The Monastery of Faneromeni was built in the green pine-clad hill of Lefkada, on the west side of the town, where the view of Saint John’s, Gira and the Castle are extraordinary.
Its history goes back centuries, beginning from the first apostolic years. For this reason it is one of the most significant monuments of the island and the only monastery still in residence.
Tradition says that the place where the monastery was built was originally a Temple dedicated to Artemis, made of fine marble. Aquila, Herodion and Sosion, companions of the Apostle Paul, arrived first on the island, gathering the inhabitants and preaching the Gospel. They created the first church and Sosion became Lefkada’s first Bishop ordained by the Apostle Paul. It is said that one day Herodion knelt in prayer and the Temple of Artemis demolished, over which local Christians built a church dedicated to the Virgin Mary.
According to sources, in 332 A.D. five monks arrived in Lefkada together with the Bishop of Lefkada Agatharchos. Two of them settled around the church of the Panagia and three of them in the Hermitage of the Holy Fathers outside Alexandros village. The Fathers constructed the first cells, extended the church and organized the monasticism of Lefkada.
Another tradition says that the first icon of the Panagia was ordered to be done by the Hieromonk Kallistos of Constantinople in the fifth century. Kallistos was the priest of Hagia Sophia and a hagiographer. After praying and fasting he began to paint the icon, but the image of the Panagia had already appeared; the only thing left for him to do was add the colors. Thus the icon was revealed as an “Icon-Made-Without-Hands”. For this reason, the monastery was named “Faneromeni” (“the Revealed”).
The monastery took its final shape during the Venetian domination in 1734 after being destroyed and rebuilt many times. The church was rebuilt in the 19th century again after a fire in 1886 destroyed the entire katholikon and original icon, and its current features reveal the strong influence of Zakinthos architecture.
The current icon of Panagia Faneromeni is a copy of the old miraculous icon of Faneromeni and was made by Monk Benjamin Kontrakis from Mount Athos in 1887. The iconostasis was made after 1887, a work of Efstathios Prosalentis Jr. Its icons are works of brothers Christodoulos and Thomas Zografos from Chionades of Epiros from 1919.
Also, to the front of the iconostasis, you will find the works of Leonidas Sideris, featuring scenes from the New Testament.
The monastery was renovated recently, with the initiative of the abbot. A new wing of cells was constructed together with the abbot’s apartment, the gathering area, the library and a chapel dedicated to Saint Silouan the Athonite. In the modern building is the new Ecclesiastical Museum of the monastery with ecclesiastical art and traditional exhibits: icons, vestments, vessels and books exhibited on three floors characterizing Lefkada’s cultural development.The monastery sells Christian books and has a small guestroom for the pilgrims. Panagia Faneromeni stands for centuries on the holy rock gathering many pilgrims every year. She is the patron of Lefkada and is widely celebrated on the Monday of Holy Spirit, the day after Pentecost.