THE MONASTERY OF ROUSSANO

The Monastery of Roussano stands between the monasteries of St. Nicholaos Anapafsas and Varlaam on the way from Kastraki to Meteora. It is built on the most striking pinnacle and its complex of buildings covers the whole plateau of the steep rock in such a way that looks like a natural continuation of the rock. Over there the visitor and the pilgrim enjoy all the beauty and magnificence of the unique Meteora landscape and the faithful Christian feels a spiritual aplift to heaven where the souls of the saintly anchorites and hermits have hallowed these rocks with their deeds and ascetic life. On the east one can see the Holy Trinity and St. Stephen monasteries and on the west the Varlaam Monastery and the Great Meteoron further away. All around the rocky forest of the innumerable gigantic crags stretches away and deep in the horizon the mountain massifs of Koziakas and Pindos capture the visitor’s eye.

For the ascending on the Monastery a rope-ladder was used but today it can easily be done by ciment steps and two small solid bridges constructed in 1930 with the donation of daphne Bouka from Kastraki during the bidshopric of Polykarpos [Thomas]. Already in 1868 during the abbacy of Superior Gedeon a wooden bridge was constructed replacing the dangerous rope-ladders on account of easier and safer access to the rock.

The origin of the name of the Roussano Monastery is not verified yet. Several explanations have been proposed but most of them are unreliable. Probably this name is due to the first resident of the rock or the founder of the original church (14th/15th century). Under the name of Roussano this monastery is mentioned in official documents and texts from the third decade of the 16th century which means that this rock was originally known by this name.

The priest-monk Polykarpos Rammides, former superior of the Great Meteoron Monastery in his book about the history of Meteora (1882) writes that the rock of Roussano was originally inhabited in 1388 by a priest-monk Nikodemos and his fellow hermit Venediktos. Yet this information isn’t based on any historical source so it can’t be taken into consideration.

The only official document about the erection of the Monastery of Roussano and its history in general is the testament of the two brothers priest-monks from Ioannina Ioasaph and Maximos. It’s written in vellum and was taken from the monastery along with other manuscripts from Meteora (fortunately not many) in 1882 by the command of the then Government. It was transferred to Athens, where is still today in the National Library.

The text has small gaps in the end because the parchment is worn out. For this reason the date is not precise but it can be defined accurately by the context. So if we combine the third indiction which is mentioned above with the Metropolitan Vissarion of Larissa who had already been dead when the testament  was written – as the text says – since he is mentioned to be the Metropolitan at that time we can end up to the year 1545 (7053 since the creation of the world). The above mentioned Metropolitan Vissarion of Larissa and temporarily of Stagoi which fell vacant at that time is undoubtedly the same person with Vissarion II the well-known saintly hierarch and founder of the monastery of Dousikon who was elected Metropolitan of Larissa in March 1527 and died on 13 September 1540.

After the year 1540, when Vissarion II of Larissa died, the third indiction corresponds to the year 1545 as well as the year 1560 (we don’t take into consideration the following years 1575 and on). According to the inscription in November 1560 when the decoration of the katholikon of the monastery finished, Superior of the monastery was the priest-monk Arsenios so we must accept that in that year the two founders of the monastery Ioasaph and Maximos weren’t alive. Therefore the only indisputable date of the making of the will is 1545.

They took as a pattern for their will, the will of the founders of Varlaam Monastery (in the year 1541/42) Nektarios and Theophanis Apsaras and copied it having adjusted it to the data and to the constructural history of the Roussano Monastery.

The date of the founder’s death is not known; it must be after 1545 (the making of the will) and before 1560.

So the two brothers priest-monks from Giannena Ioasaph and Maximos, following the example of their compatriots priest-monks Nektarios and Theophanis Apsaras who had already been settled in the rocky town of Stagoi since 1510/11, asked and finally got the permission of the Metropolitan of Larissa Vissarion II and of the Superior of the Great Meteoron Monastery to lead a secluded life on one of the rocks of Meteora. They were given the rock of Roussano. This happened after March 1527 and before August 1529 because only during this short period Vissarion II of Larissa was substitute for the bishop of Stagoi. The determination of the year during which the priest-monks Ioasaph and Maximos settled on the rock of Roussano is of great importance because it is directly connected with the history and the dating of the Katholikon and the other buildings.

According to the text of their will, as soon as the two brothers settled in the rock of Roussano they developed a remarkable constructural activity. They rebuilt from its foundations the ruined and destroyed by the ravages of time and desertion, old Katholikon of the monastery (probably of the 14th/15th century) the church of the Transfiguration of the Saviour and they gave its present form. They also built cells and other service rooms and they supplied the monastery with consecrated vestments, holy vessels, manuscripts and other ecclesiastical heirlooms and they ensure its estate. They organized the monastery to be a coenobium, the religious observances of which included in their will and finally they arranged the relations and obligations of the monastery and the monks towards every bishop of Stagoi and every Superior of the Great Meteoron Monastery who would have only spiritual authority here. All the monks of Roussano were obliged, according to the provisions of the will, to keep unswervingly the equality, the common ownership and the lack of property. Should the relatives of the founders become monks in this monastery, they wouldn’t have any special or preferential treatment.

“Thus we decided to erect a venerable church and cells and everything that was necessary for the monks, since we were attracted by the holy monastic way of life which is comparable only to the life of angels. The Metropolitan Vissarion of Larisa was the Abbot of this monastery when he was the Exarch of Stagoi, since, at that time the diocese of Stagoi had fallen vacant. So with the blessing of the Metropolitan and the Superior of the Great Meteoron we erected a holy church dedicated to our Lord Jesus Christ, since the old one was ruined due to the ravages of time and the abandonment. We reconstructed it totally not minding the efforts, the difficulties nor the labour. With God’s help we built many cells for the monks and the visitors to reside as well as many other constructions and this way we improved this monastery. Moreover we enriched it with books, sacred vestments of deacons and priests, and holy vessels. We consecrated vineyards, fields, gardens, mills and monastery dependencies and cattle and horses and all the other property we had. And we gathered a lot of monks and we ordained deacons and priests in order to glorify God with us. Then we established the coenobitic life in this Monastery and we adopted the Meteora tradition. All the monks have everything in common, food, clothing, residence and noone has anything of his own inside or outside the monastery. They all live in peace and with love as if they were one soul in many bodies. So it is our wish to continue to obey to the Superior of the Great Meteoron in order to live in peace for ever. He will be our spiritual father who will love and cherish the brotherhood but he will not have any other authority on us. He who will not obey these provisions insisting on his own decisions, shall be expelled the brotherhood. We shall also obey the Eminent bishop of Stagoi for ever, who will receive from us one kilo of wax as sign of our obedience. Moreover noone of our relatives who comes here to live as a monk shall have any kind of preferential treatment but he shall be treated as every other member of the brotherhood..”

Since the priest-monks Ioasaph and Maximos came to the rock of Roussano between 1527 (after March) and 1529 (before August) we must accept that they built the present katholikon around 1530 along with certain cells and other buildings in the monastery. When they ascended the rock they did not find anything but remains and ruins as they mentioned in their will so they were obliged to built a church for their liturgical needs and cells for their residence as soon as possible. For this reason we cannot accept the until now prevailing opinion that the katholikon of the monastery was built shortly before 1545 – the year the founders’ will was written. We can draw the same conclusion by the very text of the will. It had already been long since the establishment of the two brothers on the rock because when they refered to the until then good relation between them and the superior of the Great Meteoron they remark: “we will live in peace as we always do” “as of course our relation with him has always been peaceful and without scandals”.

The katholikon has the characteristic style of Mount Athos like most of the monasteries in Meteora. The main church is two columned, cruciform with a dome in the centre and two lateral conches on the right and left, the choirs. The dome is polygonic with monolobe windows and predominates the whole elegant monastic complex due to its imposing height. The sanctuary is built towards the north on the grounds of the lie of the rock. The esonarthex precedes the nave and it is covered by a large unified cupola.

The church is dedicated to the Transfiguration of the Saviour. However in this monastery the memory of St. Barbara (4 Dec.) is particularly honored and venerably celebrated by the faithful Christians of the area as well.

The decoration of the katholikon was made during the abbacy of Arsenios at his own expenses in 1560 (7069 since the creation of the world) almost thirty years after the erection of the monastery as we are informed by the inscription below the representation of the Assumption and above the entrance which leads from the nave to the narthex:

+ ΙΣΤΟΡΙΘΗ Ο ΠΑΝΣΕΠΤΟΣ ΚΑΙ ΘΕΙΟΣ ΟΥΤΟΣ ΝΑΟΣ ΤΟΥ Κ(ΥΡΙΟ)Υ ΚΑΙ Θ(ΕΟ)Υ ΚΑΙ Σ(ΩΤΗ)Ρ(Ο)Σ ΗΜΩΝ Ι(ΗΣΟ)Υ Χ(ΡΙΣΤΟΥ) ΤΗΣ ΜΕΤΑΜΟΡΦΩΣΕΩΣ΄/ ΔΙΑ ΣΥΝΔΡΟΜΗΣ ΚΟΠΟΥ ΚΑΙ ΕΞΟΔΟΥ ΤΟΥ ΟΣΙΩΤΑΤΟΥ ΕΝ ΙΕΡΟΜΟΝΑΧΟΙΣ ΚΑΙ ΗΓΟΥΜΕΝΟΥ ΤΗΣ ΣΕΒΑΣΜΙΑΣ/ΑΥΤΗΣ ΜΟΝΗΣ ΚΥΡΙΟΥ ΑΡΣΕΝΙΟΥ΄ΕΠΙ ΕΤ(ΟΥΣ) ΖΩΞΘΩ ΜΗΝΙ ΝΟΕΜΒΡΙΩ Κ’΄ΙΝ(ΔΙΚΤΙΩΝ)ΟΣ ΔΗΣ.

«This venerable church of the Transfiguration of Our Lord Jesus Christ was painted with the help and at the expenses of the most saintly priest-monk and Superior of this venerable monastery Arsenios in the year ζωξθω on November 20 4th indiction”.

The inscription didn’t preserve the name of the painter who must have been very remarkable since the wall-painting assemblages of the post-byzantine art during the second half of the 16th century. These paintings belong to the Cretan School and the narthex as well as the nave are fully decorated.

The north wall of the narthex , above the entrance, towards the nave, is covered by the imposing many-figured composition of the Second Coming; high up the preparation of the Throne with St. John the Baptist and Virgin Mary kneeled down on the left and right accordingly and the Christ at the top; below, in the center three angels and the one in the middle is holding the Scales of Justice while the first one is holding a trident. On the cupola is depicted the Pantokrator surrounded by young men and maidens, olders and youngers” glorifying Him. The extended surfaces of the rest of the walls of the nartex illustrate the regular martyrdoms of Saints (Georgios, Demetrios, Nestor, Eugenios, Mardarios etc) as well as full-bodied figures of saints, ascetes and hermits.

In the nave above the entrance is depicted the many-figured composition of the Assumption. On the right and left of the door, sleepless guards, stand the imposing full-bodied figures of the Archangels of the angelic hosts Michael and Gabriel. On the dome, as it is established, Pantokrator is illustrated. High up the lateral conches, the choirs, there are the Transfiguration, the Ressurection while below there are full-bodied military saints. The rest of the surfaces of the walls are decorated with representations from the Dodekaorton and scenes from the life of our Lord and His Holy Mother. Among the saints illustrated here, there are the great melodoi of our church St. Kosmas “the Godly inspired guitar of the spirit” and St. John Damaskinos “the sweet nightingale”.

In the middle of the 16th century a bibliographical workshop must have functioned here in Roussano Monastery with main scribe the priest-monk of the monastery Parthenios around 1565. The then (until 1909) fifty codices of the monastery now belong to the manuscript collection of the Holy Trinity Monastery.

At times this monastery was used as refuge and shelter for many people and families during the various historical adventures of our Nation. So according to the rememberance of the year 1757 a lot of people from Trikala persecuted by the Turk pashah found refuge here. Also in 1897 after the unfortunate war with the Turks, a lot of families from Kastraki and Kalabaka were sheltered safely under the hospitable roof of the Monastery of Roussano.              


Δημιουργία ιστοτόπου ΑΔΑΜ ΠΛΗΡΟΦΟΡΙΚΗ