I criss-crossed Thassos island many times. In recent years, my vacations mostly turned into moving from one sunbed to another, dozing in the shade and enjoying the multitude of beach bars.That was what pleased me. Until last summer.
A friend’s adventurous spirit woke me from hibernation. The idea was tabled, the plan forged within five minutes. There wasn’t much reconsidering, beacuse it’s better that way, leaving no time for changing mind.
We set our sights on the spring beneath the St. Archangel Michael monastery. The one reachable only by the most persistent.
The story goes that in late IX centiry a holy man named Luke lived near a village in central Thassos. There he built a chappel devoted to Apostle John the Theologian. The village Theologos was named after him.
St. Luke sought isolated places on the island for life and prayer without disruptions. He was moving westward and remained the longest in a place where the St. Archangel Michael monastery sits today. After 17 years of hermit life in hte rocky desert, Archangel Michael appeared, struck a rock with his staff and created a spring of holy water. He ordered St. Luke to build a church there, for people to find spiritual guidance and healing in the coming centuries.
St. Luke got to the job fervently and built the church where travelers could refresh their bodies and souls and get better if sick.
In latter centiries, the Ottomans tried to destroy the monastery and the holy spring, but could not.
Since those ancient days, fresh water continued to break from that cave by the sea.
The story tells us that the appearance of Archangel Michael and his miracles are linked to the Holy Nail, hammered into Christ’s right hand for his crucifixtion. Jesus’ cross was found during the construction for the Resurrection Church and the Holy Nail taken to Constantinople, then handed to monks on the Holy Mountain Athos as a gift, before it finally ended on Thassos. Honoring Archangel Mihael and the Holy Nail, the population and nuns hold annual prayer celebrations in Theologos.
The St. Archangel Michael monastery today is a large complex with a convent and other buildings offering hiospitality to thousands who visit each year.
Our story begins on an August morning. We knew the path to the spring is long and demanding, but not impossible. We set of at dawn, to avoid as much midday heat as possible. It was a jolly company. Draganche was the male support, Seka and myself. Loaded with water and cameras, off we went into our adventure.
We drove to the monastery, and then began descending down the cliff along a goat path. If any of us had had fear of heights, on that day he or she had found cure for it.
The trek down to the spring takes around an hour, in adequate apparel. Half of the trek leads along a poorly marked, steep path toward the sea. Right behind the gate where the path begins, there is a warning that it is not safe beyond that point.
I, however, think it isn’t dangeours if you’re patient and careful. Attention should particularly be paid on sections where water reaches the path, turning stepping stones into slippery traps.
Entry into the cave with the spring is low, so anyone willing to go inside must do so crawling on knees. The enterior is decorated with religious memorabilia left behind by visitors.
The view from the bottom up towards the monastery is breathtaking. It was hard to get going, but we needed to return back to town. Had the sun not started baking the rocks, promising a scorching day, we would have remained there for hours to gaze into the distance. It felt good, leaving the trodden tracks and going for an adventure, seeing unbelievable sights and sensing an utterly different scene in an otherwise familiar place. We waved to the holy Athos across the sea and got up for the return. We walked back in silence, filled with profound content.