Ossios Loukas

Central Greece

Ossios Loukas is a Byzantine monastery that stands between Athens and Delphi and is the burial place of the Greek hermit, Blessed Luke.

Ossios Loukas Monastery

The monastery of Ossios Loukas (or Osiou Louka, the name meaning Blessed Luke) stands alone in an olive tree-filled valley a short way down a side road off the main Athens-Delphi road. The saint to whom it is dedicated was a Greek hermit, not the more famous gospel writer. This St Luke died in 953AD and is buried in a crypt at the monastery.

Ossios Loukas Monastery

Ossios Loukas Byzantine Architecture

The chapels here are among the best examples of Byzantine architecture in Greece, and have some of the country's finest preserved frescoes. Despite its isolated position, Ossios Loukas is usually busy, not just because of the frescoes or the reverence for St Luke, but because it makes a convenient second stop for tours on a one-day trip from Athens to see Delphi. The monastery is about a two-hour drive from Athens, and 45 minutes from Delphi.

The Life of St Luke

Ossios Loukas mosaicOssios Loukas

St Luke was probably born in Delphi in 896AD, to parents who had fled from Aegina to escape the Saracens. Known to be spiritual and somewhat other-worldly, Luke left home in his teens to seek solitude. He gained a reputation as a healer, and was soon credited with miraculous cures. Eventually Luke settled in the nearby village of Stiri, and the first church on the site of the monastery was built between 941 and 944 and dedicated to St Barbara.

Ossios Loukas Monastery

Luke's Prophecies

By this time Luke had also developed a gift for prophecy, and among his predictions was one that Crete would be liberated by an emperor named Romanos. In 961, eight years after Luke's death, Crete was taken from its Arab rulers by the Byzantines under the Emperor Romanos and, in recognition of Luke's prophecy, Romanos built a large church alongside that of St Barbara.

Ossios Loukas Monastery

Ossios Loukas Frescoes

The first thing to greet you when you arrive at Ossios Loukas is a glowing gold mosaic of the saint on an arch over the entrance gate into the monastery proper. The original church that was built by Romanos was replaced by one built in 1020, known as the Katholikon.

It is an awesome experience to enter the tall building, with its marble walls, and see the light slanting in from high windows onto the ancient frescoes, some of which date back to the original building of the church at the start of the 11th century, a thousand years ago. However, many of the frescoes were repainted after an earthquake in 1659 damaged the monastery.

Finest of the Mosaics

The Washing of the Apostles' FeetThe Washing of the Apostles' Feet

The finest of the mosaics is said to be "The Washing of the Apostles' Feet", which is in the narthex, high up to your left as you enter the main, western door. It is a striking work, not only for the bright gold and other colours that remain, but for the very human expressions on the faces of the apostles. It helps to have binoculars with you to have a good look, or a good zoom on your camera.

Ossios Loukas Crypt

Beneath the Katholikon is a crypt with the body of St Luke. There are also more frescoes here dating back to the 11th century, although it is fully difficult to appreciate them as the light is kept low, both out of reverence for the remains of the saint and also to help preserve the frescoes

Ossios Loukas Monastery

Church of the Theotokos

In an unusual arrangement, the smaller church of the Theotokos (The God-Bearing, in reference to the Virgin Mary) is connected to the larger church. The Theotokos is thought to have been built in the years 997-1011, so it is slightly older than the Katholikon. Its mosaics are easier to see, most being on the floor. Note, too, the elaborate exterior brickwork.

The View from the Terrace

Ossios Loukas Monastery

The monastery also has outbuildings that can be explored, as well as a museum containing finds from the site, and shops, which indicates the popularity of the place for pilgrims and tourists alike. Don't miss the terrace, which gives wonderful views across farmland and groves of olive and almond trees to the Elikonas Mountains beyond.

Tranquility at Ossios Loukas

Only a handful of monks still live at Ossios Loukas, and the daily round of visitors is a necessary interruption to their monastic life, to help with the upkeep of the monastery. Lucky is the visitor who arrives here to find the tranquility that the monks themselves seek out, and can perhaps share it with them, if only for a while. If you want to enjoy the place in as peaceful a way as possible, arrive early or late in the day to avoid the crowds. If that isn't possible, you should still go as it is a very magical place.

Icons

Icons have become universal in our modern world, but the specific meaning goes back to the Greek word eikon, meaning an image of a person. In some churches that is all it is: an image or depiction of a saint or other holy person. In Eastern Orthodox religions like the Greek Church, however, the image itself is sacred. When you visit a church and see worshippers kneeling before an icon, or kissing it, they believe they are communicating directly with the person portrayed. 

Icon painting in Greece goes back to the earliest days of Christianity and continues today. Greeks still buy icons, both large ones to hang at home and small ones for their cars, and they make unusual souvenirs.

Some of our Central Greece and Thessaly pages...

  • Meteora

    Visiting the monasteries of Meteora on the Plain of Thessaly, with hotels in Kalambaka and guided tours available.

  • Mount Olympus, the highest mountain in Greece

    Mount Olympus is the highest mountain in Greece and is in the Mount Olympus National Park in Macedonia, with Litochoro being the best base.

  • Central Greece and Thessaly

    Central Greece and Thessaly has many Greek visitor attractions, like ancient Delphi, Meteora, the Pelion and Ossios Loukas monastery.

  • Gulf of Corinth Drive

    This beautiful drive along the northern shore of the Gulf of Corinth (Korinthiakos Kolpos), goes from Delphi to Missolonghi via Galixidi and Nafpaktos.

  • Delphi, Ancient Greek Site and Archaeological Museum

    Visiting the ancient site of Delphi and its archaeological museum in the Parnassos Mountains of Central Greece.

  • Parnassus Mountains

    The Parnassus Mountains rise behind ancient Delphi and the mountain village of Arachova, and the Parnassus National Park is one of the two oldest in Greece.

  • Volos and Pelion

    The city of Volos has several museums and is a major port, and also the gateway to the charming Pelion peninsula with its traditional villages and beaches.

  • Pindus Mountains

    The Pindus Mountains range runs along the border between Epirus and Thessaly, includes two national parks and some of the highest mountain peaks in the country.

  • Northern Greece Guide

    The Bradt Guide to Northern Greece is a detailed guide to Thessaloniki, Halkidiki, Macedonia, Thrace, The Pelion, The Sporades and the rest of Northern Greece.

Latest Posts

  1. Greece Eases Some Covid-19 Lockdown Rules, Keeps Movement Restrictions in Place

    Greece’s authorities have announced the opening of high schools in the country and the loosening of a few lockdown measures, but said that the night curfew and movement restrictions would stay in plac…

    Read More

  2. Greece Domestic Air Travel: Only Essential Trips Allowed Until February 1

    The Hellenic Civil Aviation Authority (HCAA) on Saturday updated an aviation directive (NOTAM) that allows only essential domestic travel between all Greek airports. The directive that bans trips betw…

    Read More

  3. Greece’s 7-day Quarantine Rule for Air Arrivals Extended to February 8

    Greece is extending the mandatory 7-day quarantine rule for all international travelers arriving by air. In an announcement on Friday, the Hellenic Civil Aviation Authority (HCAA) issued an update for…

    Read More

  4. American Airlines Announces Athens-New York Route for Summer 2021

    American Airlines, as of June 3, will launch a new service connecting Athens with New York, JFK airport, for the 2021 summer season. Flights, to be conducted on a Boeing 777-200, will be available for…

    Read More

  5. Where To Enjoy The Most Amazing Views In Athens

    When you set off to discover Athens, you will be surprised by the amount of amazing vantage points the city has to offer. Due to its unique geography, Athens offers a number of places to visit and tak…

    Read More

  6. Tough Measures Continue in Greece Due to Covid-19 Variant

    Greece plans to keep its strict lockdown measures in place in view of a Covid-19 variant which appears to be spreading at a fast pace. The new strain of the deadly virus believed to be more contagious…

    Read More

  7. Strefi Hill Revamp to Create an Oasis in Athens for Residents and Visitors

    The Strefi hill, located in the neighborhood of Exarchia near the center of Athens, is set to undergo a major revamp, as part of an ongoing drive for the overhaul of the Greek capital, the Municipalit…

    Read More

  8. Commission: All Non-essential Travel ‘Strongly Discouraged’

    One day before EU leaders meet to discuss actions in the fight against the Covid-19 crisis, the European Commission called on member states to discourage non-essential travel and to accelerate vaccina…

    Read More

  9. Underwater Excavation Off Kasos Uncovers Ancient Shipwrecks and Cargo

    A shipwreck of the Roman period and its cargo are among the significant finds of an underwater excavation that was carried out by archaeologists off the Greek island of Kasos in the Dodecanese. Accord…

    Read More

  10. Conde Nast Traveller Shares its List of the Best Greek Islands to Visit in 2021

    UK travel magazine Conde Nast Traveller (CNT) has compiled a list of the “Best Greek islands to Visit in 2021” and features some of Greece’s most popular vacation spots. After a challenging summer sea…

    Read More