Monastery Buildings > Main Church

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The katholikon, or main church of the monastery, has been dedicated to Taxiarch Archangel Michael since its foundation (or re-foundation) in 1526. As Saint Ignatios himself tells us in his will, the church “ was erected on old foundations” in 1526. Wear to the building over the passage of time has led to a number of renovations that have shaped its present form, the result of renovations made between 1795 and 1796.
In its present form, the katholikon is a basilica with three aisles and a wooden roof that becomes higher over the central aisle. The enclosed narthex is in two parts, and there are two covered atriums, or porches, north and south, and five chapels. Four of the chapels are located at the corners of the church, while the fifth is to the right of the Sanctuary, in a room that once also served as a hiding-place for precious objects in the katholikon, above the monastery’s ‘agiasma’, or sacred spring.

The liturgical use of the space may date back to the first centuries of the Byzantine era, since it is thought probable that the katholikon was built on the remains of an ancient Christian basilica of the Syrian type, with a frescoed apse that had rooms to its right and left.

On the outside of the katholikon, on the south-facing side of the Sanctuary, water flows to this day from the ‘agiasma’, or sacred spring, of the monastery. The tap is imposing and bears strong elements of Ottoman architecture.

The church was frescoed in two different periods. The earlier layer of frescoes has been dated to late 16th century, while those added later are from 1800, the result of the most recent of the renovations to the church. The earlier frescoes bear elements of the Macedonian School that flourished in the 15th century. Some examples of this initial decoration survive in the apse of the Sanctuary. Following building work in 1795-1796, the church was frescoed again. An inscription in the narthex makes it known that these frescoes were painted by the Athonite monk Nikephoros. Characteristic of the frescoes in the later layer is their didactic nature and popular style.

The iconostasis is carved from wood and covered with a layer of gold, in Ottoman baroque style. Tradition holds that it is the work of craftsmen from Chios. Scenes from scripture can be seen under the icons in its mid section, while the rest of it is decorated with a wealth of subjects from the plant and animal kingdom. The icons on the iconostasis were painted by the Athonite monk Nikephoros, who also frescoed the church in 1800, or members of his team. An older iconostasis that once stood in its place has been moved the chapel of Saint John the Theologian (the Divine), which is to the right of the narthex of the katholikon. Part of it, however, is now on display in the museum at the monastery.

The altar in the katholikon is surmounted by a wooden ciborium, or canopy, decorated – according to the inscription- in 1795 at the expense of Samuel, a monk who was also a priest. The ‘agiasma’, or sacred spring, of the monastery rises up beneath the altar.

To the right of the Sanctuary is a room once used as a hiding place for precious objects, decorated with remarkable frescoes from the 16th century in excellent condition. Those that stand out are Jacob blessing his sons, the Slaughter of the Innocents and the Road to Emmaus.

Women may not enter the katholikon, or the courtyard surrounding it. An exception is made on the feast-day of Saint Ignatios (October 14th), when women are free to enter the courtyard, but not the church itself.

Available videos

Celebration of Leimonos Monastery - 1

Celebration of Leimonos Monastery - 2

Celebration of Leimonos Monastery - 3

Celebration of Leimonos Monastery - 4