Skiathos hinterland, though different from the coastal part of the island reveals an equally interesting aspect. Here, the splendid natural landscape dominates, with the monasteries to be the main sightseeing. This magnificent part of the island is worth visiting too.
Five kilometers from Skiathos, at the sources of Lehouni current and under the highest peak of mountain Stavros, the monastery of Panagias Evangelistrias is found.
The monastery is of great religious and historic importance and one of the island's sightseeing the visitors of the island don't miss visiting.
The monastery was founded in 1794, by Kollyvades, a group of monks that came here from Mount Athos. Monk Grigorios Karastamatis from Skiathos played the most important role to the monastery's construction, as well as monk Nifon whose origin was the island of Chios. Monk Nifon was actually the monastery's first abbot until 1809.
The monastery was constructed over, and with the use of, ancient relics. The construction was finished in 1806. The monastery's premises occupy more than 2000 square meters. Its main entrance with the pylon and diavatiko (walking way) is found on the East side. On the South wing the cells, the Trapeza (Altar Table) the hearth, the kitchen and ovens are found. The devastating effects of the passage of years, however, are obvious in some of these premises. Still, renovation has been started and is continued until today.
Many parts of the temple have been constructed according to strict artistic criteria. The individual buildings of the monastery are parametrically positioned and their exterior walls shape the monastery's perivolos.
The catholicon of the monastery is a church of cruciform architecture with three domes covered by grey schist plates, is frugal and follows the strict style of Mount Athos. The iconostasis with its splendid wood carving rivet's the visitor's, attention.
Today, the monastery is served by two monks. Every year, on the 15th August the Epitaph of Virgin Mary is held, and a most emotive Mass.
The monastery's telephone is 24270-22012
Next to Aghios loannis chapel, an exhibition with the products the monastery produces operates.
All of them are of excellent, first quality, all prepared according to traditional recipes, with pure raw materials and are of limited quantity. The abbey has founded a model vineyard, where the famous Alypiakos wine is produced. Alypiakos wine (meaning in Greek "without sorrows") is claimed, according to Papadiamandis "to relieve the sorrows and sadness of this world". In the old olive oil press of the monastery, a remarkable folklore museum is held.
Here, the visitor will be able to admire household utensils, traditional costumes, a loom and equipment used in agriculture and building construction. During its period of acme, the monastery offered important services to the island's residents as well as took care of the poor people. It also supported the "armatolous and clefts" (Greek rebellions) who were in Skiathos, mostly during the period the flotilla of Yannis Stathas and Nikotsaras was taking action.
Here, the rebellions gave a vow of freedom under the first Greek flag ever manufactured; its background was blue with a white cross and replaced the Russian flag the fleet used until then.
Later, during the years of revolution the monastery of Evangelismos took care of the fugitives who came to Skiathos from the opposite Pilion and Halkidiki, Olympus or Evia; it also supported the revolution by offering money and food to the ships that anchored at the island's harbour.
In 1839, the clerical - philosopher Theofilos Kairis was exiled to Skiathos after being convicted by the Synod because of his opinions about religion and stayed there for 5 months.
From 1850 and on, the monastery started to decline and the number of the monks who were living there decreased. The catholicon of the monastery was built according to the designs of Mount Athos monasteries. It was transformed to a plain, three edged Byzantine church with the form of a cross, with three domes, two narthexes and an external one. Murals are found only in the Altar. The wooden iconostasis of the church is of high aesthetics and unique wealth and refinement with representations that make it an unparalleled piece of art.
Today, there is a museum with icons and a library in the monastery, as well as a museum of musical instruments and an exhibition of traditional products which are produced by the people of the monastery and the monks.
Here, every year, on the 15th of August the epitaph of Virgin Mary is held, a unique custom all over Greece (it takes place only in Skiathos).
Two kilometers north of the monastery of Evangelistria the visitor meets the monastery of Aghios Haralambos. It is built at an altitude of 250 meters and the view from here is astonishing.
The renovated monastery with the murals dated in the 19th century, Alexandros Moraitidis had come so as to become a monk in 1929 but never did since he died within the same year.
Northwest, 8 kilometers from Skiathos, within pines and olive trees, the monastery of Panagia Kehrias is located, which was founded in the 16th century. The location of the monastery, which has been abandoned for many years now, is impressive; a gorge with virgin vegetation. Its catholicon has murals of exceptional art. The iconostasis made of walnut wood is worth mentioning too.
Just before the bight of Kehria the stone built of church of Aghia Anastasia Farmakolytra is found. This is the place where Papadiamandis used to come when he was writing his book, Farmakolytra. Relics of the ancient Friktoria are saved next to the church.
Ecclesiastical Museum In the library of the Monastery of Evangelistrias, missives and other invaluable documents from the last five centuries are exhibited as well as books of the 17th, 18th and 19th century. Additionally, document sealed with the stamp of the patriarchate have been collected and exhibited, sigilia (sigilium - clerical document) and important missives. In the ambry a large number of icons of the 9th and 12th centrury as well as from the 16th and 19th century are kept. In the monastery's collection other important heirlooms are included: silver plated exapteriga (ecclesiastical fans), chalices, silver and wooden blessing crosses, a handmade Holy and Divine Gospel Book made of gold, silver, and precious stones of rare art dated in 1539.
In the room next to the ecclesiastical museum a big exhibition of folklore musical instruments from all over the world is hosted. Many of the exhibits are dated in the 18th century.
Monastery of Panagias Kounistras It is located in the west part of the island. Here, the icon of Panagia Kounistras, the Patron Saint of Skiathos, was found. It celebrates on the 21st November, when the Eisodia Tis Theotokou (Assumption of Virgin Mary) is celebrated.
The foundation of the monastery is related with the icon that was discovered.
This incident occurred at the end of the 16th century (approx. in 1655). The monastery was named after the icon. The icon was given the name "Kounistra" either because this was the name of the location the icon was found or because it was found shaking (in Greek "Kouno" means "shake") hanging from a tree. According to the tradition the icon was shaking either due to the wind, or because it emitted a sparkling light and the corruption of the relevant Greek words gave the current named to the icon.
The last possible explanation is that the icon came from Istros, a position near the Danube Delta. In 1806, the monastery became a "stavropigio"; it was dissolved during the regency era.
In 1841 Gerontas Dionysios leromonahos was settled to the monastery. During his staying, the monastery was renovated and reached a high intellectual and ethical level. The church of Kounistra is a one aisled basilica with dome. Its interior is full of murals. The full length murals of martyrs and saints, with aureoles of plaster painted yellow are distinguished. The icon of Aghios Christoforos with the face of a dog - he is actually symbolized like this since the 16th century - is most impressive.
The church's iconostasis is wooden, gold filled, with vine leaves, grapes and prophet Jonas and the whale to be represented on it. In the monastery's en¬trance, there is a painting of the Assumption of Virgin Mary, while on the left there is a marble solar clock.