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Church of Saint John

Εκκλησία Αγίου Ιωάννη - Ekklisia Agiou Ioanni

0.8 kilometers from main square

Church of Saint John
Church of Saint John, Gavalochori. Luka Tica, Foundation for Gavalochori
Church of Saint John, Gavalochori. Luka Tica, Foundation for Gavalochori
Church of Saint John, Gavalochori. Luka Tica, Foundation for Gavalochori
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Greek churches are often located in beautiful settings, and the Church of Saint John is an excellent example. Located on a hillside southeast of Gavalochori, this church, which dates to medieval times, requires a bit of a hike to reach it. But the effort is worth it—you will find a picturesque church nestled among trees surrounded by a stone wall. Although this church is usually kept locked, its setting alone is inspiring and meditative.

To reach the Church of Saint John, start from the main square of Gavalochori, and follow the signs to the Venetian Wells. At the top of the hill, turn right and take the upper of the two roads. At some point, you will need to get out of your car and walk the remainder of the way. There’s a gate across the road on the path leading up to the church. Untie the rope that is keeping it closed and re-tie the rope after you go through; this prevents the goats and sheep from getting loose. 

The Church of Saint John began as a monastery of nuns. It was destroyed by the Turks in the late 17th century, and the nuns who survived fled to and settled at the Church of Saint Anthony. In 1750, a man in Gavalochori began rebuilding the church, but the Turks forbade the work, and the rebuilding stopped. His grandson picked up where his grandfather had left off and completed the renovation in 1852. 

Saint John (Agios Ioannis, Άγιος Ιωάννης), often called Saint John the Baptist, is also known in the Greek Orthodox Church as Saint John the Forerunner because he prophesied the coming of Jesus and prepared the way for his arrival. He is the only saint to be depicted as an angel in iconography. Saint John was the son of a Jewish priest, Zacharias, and his wife, Elizabeth, a cousin of the Mary who would give birth to Jesus. Elizabeth had no children and was of an age where it was unlikely that she would be able to conceive, but Zacharias was visited by the angel Gabriel who told him that Elizabeth would give birth to a son. Saint John was born in Judea in 6 AD, six months before Jesus’s birth. He lived much of his life in the desert as an acetic, wearing camel’s hair clothing and eating plants, roots, and locusts. His preaching brought him to the attention of Jesus, who sought him out and asked him to baptize him (an event that is celebrated as Epiphany on January 6).

When Saint John publicly condemned Herod Antipas, the ruler of Galilee, for marrying his brother’s wife Herodias, Herod had Saint John imprisoned. He also might have imprisoned him because he was concerned about the growing crowds that were gathering to hear Saint John preach. The event that led to Saint John’s beheading happened at a birthday celebration for Herod. Herodias’s daughter Salome danced for Herod, pleasing him so much that he promised to reward her with anything she desired. At her mother’s prompting, Salome asked for Saint John’s head on a platter, and although Herod did not want to comply, he refused to break his oath and consented to have Saint John executed.

Churches dedicated to Saint John celebrate various aspects of his life, so Saint John is celebrated on multiple days during the year. The Church of Saint John in Gavalochori celebrates his birth, and so its name or feast day is June 24. Religious services are celebrated the evening before and the morning of this day in the church. The evening service begins at about 7:00 and the morning service at about 7:30.

Greek churches are often located in beautiful settings, and the Church of Saint John is an excellent example. Located on a hillside southeast of Gavalochori, this church, which dates to medieval times, requires a bit of a hike to reach it. But the effort is worth it—you will find a picturesque church nestled among trees surrounded by a stone wall. Although this church is usually kept locked, its setting alone is inspiring and meditative.

To reach the Church of Saint John, start from the main square of Gavalochori, and follow the signs to the Venetian Wells. At the top of the hill, turn right and take the upper of the two roads. At some point, you will need to get out of your car and walk the remainder of the way. There’s a gate across the road on the path leading up to the church. Untie the rope that is keeping it closed and re-tie the rope after you go through; this prevents the goats and sheep from getting loose. 

The Church of Saint John began as a monastery of nuns. It was destroyed by the Turks in the late 17th century, and the nuns who survived fled to and settled at the Church of Saint Anthony. In 1750, a man in Gavalochori began rebuilding the church, but the Turks forbade the work, and the rebuilding stopped. His grandson picked up where his grandfather had left off and completed the renovation in 1852. 

Saint John (Agios Ioannis, Άγιος Ιωάννης), often called Saint John the Baptist, is also known in the Greek Orthodox Church as Saint John the Forerunner because he prophesied the coming of Jesus and prepared the way for his arrival. He is the only saint to be depicted as an angel in iconography. Saint John was the son of a Jewish priest, Zacharias, and his wife, Elizabeth, a cousin of the Mary who would give birth to Jesus. Elizabeth had no children and was of an age where it was unlikely that she would be able to conceive, but Zacharias was visited by the angel Gabriel who told him that Elizabeth would give birth to a son. Saint John was born in Judea in 6 AD, six months before Jesus’s birth. He lived much of his life in the desert as an acetic, wearing camel’s hair clothing and eating plants, roots, and locusts. His preaching brought him to the attention of Jesus, who sought him out and asked him to baptize him (an event that is celebrated as Epiphany on January 6).

When Saint John publicly condemned Herod Antipas, the ruler of Galilee, for marrying his brother’s wife Herodias, Herod had Saint John imprisoned. He also might have imprisoned him because he was concerned about the growing crowds that were gathering to hear Saint John preach. The event that led to Saint John’s beheading happened at a birthday celebration for Herod. Herodias’s daughter Salome danced for Herod, pleasing him so much that he promised to reward her with anything she desired. At her mother’s prompting, Salome asked for Saint John’s head on a platter, and although Herod did not want to comply, he refused to break his oath and consented to have Saint John executed.

Churches dedicated to Saint John celebrate various aspects of his life, so Saint John is celebrated on multiple days during the year. The Church of Saint John in Gavalochori celebrates his birth, and so its name or feast day is June 24. Religious services are celebrated the evening before and the morning of this day in the church. The evening service begins at about 7:00 and the morning service at about 7:30.

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