousios Gorge, the Peloponnese, Mount Athos,”  said Father Panagiotis. “A nation that forgets its past has no future” – Winston Churchill.


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