Leimonos Monastery > History

Leimonos Monastery was founded (or strictly speaking re-founded - for tradition holds that it was built over the ruins of a Byzantine monastery) by Saint Ignatios Agallianos in 1526. The monastery has been a dominant force in the ecclesiastical history of Lesvos for the last five centuries. Over this period of time, it has played a significant intellectual and educational role, making at the same time a valuable contribution to the economic and social development of the central and western areas of the island.

At the time of its refoundation by Saint Ignatios, the monastery was dedicated to the Taxiarch Archangel Michael. When its founder was proclaimed a saint by the Orthodox Church, it was renamed the Monastery of Saint Ignatios. Over the course of its history, however, it has come to be better known as Leimonos Monastery, as it stands in the middle of a meadow (‘leimonas’) that gives colour to the rocky area that surrounds it.

A few years after its foundation, the monastery was granted patriarchal and stavropegic status, which meant that it was placed under the direct supervision of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. This was the case until the mid 20th century, when administrative responsibility devolved to the Metropolis of Methymna, to which it belongs today.

Leimonos Monastery was rebuilt - as was Myrsiniotissa - over the ruins of a Byzantine monastery, which had been abandoned either during the capture of Lesvos by the Ottomans (1462) or a few decades earlier. Sadly, no information about the foundation, function or dissolution of this monastery survives.

Saint Ignatios himself mentions in his will that the monastery was rebuilt “on old foundations” and “at his own expense”. He also says that it was rebuilt through the support of many pious Christians, not only inhabitants of the area but also from elsewhere, who contributed both in financial terms and through their own personal work.

In the first years after its foundation the monastery had twelve monks, including Saint Ignatios’ father and son. Later on, the number of the monks increased and some sources say that in certain periods there were more than one hundred and fifty.

The best example of the fruit born by the monastic meadow of Saint Ignatios over the five centuries of its operation is its Library, home to manuscripts and printed books, and an Archive of Greek and Ottoman documents as well. The manuscripts in particular, as well as some documents in the Archive, have provided, and continue to provide, material for international research for over 100 years, research that sheds valuable light on the history of Byzantine Literature, Byzantine Law, and  the economic, educational and social history of the island of Lesvos during the Ottoman occupation.