The ancient stavropegic Monastery of Saint John the Baptist at Kareas,
is located at the end of a rocky valley, at a distance of approximately five hundred
meters away from the populated area of Kareas. Kareas is built on the expanse
of the neighboring mountainside of Hymettus,
where the ancient quarries, known as quarries of "Kara", used to be. At various
times the origins of the name "Kareas" have been attributed to different explanations,
having to do with the location, the honoured person of Saint John the Baptist,
or with the founder of the Monastery. None of these attributions has been verified,
and therefore accepted, without reservations. The conditions and the date of the
establishment of the Monastery - which is definitely founded by the Church of
Athens - are not known, since written documents regarding these matters have not
been found. The Monastery is most likely originated in the Byzantine times. It
is also believed, for good reasons, that a pagan temple of Apollo preexisted at
the place of the Monastery. Later in time - most likely around the fourth century
A.D. - the temple was transformed into an ancient Christian Chapel which was later
rebuilt into a Church, in order to meet the needs of the monastic brotherhood.
The earliest written reference to the Monastery is dated in 1575 A.D. This reference
has to do most likely with the renovation of the Church, which is reserved to
this day and constitutes the main Church of the Monastery.
From the ancient building of the Monastery, the only parts that are
still in existence are: the Church of Saint John, the largest part of the southeastern
two-storey building with the Monastery cells, and a small one-storey building
in the northwestern area. Architecturally, the Church is simple. It is built in
"Cruciform with dome", standing on four columns (Helladic type). Three
of the columns are made of marble and have ancient capitals with suffixes. One
of the four original columns had been subsequently replaced by a square-built
pillar. The only remains of the Church frescos is a relic on the niche of the
"Prothesis", which attests to the contemporary pilgrims the existence of
ancient frescos in the Church. There is a walled-up small part of a "Thorakion"
at the front of the Church which is decorated with a sculpted cross and a running
animal. A similar part of a "Thorakion", with sculptured spiral decoration
and thorn-like flowers, is walled-up at the front of the preserved Monastery cells
located in the southeastern side. On the floor of the Church there was found,
during its latest renovations, part of a tombstone with an inscription. The tombstone
was thought to have covered the tomb of "Diaconissa" named Nikagori, but when
it was removed they found that this was not the case. Since then, it is believed
that the slate was simply used to cover the floor of the Church during one of
its renovations, and that it was either collected by people of the surrounding
Monastic area, or relocated from a similar construction. Over the entrance door
of the Church there is, up to this day, a walled-up, sculptured votive Cross,
which is dated from the year 1769 A.D., and carries the following inscription:
"This Holy Cross was found in the "tekes" (dervise's den) where it has been for
a long time, and the doctor by grace from Sehades, after buying it, has offered
it to this Monastery in 1769."
During the seventeeth century in the Monastery of Kareas a doctor
and philosopher named Peter Papastamatis (Petrakis) from Dimitsana led a monastic
life. After taking his vows he was named Parthenios (1686 A.D.). Parthenios had
renovated (around 1673 A.D.) the Monastery of Bodiless Powers, which was until
then dependent on the Monastery of Saint John Kareas. Since then the Monastery
was renamed as Petraki's Monastery, after Parthenios (Petrakis), who contributed
to the work of renovating the Monastery.
Since 1796 A.D. (or perhaps since 1777 A.D. according to a "Sigil"
of Patriarch Sophronios) the Monastery of Kareas was deserted and fell into decline.
The monks of the Monastery, according to another "Sigil" of Patriarch
Gerasimos III, which is dated in the year 1796 A.D.
The dependent Monastery of the Holy Archangels was closer to the city
of Athens, had more spacious sites, and offered more security to the monks. Therefore
the order was reversed and, from that point on, the Monastery of Kareas, according
to the same Sigil of the Patriarch, became subsidiary to the dominant Monastery
of the Holy Archangels, "Petraki’s".
From that point on, the Monastery of Kareas - as dependent on the
dominant Monastery of "Petraki's" - become "Vakoufi" (Monastery property).
Then, following a petition of the "Petraki's" Monastery - because it
failed to pay the heavy taxation - became subject to Sultana Mihrisah (mother
of Soultan Selim III, 1770-1807 A.D.). Thus the Monastery was attached to a poorhouse
in Constantinople, under
the condition that it would pay a yearly contribution.
Concurrently with the administrative modifications, as stated in the
same Sigil, the Monastery of Holy Archangels and its Dependent monasteries became
ecclesiastically subsidiaries to the Patriarchate.
From that time on, the Monastery of Saint John Kareas became more
deserted progressively and fell into decline. It continued to be Dependent on
the Petrakis. Monastery, and the future and progress of the two Monasteries coincided
for approximately the next two centuries.
Following its decline into a Dependent Monastery, Kareas was not used
to the advantage of the dominant Monastery of "Petraki’s". It was rather
used solely as a financial resource, offering profits from its quarries, as well
as from its pastures.
During the reconstruction of the Modern Greek state, following the
revolution and the ruling of the nation by the Bavarians, after publication of
the Royal Decree of the 25th of September 1833, "regarding the Monasteries of
the kingdom of Greece", it was commanded by the Prefecture of Attica and Viotia,
to the Abbot Dionysios of Petrakis Monastery, to relocate the soonest possible,
"along with all the brotherhood", to a new location, possibly to the old dominant
Monastery of Kareas, because the area of the Petrakis Monastery was considered
to be appropriate for building a military hospital.
Finally, after putting in several objections and extensive exchanges
of letters and despite the objections of the brotherhood, the Monastery of Kaesariani,
rather than the old Monastery of Kareas, was considered a more appropriate location
to which they moved.
For a short period of time, the Monastery of Petrakis and its Dependent
Monasteries became annexed to the Monastery of Penteli, but they were soon dissociated
from it and returned to their prior status.
Τhe onset of the twentieth century meets the Monastery of Kareas - Dependent
still on the Petraki's Monastery - small, poor, a neglected country Chapel, "a
pitiful sight, with inelegant buildings and extensions that were constructed by
ill-qualified people" (A.D. 17, 1961/62). Despite all that, it continued to draw
and inspire a great number of faithful pilgrims.(...).
With parallel efforts from the Department of Archaeology, "the works
of the quarries were finally terminated before the war. Following the war termination,
the Church building of the Monastery was freed up from the remains of the quarry,
freeing up a narrow area around it that protected it from further damage" (as
The Board of Trustees of Byzantine Antiquities designed a "programme
for the restoration and proper presentation of the Monastery, which, following
the approval of the Department of Archaeology, began to operate in March of 1963."
During the reconstruction works, "masses of stones and marble remains, which were
hanging over the Church were removed... revealing a series of quarters with arch-tops,
along the northwestern side of the grounds. During the clean up of one of those
quarters, a limestone was found, with the year 1712 engraved on it... dating of
course the year of the construction" (as stated above).
The construction works of the Monastery, with expenses of the Archaeology
Department, were continued till the year 1971. It is worth mentioning that during
those works, specifically in 1968, a copper coin of Alexios I, Komninos, was found.
A new era began for the Monastery of Kareas, in May of 1971, when
a newly-formed Sisterhood inhabited the Monastery.(...).