If you go towards the old-world village of Kalarrytes in the Tsoumerka Mountains in Epirus, you come across an impressive fortified monastery built into a rock face: the Holy Monastery of Our Lady of Kipina.
The Holy Monastery of Kipina is built into a large cave in a sheer rock.
According to the founder’s inscription, building began in 1349. But according to Metropolitan Serafeim (Vyzantio) of Arta, a historian, the foundation dates back further in time. Other historical sources date it to 1212.
Access to the Monastery is by a stone path hewn into the rock. In former times, contact could be broken by means of a wooden drawbridge.
The outer gate of the monastery.
Without doubt, the time when the Monastery of Kipina was at its peak was the 18th century. Indeed, it’s recorded that, in 1760, the exceptionally active Abbot Kallinikos funded the construction of a bridge over the nearby River Kalarrytikos, a tempestuous tributary of the Arakhthos.
The Monastery also ran a school and a water-mill. All of this shows both the financial power of the foundation and also the close links with its social setting.
The imposing rock casts its shadow over the steps of visitors, next to the path to the entry.
Still surviving from the old Monastery complex are the church, four cells and a small building which used to serve as a stable.
In the olden days, the drawbridge would be raised at night or at times of danger. Access to the Monastery was thus completed severed, which is why it is one of the few that escaped pillage. The crank handle of the drawbridge has been preserved.
The Monastery is dedicated to the Dormition of the Mother of God. According to tradition, however, it celebrates on the feast of the Life-Receiving Spring (Friday in the week after Easter).
The church is a small, single space, built within the cave.
The rich iconographical decoration of the church was carried out in the 18th century.
At the northern end of the narthex is the opening to the cave, which extends to a depth of 240 metres into the rock.