Monastery of Kipina
One of the most impressive monasteries in Greece in terms of its architecture is the Monastery of Kipina in the village of Kalarrites in Tzoumerka, a part of the Epirus region of northwestern Greece. The monastery is built entirely inside a rock, on a steep slope over the Kalarritikos River by monks who set out from the nearby Vyliza Monastery to establish a new order. The name Kipina is due to the gardens, cultivated by the monks. The monastery was founded in 1212 and is dedicated to the Assumption of the Virgin Mary.
To get to the monastery, you have to follow a path which has been carved in the rocks and then cross a wooden bridge to get to the entrance. The bridge was built on rollers that could be retracted during an attack and protect the monastery from armed raids during the Turkish occupation era. During that period, the monastery served as a refuge and a secret school for the Greeks. Later, when the Greeks fought for independence, the monastery functioned as a hidden arsenal.
The chapel of the monastery is built inside a natural small cave and has a vaulted dome. Inside you can admire frescoes dating back to the 17th century and a beautiful carved iconostasis. You can visit the monks’ cells, the reception hall and the dining room, and of course you can admire the stunning views that surround the area. Both the reception hall and the dining room feature tapestries and handmade furniture, reflecting the region’s tradition in tapestry and craftsmanship. The monks’ cells are located on two levels and each one features small windows with splendid views. There is a cave that continues behind the monastery, stretching for about 240 meters (787 feet) into the rock. The cave is dotted with stalagmites and stalactites and was first explored in 1950.
Since, 1921, no monks live on the monastery. If you want to visit it, you have to stop at the ‘kafeneio’, an old-style café in the village of Kalarrites, to get the keys. Otherwise, you will not be able to see the interior of the monastery. Even, if you are not religious, you will be fascinated by the human spirit and this truly unique construction. If there were one church throughout all of Ioannina which should be on every traveler’s itinerary, this would be it.