Thassos: Monastery of St Michael

There is a very famous Monastery of St Michael on the island of Thassos in Greece, to which there is a reference in a document of 1287. A monk, Luke, built a church where there was a sacred spring. When the Ottomans wished to defile the spring, it dried up, only to reappear in a cave down by the sea, a walk we did today. You head down a path marked by metal poles topped by red-painted bottles to a pebble beach. This part is fairly steep. Then you clamber over rocks by the sea, through narrow passes, rock archways and over a wooden bridge, always being directed by red arrows painted on the rocks and crosses in more difficult places. To your right, the green Aegean and Mt Athos in the distance, the only spectators a pair of goats and some slender birds. After an hour and a quarter, having climbed Golgotha and gone past Scylla and Charybdis, you reach your destination, a trickling spring and in a cave you can only enter by wriggling like a worm a quiet pool of water, where we prayed for those we know under the Archangel’s watchful and merciful gaze. To humble oneself before God, wriggling like a worm, is not only appropriate, it is strangely uplifting. Orthodoxy is smell and on the way back we kept getting wafts of fragrant candle wax. A blessed experience.

View of the Aegean from below the Monastery, with Athos in the distance.
The path with metal poles topped by red-painted bottles.
The pebble beach where the path meets the sea.
Steps built going down to the beach (thank God for the workers!).
A goat watches our progress.
A rock archway you must pass through.
A wooden bridge over a gap in the rocks.
Golgotha, a climb up the rocks.
Scylla and Charybdis (every time we passed this way, I made the sign of the Cross, and we always made it across without being touched by the waves).
The approach to the sacred spring.
Water trickling down beneath the cave.
The entrance to the cave.

This article was also published on the website Orthodox Christianity.