Monastery of Holy Lavra (Kalavryta, Greece)
Agia Lavra, also '"Holy Lavra"', is a monastery about four miles from the town of Kalavryta in Achaea, Greece. Founded in 961, it is one of the oldest monasteries in the Peloponnese and is the symbolic birthplace of modern Greece.
The Monastery of Agia lavra was founded by the monk Eugene Askitis in 961. Since its establishment, the monastery has suffered damage and destruction from wars, earthquakes, and fires. The original monastery of the tenth century was destroyed in 1585 by the Ottoman Turks. It was rebuilt in 1600 while the frescoes by Anthimos were completed in 1645. The monastery was burned in 1715 and, again, in 1826 by the armies of Ibrahim Pasha of Egypt. After the birth of modern Greece, the main building was completely rebuilt in 1850. During World War II the monastery was burned down in 1943 by the occupying German forces. After peace was regained in Greece following the war, the Monastery of Agia Lavra was rebuilt in 1950 with donations from pilgrims and support from the State.
The monastery is most renowned in Greek national history for its place as the birthplace of modern Greece with its link to the Greek War of Independence. It was here that the call for Eleftheria I Thanatos (Ελευθερία ή θάνατος) was first heard on March 25, 1821. The Greek revolt began on March 25 when Bishop Germanos of Patra raised the flag of revolution over the Monastery of Agia Lavra with the cry Freedom or Death that became the motto and launched the revolution against the Ottoman Empire. That day, Bp. Germanos performed a doxology and administered an oath to the Peloponnesian fighters. The revolutionary flag was raised by Bp. Germanos under the plane tree just outside the gate of the monastery.
The monastery holds many mementos of its place in Greek national history. These include the Banner of the Revolution, the first Greek flag that was raised with the declaration of the Greek Independence, and the sacerdotal vestments of Bp. Germanos. In addition to the treasures related to Greek independence, the Monastery's museum preserves documents, books, icons, a diamond-decorated Gospel from Tsarina Catherine II of Russia, sacred items, and crosses along with the holy relics of St. Alexios, given to it by emperor Manuel II Palaeologus in 1398. The Monastery also possesses pieces of embroidery made with gold or silver threads woven in pure silk materials in Smyrna and Constantinople that date from sixteenth century as well as a collection of paintings made by St. Panteleimon that date back to the seventeenth century.