Religious Tourism



In the city and the villages of the northern part of the prefecture - mainly in verdant areas, on the slopes, on the rugged mountain peaks of the region, in monasteries and churches - reveals the profound respect of religious dwellers. Monuments of Byzantine world and others, mostly of Ottoman times, carry memories of Hellenism and Orthodoxy journey in this troubled region. Starting from the early Byzantine centuries, the Christian church in Drama was a part of the historic diocese of Filippi, created after the preaching of the Apostle Pavlos (Paul) on the first AD century. As archbishop, dependent on the metropolis of Filippi, Drama appears for the first time, in the reign of Michael VIII Palaeologos (1258-1282). This season was exactly developed into an important ecclesiastical center.
From the 17th century, the Metropolis of Drama joined other Metropolis of the region till in 1882 it was broken, and the today prefecture came under two dioceses, during the 20th century. From the Byzantine period is preserved the Byzantine church of Agia Sofia of the 10th century. This was changed to a mosque in the Ottoman era and the church of the Taxiarches - since Palaeologi dynasty - changed to a single chamber basilica church, which was in contact with the Byzantine wall, probably making Taxiarches as guardians of Drama.
The most important monastery of this era is without doubt, Ikosifinisa, at an altitude of 753 m, built on a well sheltered slope of the Mt. Paggeo. According to the religious tradition, it was built in the 5th century by St.Germanos – the founder - or according to another version; it was built in the late 8th century. The tradition of the monastery mentions that the Virgin Mary gave Her miraculous image, without hands, to Germanos in an exquisite, «Phoenix» light. That is why the monastery was dedicated to the Virgin Mary and named as «Ikosifinisa». Thousands of pilgrims come every year to the Monastery of Paggeo, thanks to the miraculous image. The Monastery became for the first time, in 1471, a kind of a shelter for the Ecumenical Patriarch Dionysus. There, he finally retired and died after the completion of his second term (1490) to the patriarchal throne. Among many adventures that the Monastery met, we stand out the massacre of 172 monks by the Ottomans in 1507. It also developed, under the Turkish rule, a rich spiritual and national action, to strengthen the morale of the oppressed Greeks – especially, during the period when Chrysostomos lived in Drama and offered its services to the national struggles in 1943. The church of the Monastery, which was saved by the insistence of the conquerors, was founded in the late 18th century and proceeded the rebuild at the second phase, between 1837-1842, except for the sanctuary – which belongs to an earlier period. On this wonderful wooden temple is the miraculous, without hands image of the Virgin Mary. This was finished in 1803 by craftsmen from Chios Island. The murals of the exterior church, the porch with the columns and the interior, were all created between 1858 and 1864 by the Moldavian painter Matthew. He was also known by his works on the Mount Athos and his assistant Nikolaos from Thessaloniki. Since 1967, when it was reconstructed thanks to the efforts of the Bishop of Drama, the nunnery is the only one, which is opened to the Orthodox each year - as the serenity and the spirituality of the place dominate into the breathtaking natural surrounding.

At the end of Ottoman rule, from 1815 until 1890, 33 post Byzantine churches were built all over the prefecture, during a period of reform and intense national rivalries. They belong to the type of three-aisled basilica, which prevailed throughout Macedonia, under the Turkish rule. The post Byzantine churches of the prefecture are distinguished by morphological and structural simplicity. The sanctuary is semi-circular or faceted and sometimes is decorated with simple arches.
The roof is double and on the eastern wall, there are round skylights or shaped quatrefoils. Inside the ceilings are wooden with colorful decoration. The churches have wood-carved temples – of excellent art - and interesting carved furniture (such as Episcopal throne, pulpit). In religious monuments of the region, dominate the icons and not the murals that adorn just a few, but very interesting churches, like Taxiarches in Akrino (approximately in 1860), Agios Demetrius in Nevrokopi (after 1866), the Virgin Mary’s Dormitory in Livadaki (late of the 19th century). In painting, we recognize folk art items that attract people to Orthodoxy, while there also strong effects by the laboratories of Mount Athos. Outside the church is decorated with ornate steeple, independent or integrated to the building, which was constructed with locally quarried stone and it is a special one, due to its castellated form. Among the representative monuments of the region, we distinguish the Church of Virgin Mary’s Dormitory in Livadaki, built in 1870, which has unchanged the wood carved and painted decoration inside and that makes the church one of the best preserved monuments of Nevrokopi region. Some other representative monuments are Taxiarches in the abandoned today Akrino (1848), Profitis Ilias in Volakas (1841), the Virgin Mary’s Dormitory in Panorama (mid 19th century), Agios Nikolaos in Kali Vrysi (1877), the church of the Virgin Mary in Choristi (1906) and Agios Athanasios in Doxato (1867). Close to the gifted nature of Drama’s land, monastic communities emit spiritual light and become a kind of a worship and meditation shelter. Apart from Ikosifinisa Monastery of Mt. Paggeo, there is a convent of Agios Minas (1950), in the pine forest of Perichora. On our way to the famous forest of Elatia, we find the nunnery of Christ Assumption (in Taxiarches village, since 1970) and on our way to the forests of the Rhodope Mountains, we find the Monastery of Christ Transfiguration in Prasinada, 52km northern east from Drama.

We can find the treasures of the Orthodox tradition, gathered in the Ecclesiastical Museum of Drama’s Metropolis, next to the Episcopal Palace of the city, after having a contact with the office of the ecclesiastical authority.