If you go towards the old-world village of Kalarrytes in the Tsoumerka Mountains in Epirus, you come across an impressive fortified monastery built into a rock face: the Holy Monastery of Our Lady of Kipina.
According to the founder’s inscription, building began in 1349. But according to Metropolitan Serafeim (Vyzantio) of Arta, a historian, the foundation dates back further in time. Other historical sources date it to 1212.
Access to the Monastery is by a stone path hewn into the rock. In former times, contact could be broken by means of a wooden drawbridge.
Without doubt, the time when the Monastery of Kipina was at its peak was the 18th century. Indeed, it’s recorded that, in 1760, the exceptionally active Abbot Kallinikos funded the construction of a bridge over the nearby River Kalarrytikos, a tempestuous tributary of the Arakhthos.
The Monastery also ran a school and a water-mill. All of this shows both the financial power of the foundation and also the close links with its social setting.
Still surviving from the old Monastery complex are the church, four cells and a small building which used to serve as a stable.
In the olden days, the drawbridge would be raised at night or at times of danger. Access to the Monastery was thus completed severed, which is why it is one of the few that escaped pillage. The crank handle of the drawbridge has been preserved.
The Monastery is dedicated to the Dormition of the Mother of God. According to tradition, however, it celebrates on the feast of the Life-Receiving Spring (Friday in the week after Easter).
At the northern end of the narthex is the opening to the cave, which extends to a depth of 240 metres into the rock.