A short distance outside the village of Elleniko (Lozetsi) in the Katsanokhoria, Ioannina, lies the imposing men’s monastery of Our Lady of Tsouka, one of the most historic and famous monasteries in Epirus. This is the building complex of the monastery, as seen from the gate in the external wall.
Many of the heights in the mountains of Epirus bear the name ‘Tsouka’ which means ‘high peak’. And, as can be seen, the monastery does indeed have a dominant position on a hill.
The high stone wall of the monastery blends in with the landscape.
The main entrance to the monastery. According to tradition, it was built by Emperor Isaakios II Angelos Komninos (1185-1195). This is supported by the inscription above the entrance, which mentions the date 1190.
The stone relief above the entrance.
In the past, the monastery had a great deal of property and under Turkish rule maintained the school in the nearby village of Elleniko. It was also involved in the ‘great uprising’ of 1821.
The monastery lies at a height of 850 m. In the background, the lake and town of Ioannina can be seen.
At the entrance, candles await pilgrims.
The monastery’s dedicated to the Nativity of the Mother of God.
The monastery was destroyed in 1736 and rebuilt in 1779.
Relics and icons displayed for veneration.
The poet K. Krystallis (1868-1894), from the village of Syrrako in the wider Tzoumerka region, relates that the monastery’s healing water was in great demand throughout Epirus. In the photo, the springs at the entrance and the traditional vessels.
The middle of the courtyard is dominated by the central church (katholiko) of the monastery. On the right, the cistern with its cover.
The monasteries of Kipina, Iliokali, the Dormition of the Mother of God at Krapsi and Halasmata were dependencies of the monastery.
The building complex of the monastery includes the central church, the bell-tower (from 1866), a chapel to Our Lady, the cistern, cells and auxiliary rooms.
The construction of the main church goes back to the 17th century. It’s made of white, rectangular, hewn stone. The churches of the Dormition of the Mother of God in nearby Plaisia and of Saint Paraskevi in the neighbouring village of Patero were built using a similar technique.
There are many miracles attributed to the Mother of God.
The gilded iconostasis in the main church was built in 1789 and contains the wonder-working icon of Our Lady.
The wall-paintings date from the year 1779 and were probably produced by the priest/icon painter Athanasios Ioannou. The patron of the enterprise appears to have been Alexios Papaioannou.
The church is in the Athonite style (single nave, choirs and a western porch).
The plants in the decoration of the iconostas are clearly visible.
According to tradition, the icon of Our Most Holy Lady, the Mother of God, was found on the summit of the rock. Out of reverence, the villagers built a chapel a short distance away and placed the icon inside. The next day, it was found back on its original spot on the rock. This was taken to mean that it was the will of Our Lady, and so the monastery was built exactly on the site where the icon had been found.
The reception room of the monastery.
Tended with love and care, the interior of the monastery stands out for its pleasing aesthetics.
The exterior of the holy sanctuary.
The monastery is built on the edge of a ravine with the River Arakhthos at the bottom., thus providing an amazing view of it.
The river runs 470m. below the monastery.
This wonderful view can be accessed through the east wing of the monastery.
Visitors are also impressed by the mass of the Athamanika (Tzoumerka) mountain range.
The grounds are carefully arranged for the reception of visitors.
The monastery gardens are to the north.
Every point has its own beauty.
The monastery celebrates on 8 September, a day which attracts a host of pilgrims.