This train took us from Thessaloniki back to Athens in five hours. From Athens, we took two organized tours. Today, I would like to present one of them, a day trip to three amazing places: Osios Loukas monastery, the small town of Arahova and the very famous archaeological site of Delphi. All three sites are beautifully located in the mountains.
This Byzantine monastery ranks among the finest in Greece and is a UNESCO heritage site. It was founded by a hermit Luke (Loukas) who was born in AD 896. He built his cell in the beautiful spot where the monastery lies now (152km from Athens) and his reputation as a healer led other holy men to join him.
Today, the monastery complex consists of two churches. The first church, from the 10th century is dedicated to the Virgin Mary. The second one is larger and much more impressive, it is dedicated to Osios Loukas and was built in 1011,
What makes Osios Loukas special are the mosaics and frescoes inside the church…
…at the entrance:
…and in the crypt:
Arahova is a small town on the southern flanks of Mount Parnassus. It is a very popular winter resort for skiers and ana amazing place to admire the beauty of the surrounding area:
In Antiquity, Delphi was one of the most important religious centres. The sanctuary of Apollo situated against the backdrop of Mount Parnassus, attracted crowds of pilgrims who came to consult the oracle.
In all main archaeological sites it is recommended to start the visit at the museum. Here are some sculptures from the Delphi museum, the famous Dancers of Delphi, three figures on top of the acanthus column found near the sanctuary of Apollo:
the Statue of Antinous:
and the famous Charioteer:
The Omphalos of Delphi
Among the Ancient Greeks, it was a widespread belief that Delphi was the center of the world. According to the myths regarding the founding of the Delphic Oracle, Zeus, in his attempt to locate the center of the earth, launched two eagles from the two ends of the world, and the eagles, starting simultaneously and flying at equal speed, crossed their paths above the area of Delphi. From this point, Zeus threw a stone from the sky to see where it will fall. The stone fell at Delphi, which since then was considered to be the center of the world, the omphalos – “navel of the earth”. Indeed, the same stone thrown by Zeus took the same name and became the symbol of Apollo, the sacred Oracle and more generally of the region of Delphi. (Wikipedia)
The Sacred Way leading up to the Temple of Apollo was lined with votive offerings:
The Temple of Apollo, 4th century BC:
A hymn attributed to Homer tells how the god Apollo in 750 BC killed the Python and took his place, giving oracles through his priestess known as the Pythia. The priestess, always a woman over 50 whose life was beyond reproach, would go into the temple and enter a trance, delivering ambiguous replies in hexameter verse in response to questions asked by pilgrims. Her prophecies had to be interpreted by one of the priests who attended the Pythia.
At the entrance to the ancient site of Delphi was the Sanctuary of Athena Pronaia, a complex of temples and treasuries. The three columns we see today were part of the Tholos of Delphi, one of the buildings that belonged to the Sanctuary of Athena Pronaia:
Source: Michelin’s The Green Guide: Greece, ed. Sophie Friedman