Agios Gerasimos Monastery Kefalonia, Greece
Church of Agios Gerasimos Monastery, Kefalonia, Greece (Credit: Berit from Redhill/Surrey, UK, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Saint Gerasimos Holy Monastery in Kefalonia

One of the most sacred pilgrimage places of the Ionian island attracting many faithful yearly

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Located on the plateau of Omala, Kefalonia’s Holy Monastery of Agios (Saint) Gerasimos is the largest religious monument in the Ionian island. It was established in 1560 by Agios Gerasimos, who is worshipped in Kefalonia as the patron saint. In the church within the monastery lay his undamaged Holy Relics.

St. Paisios of Mount Athos said that God has given the Orthodox the incorrupt relics of three saints to three Ionian islands – St. Spyridon on Corfu, St. Dionysios on Zakynthos, and St. Gerasimos on Kefalonia – as a dam to protect the Orthodox from conversion to Roman Catholicism (since these islands lay between Greece and Italy).

At the back of the church is a trap door that leads down a narrow passage to two small caves where Saint Gerasimos, known for his protecting and healing powers, lived as a hermit before the monastery was built.

An excellent iconography depicting Agios Gerasimos of Kefalonia

Agios Gerasimos was born in 1506 in Trikala, into a aristocratic family, the Notaras and his great-grandfather was the last Prime Minister of the Byzantine Empire. He was ordained a monk on Mount Athos, and later spent 12 years in Jerusalem and 5 in Zakynthos. In 1555 he arrived in Kefalonia where he founded the monastery and died on August 15 in 1579. He was sanctified years later, in 1622.

The relic of Saint Gerasimos, Kefalonia (Credit: Faith2414, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

On August 16th, there is a grand litany for the commemoration of the Saint’s death, during which his sarcophagus is paraded and laid under the plane tree. He is also celebrated on October 20 when a large number of pilgrims from around the world visit the monastery for a blessing. The saint is known for his miraculous abilities to cure mental illness. Even today those who suffer from psychiatric disorders turn to him for help. Many natives of the island name their children after Agios Gerasimos as a tribute to the saint who protects them.

Church of Agios Gerasimos Monastery, Kefalonia (Credit: Kefexplorer, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

The monastery is built in a stunning location under the imposing Mount Ainos and near the villages of Fragata and Valsamata. The peacefulness of this place overwhelms you. The monastery collapsed in 1953 due to a devastating earthquake, but was rebuilt following the Byzantine style and today has a small chapel and a large church built in 1992 and richly decorated with icons and wall paintings. After the earthquake which destroyed 90% of the island, there were many claimed sightings of Agio Gerasimos throughout Kefalonia who is believed to have comforted and tended to the injured trapped inside homes and buildings.