Delphi and Hosios Loukas
Delphi and Hosios Loukas: Echoes of the Ancients in the Shadows of Helicon and Parnassus
Visitors approaching the Monastery of Hosios Lukas, especially after the cacophony of Athens, are often surprised by the scale of this ancient religious settlement. The E75 highway will bring you to the exit at Distomo. Signs lead from there to the monastery. You should plan, if driving, on three hours from Athens. For visits to these sites, I have used the affordable services of a private car and driver, or small van if with clients, to enjoy this easy and fascinating day away from Athens.
Built on the slopes of Mount Helikon to surround the remains of the Venerable St. Luke (hence the name in Greek, Ὅσιος Λουκᾶς – Hosios Loukas) the rose and terracotta colored buildings are a maze of roughhewn stone walls, shaded courtyards and mysterious entrances. The oldest structure in the monastic settlement, the Church of the Theotokos, is the only church in all of Greece confirmed to have been built during the Tenth Century. A larger church, the Katholikon, is the first octagon and pillared church Byzantine church built in Greece. (11th Century A.D.)
Mosaics, incredible in beauty and scale, fill the interior of both churches. Frescoes of saints were added to some of the walls beginning in the 12th Century. The shaded and cool interiors of both churches give visitors the opportunity to comprehend the enormous work that the ancient monks and artists put into this holy place. Air, perfumed by incense, the odor of burning candle wax, the shuffle of shoes and sandals on centuries-worn stone all adds to the timelessness of this place.
What a welcome and moving way to encounter more of the true Greek culture.
On a hot summer day last year, the hum of insects melded with the soft stir of leaves in the trees that surround the monastery. One of the monks, whose face was barely visible save for a long gray beard and dressed head to foot in a long black robe, moved between buildings with some purpose. I remember wondering what appointment pulled at him so urgently in such a place of peace.
For those who wish to visit the monastery, please see below for further links and information.
From Hosios Loukas it is about forty minutes’ drive to the place revered by ancient Greeks as the birthplace of the world: Delphi.
My first visit to Delphi several years ago was accompanied by indescribable excitement. All of my life I had read about the Greek Gods, of the Oracle, of the Temples of Apollo…and here I was in the shadow of Mount Parnassus, standing at the foot of the Temple of Athena below the ruins of the city. Repeated visits to the site have only served to further deepen my reverence and respect for this beautiful place.
Absent detailed and scholarly study of the archaeological site, I have always found Delphi to be a place of reflection. This is, for the uninitiated traveler, one of the few places where history truly unfolds before your eyes.
As visitors either walk, or drive, up toward the main archeological site above the circular columned ruins of the Temple of Athena, they encounter ancient history in its most easily understood form: blocks of hand hewn stone, columns of temples-particularly the remains of the Temple of Apollo-the stunning ancient amphitheater and the paved stone surface which marks the place where the Oracle of Delphi foretold the futures of paupers and kings alike.
I have encountered travelers either moved to tears by, or incapable of putting into words their feeling about, this incredible site.
The Archaeological Museum at Delphi contains invaluable treasures of the ancients and should be a required stop on any visit to the area. Most famous for a bronze of a charioteer and a beautiful marble status of Antonius, he who was the lover of Emperor Hadrian. The museum’s architectural simplicity is in sharp contrast to the ancient treasures found within: truly a place not to be missed during a visit to Delphi. Go!
If you go to Delphi and Hosios Loukas:
If you wish to use bus transportation to visit Delphi and Hosios Loukas, go to: KTEL Bus Schedule
Private car service with driver? I recommend George’s Taxi. Excellent service, reliable and very favorably priced.
Hosios Loukas Monastery
Opening hours: Apr 1 to Oct 31: 8:00AM-2:00PM and from 4:00PM-6:00PM
November 1st to March 31st, open from 8:30AM – 3:00PM
Entrance Ticket: Euro 3.00, Reduced Euro 2.00, Students from EU FREE, Child/children under 18 years of age are free
Admission is free on Sundays from November 1st to March 31st.
Information Telephone: +30.22.67.02.2797
Delphi Archaeological Site and Museum
Delphi, Τ.Κ. 33054, Delphi (Prefecture of Fokida)
Telephone: +30 22650 82313, +30 22650 82312 (Direct Museum Phone)
Museum Open: 8:00AM – 3:00PM (last entrance is at 2:20PM)
Entrance Ticket: Euro 6.00/Reduced Euro 3.00
Special Ticket good for both Delphi site and Museum: Euro 9.00/Reduced Euro 5.00
Free Admission Days: March 6, April 18, June 5, May 18, Last Weekend of September, First Sunday of each month, November 1 – March 31, September 27 and October 28.
Closed: January 1, March 25, May 1, Easter Sunday, December 25 and December 26.
For those who wish to spend the night in Delphi, I highly recommend the Fedriades Delphi Hotel. Excellent location for the Museum and Archaeological site, excellent restaurant with fair pricing and stunning vistas below the town of Delphi to the Bays of Iteas and Corinth.
Mark Gordon Smith is a published author and President of Private Italy Tours. For over ten years, his company has provided unforgettable small small group explorations of Italy and Greece. www.private-italy.com.