Visiting St Denis Monastery on Zakynthos – in Greece

September 24, 2010 by  

Although I’ve been coming to the Greek island of Zakynthos for years, I’d only once visited the monasteries at the rocky northern end of the island, near the village of Volimes, known for its lace making and honey. This year we decided to take a day trip in our hire car and headed up the spine of the island, with the salt flats of Alykes on our right, then turning into the rocky interior where the landscape becomes barren and covered with gorse and wild thyme.

St Denis Monastery or Theotokos Anafonitria, Zakynthos, Greece

St Denis Monastery or Theotokos Anafonitria, Zakynthos, Greece

We followed the signs to the well known St Denis monastery or Monastery of Theotokos Anafonitria that I had visited on a coach trip some years ago and knew we must have arrived when we found 2 coaches parked beside the snack bars and souvenir shops in the middle of nowhere. There was a heavy downpour as we arrived, so we sat in our hire car for a bit, then ventured inside when the rain had stopped. We managed to time our visit just right, in between a groups of Greek ladies all dressed in black, who were obviously making a devotional visit and a coach load of scantily dressed tourists, all short shorts and strappy tops. Just so you don’t make the same mistake it is considered extremely disrespectful to enter a church in Greece dressed as if for the beach – ladies, cover your shoulders and gentlemen, put on your long trousers!

St Denis Monastery or Theotokos Anafonitria, Zakynthos,  Greece

St Denis Monastery or Theotokos Anafonitria, Zakynthos, Greece

We entered the walled compound through a stone archway, into a pretty courtyard with a defensive bell tower and the small church opposite the arched entrance. The monastery was built in the 15th century and is quite sparse, inside apart from some lovely painted frescoes on the altar screen and a painting of St Denis. There is also an impressive icon of the Madonna and child, that apparently was brought here from Constantinople and after which the church is named. The front of the icon is decked with row upon row of gold rings and earings that must have been donated by faithful pilgrims. St Denis or Aghios Dionysios, was born on the island in 1546 to a wealthy family on the island with connections to the Venetian government of the time, becoming Archbishop of Zakynthos and after his death,  was made the patron saint of the island. It’s typical for the Greeks to name their children with saints names, and half the boys on the island must be named Denis, including my Greek brother-in-law.

St Denis Monastery or Theotokos Anafonitria, Zakynthos,  Greece

St Denis Monastery or Theotokos Anafonitria, Zakynthos, Greece

After our wander around, we drove a little further along the road to stop at a second monastery of St Georgios Krimnon, built in a similar style with a courtyard, defensive tower and church inside the enclosure, although this time there were cloisters along one side of the courtyard. The church was closed at the time, so we couldn’t look inside but we were intrigued by the large bells hanging from the olive trees outside. We couldn’t get away without buying some nougat from the old man and his wife manning the roadside stall who was calling everyone to come and buy his fruit, honey and oil with all the persistance and patter of a trader in the bazaar.

Monastery of St Georgios Krimnon near Volimes

Monastery of St Georgios Krimnon near Volimes

Our monastery visits made an interesting stop on a tour of the north of the island, taking in the small town of Volimes that’s famous for it’s lace making, rugs and honey and a photo stop on the cliffs overlooking the picturesque bay of Navagio or Smuggler’s Bay that features on all the guidebooks and postcards.

This article is posted as part of Photo Friday over at Delicious Baby – head over to see all the other Friday Photos here.

More things to see on Zakynthos

The Venetian Fort at Bohali on Zakynthos – Greece
A tour of Romas Mansion – on Zakynthos
Is this the best beach in the world? – Navagio on Zakynthos

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heatheronhertravels' Zakynthos - around the island photoset heatheronhertravels’ Zakynthos – around the island photoset

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Comments

12 Comments on "Visiting St Denis Monastery on Zakynthos – in Greece"

  1. Dominique on Sat, 25th Sep 2010 12:20 pm 

    I love photos of different architectural features and buildings like this. Even with the rain, the Greek architecture here still reminds me of sunny days :)
    Dominique´s last blog post ..The Kalamazoo House- An urban B&ampB in southwest Michigan

  2. Stella Pierides on Sat, 25th Sep 2010 2:08 pm 

    I usually associate Monasteries with shelter, retreat, meditation, and a space where time slows down. Following your evocative post and pictures, I acquired one more association: shelter from the rain!
    Stella Pierides´s last blog post ..How Time Dilates…

  3. Barbara at Hole in the Donut Travels on Mon, 27th Sep 2010 2:48 pm 

    The monastery looks interesting, but the lace making, rugs, and honey (mmm, my favorite) at Volimes sound even more fascinating!
    Barbara at Hole in the Donut Travels´s last blog post ..Time to Tell the Truth – China was the Most Frustrating Travel Experience of My Life

  4. Sherry Ott on Fri, 1st Oct 2010 3:11 am 

    The buildings are gorgeous! Even on what looked to be a rainy day!
    Sherry Ott´s last blog post ..signs

  5. Where Heather travelled in 2010 | Heather on her travels on Sat, 12th Nov 2011 10:26 am 

    [...] been going but still managed to find a few we hadn’t tried yet, like the a visit to the Monastery of St Denis, the island’s patron saint, with a quick stop to photograph the famous Smuggler’s cove [...]

  6. Religious art at Zakynthos Museum, in Zante town in Greece | Heather on her travels on Mon, 28th Nov 2011 5:17 am 

    [...] last year I had hired a car and driven with my husband to the northern end of the island to see the Monastery of St Dennis, the patron saint of the island. I suppose this spurred me on to take a look inside the Zakynthos [...]

  7. Exploring the history of Zakynthos - in Greece | Heather on her travels on Thu, 1st Mar 2012 9:59 am 

    [...] More articles about the places mentioned The Venetian Fort at Bohali on Zakynthos A tour of Romas Mansion on Zakynthos Religious art from before the earthquake on Zakynthos Visiting St Denis Monastery on Zakynthos [...]

  8. Highlights of a trek through Crete | Heather on her travels on Sat, 9th Jun 2012 1:27 pm 

    [...] trip on Zante – in Greece – Video Is this the best beach in the world? – Navagio on Zakynthos Visiting St Denis Monastery on Zakynthos – in GreeceThis article is originally published at Heatheronhertravels.com – Read more travel articles at [...]

  9. Trousers to travel from Anatomie | Heather on her travels on Fri, 3rd Aug 2012 10:18 pm 

    [...] blue at Porto Limnionas – Zakynthos  A walk in the olive groves on Zakynthos – video Visiting St Denis monestary on Zakynthoswww.flickr.comheatheronhertravels’ Zakynthos 2012 photosetThis article is originally published [...]

  10. Driving around Zakynthos, Greece | Heather on her travels on Wed, 15th Aug 2012 10:53 pm 

    [...] for sale, hung outside many of the houses and shops. This is also the location of the well known St Denis monastery or Monastery of Theotokos Anafonitria where St Denis, the archbishop and patron saint of the island [...]

  11. Get in your car and drive! The bits of Zakynthos you won’t see from your sunbed – Tips from the T | carhireukcompare.com on Thu, 16th Aug 2012 10:13 pm 

    [...] bedspreads for sale, hung outward many of a houses and shops. This is also a plcae of a good famous St Denis monastery or Monastery of Theotokos Anafonitria where St Denis, a archbishop and enthusiast saint of a island [...]

  12. Grecia on Thu, 21st Nov 2013 1:49 pm 

    Greece is such a wonderful country and so diverse. You can visit ancient cities, modern resorts, islands, relax in the sun or like you did discover all those interesting monasteries. Really nice article.

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