Saint Gerasimos: The patron of Kefalonia

Saint Gerasimos church is located in Valsamata village, it is the largest religious monument in Kefalonia. It has been established in 1560 by Saint Gerasimos, the patron saint of the island. The Saint of Kefalonia was born in Trikala of Corinthos in 1506 and studied at Zakynthos, the most important educational center of that time. His decision to visit Kefalonia dates back in about 1555.

The first 5 years in Kefalonia, Saint Gerasimos lived in a cave in Lassi. This cave is open to the public now and boasts natural light and a view of the sea. In 1560, Saint Gerasimos founded a nunnery in the valley of Omala, central Kefalonia, and called it the New Jerusalem. The monastery is located near the towns of Fragata and Valsamata, under the magnificent Mount Ainos.

Today the monastery has been reconstructed, after the earthquakes of 1953. It is a large structure with a recently constructed church. The area where he lived as a hermit is beneath the monastery, and its entry is inside the church: it is a very short corridor that leads through a nearly vertical iron staircase with a length of three meters in a basement chamber that is split into two rooms by a narrow hole.

On the day of August 15th in 1579, the tradition says that Saint of Kefalonia reposed. His body was buried next to the church of the monastery. Agios Gerasimos was known for his miraculous abilities to cure people with mental illnesses. His miracles which became widely known across the country led to the removal of his relics that were found totally incorrupt. The Venetian authorities were unconvinced by his incorruptibility the first time he was disinterred two years later, so the procedure was repeated one year later: the result was the same, and the saint’s relics have been maintained in a silver reliquary in the monastery ever then.

The proclamation of the holiness of Saint Gerasimos took place in 1622. Saint Gerasimos was named young hermit to distinguish him from Saint Gerasimos the Jordanian. On October 20th and August 16th, the Orthodox Church commemorates the Saint. In both cases, the monastery hosts a large feast with believers from all around the country. For the people of Kefalonia, Saint Gerasimos is simply “Saint,” which is why it is the most popular name on the island.

The monastery is one of Kefalonia’s most sacred pilgrimages, attracting a large number of visitors. A small church dedicated to Agios Gerasimos has been constructed atop the saint’s grave and cave. The Saint also had planted a plane tree which is still preserved at the monastery.

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