Stones and Stars
The village of Stephani
is built amphitheatrically on the harsh and rocky slopes of Mt.
Trahoni, situated on the mountain ridge of Homeric Tretos on the
present day borders between the prefectures of Corinthia and Argolis.
Perched at a height of 830m the village enjoys commanding views
over its small, fertile valley, the historic city of Nauplia, the
blue waters of the Argosaronic gulf and some of its islands, as
well as the mountain chains of the eastern and central Peloponnese.
The village is organised
according to the standards of Greek mountain settlements. Built
on the southern slopes of the mountain, in order to have favourable
climate conditions, it neighbours the fields and pasturelands that
provide the basics for survival. The location is difficult to access
and well protected between the mountains that form the historic
passes of Dervenakia and Aghionori (also called Kontoporeia), which
connect the Corinthia with the interior of the Peloponnese since
ancient times and are better known today as the site where one of
the most famous battles of the Greek Revolution took place in 1822.
The landscape seems
windswept and extremely bare- especially in summer. Nevertheless
the harsh beauty of this secluded and imposing place is captivating.
Here nature seems to have remained unaltered since the times of
the realm of the "rich in gold" mighty Mycenae, the legendary
home of the Atreides, situated only a few kilometres SW of Stephani.
A primeval almost metaphysical sensation impels you to imagine the
men and women who have lived, fought and prayed on this land through
the ages. Every stone seems to be a silent witness of history. Legend
has it that the Stephanians are the descendants of the Myceneans,
who are said to have taken refuge to the surrounding mountains,
after the invasion of the Dorians in 1104 B.C., which summoned the
end of the Mycenean kingdom, known back then with the name of ĞAhighiavağ
(also transliterated as "Ahhijawa" and "Achijawa").
Stephani is home to
important Byzantine monuments which refer to the many centuries
of christian history of the upland situated between the village
of Stephani and the medieval village of Aghionori. Worth mentioning
is the katholikon of the Old Monastery dedicated to Taxiarhis Mihail
(Archangel Michael) that dates back to the 12th-13th century AD,
decorated with wall frescoes by Theodosios Kakavas (1565).
The church, situated in the depths of an almost inaccessible ravine
surrounded by enchanting nature, is one of the oldest monuments
of the greater area. The monastery of Stephanion, dedicated to the
great martyr Aghios Dimitrios, has been continuing the regions'
monastic tradition for approximately six centuries now. Throughout
the year the monastery is visited by many pilgrims, especially during
its annual celebration on October 26th.
On the nearby hill
of ĞDragatourağ west of the village, rises the Stephanion Observatory,
which has been operating since the late 60s. Due to the important
observational research undertaken with the 30inch Cassegrain telescope
over the past 35 years by the scientific staff of the Aristotle
University of Thessaloniki, the Stephanion Observatory is considered
to be one of the leading astrophysical observatories world-wide
in the field of stellar activity (flare stars). The location for
the observatory was chosen very carefully: The region of the Argolis
and the Corinthia is considered to be the most suitable region for
the installation of observational instruments on mainland Greece,
with an average of 200 unclouded nights per year.
Old stone houses,
watermills, olive presses, fountains, stone wells and countless
dry stone walls, all samples of the traditional rural architecture
of our ancestors and significant part of our cultural heritage,
complete the unique symphony of our village. Watching the sun rise
above the Mt. Arahnaion in the East is a unique experience, while
the view from the surrounding mountaintops of Psili Rahi and Prophetes
Ilias is breathtaking to say the least.
Stephani is a magical
place, that invites you to walk on the paths of nature and history,
to reach for the stars, to worship at forgotten monasteries, to
admire rare sceneries. But above all it offers the opportunity to
connect with our emotional and spiritual side and to discover new
meaning and beauty in the world around us.