Saturday, February 6, 2010

St. Luke the Righteous of Mount Steirion, and his Monastery

Life of the Saint
"Saint Luke of Hellas [also known as Osios Loukas O Steiriotis] was a native of the Greek village of Kastorion. The son of poor farmers, the saint from childhood had toiled much, working in the fields and shepherding the sheep. He was very obedient to his parents and very temperate in eating. He often gave his own food and clothing to the poor, for which he suffered reproach from his parents. He once gave away almost all the seed which was needed for planting in the fields. The Lord rewarded him for his charity, and the harvest gathered was greater than ever before.

As a child, he prayed fervently and often. His mother saw him more than once standing not on the ground, but in the air while he prayed.

After the death of his father, he left his mother and went to Athens, where he entered a monastery. But through the prayers of his mother, who was very concerned about him, the Lord returned him to his parental home in a miraculous manner. He spent four months there, then with his mother's blessing he went to a solitary place on a mountain called Ioannou (or Ioannitsa). Here there was a church dedicated to the holy Unmercenaries Cosmas and Damian, where he lived an ascetical life in constant prayer and fasting. He was tonsured there by some Elders who were on pilgrimage. After this, St Luke redoubled his ascetic efforts, for which the Lord granted him the gift of foresight.

After a seven years on Ioannou, the saint moved to Corinth because of an invasion of the Bulgarian armies. Hearing about the exploits of a certain stylite at Patras, he went to see him, and remained for ten years to serve the ascetic with humility and obedience. Afterwards, the saint returned again to his native land and again began to pursue asceticism on Mount Ioannou.

The throngs of people flocking there disturbed his quietude, so with the blessing of his Elder Theophylactus, St Luke went with his disciple to a still more remote place at Kalamion. After three years, he settled on the desolate and arid island of Ampelon because of an invasion of the Turks. Steiris was another place of his ascetic efforts. Here brethren gathered to the monk, and a small monastery grew up, the church of which was dedicated to the Great Martyr Barbara. Dwelling in the monastery, the saint performed many miracles, healing sicknesses of soul and of body.

Foreseeing his end, the saint confined himself in a cell and for three months prepared for his departure. When asked where he was to be buried, the monk replied, "Throw my body into a ravine to be eaten by wild beasts." When the brethren begged him to change these instructions, he commanded them to bury his body on the spot where he lay. Raising his eyes to heaven, he said, "Into Thy hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit!"

St Luke fell asleep in the Lord on February 7, 946. Later, a church was built over his tomb. Myrrh flowed from his holy relics, and many healings occurred."

For another researched, annotated life of the Saint, see:

St. Luke the Righteous of Mount Steirion (Icons courtesy of used with permission)

The Relics of the Saint
"Tradition has it that the Hosios’ holy relics had been removed during the 13th century by the Crusaders and had been taken to the Vatican. They later surfaced in Venice accompanied by the following legend: when the Turks conquered Boeotia in 1460, a group of monks, carrying the Hosios’ relics, found refuge on the island of Lefkada. After the island fell to the Turks, the relics were transported to Bosnia. In July 1463, Bosnia also fell to the turks and Franciscan monks transported the holy relics to Venice. Much confusion had already been caused and it was thought that Hosios Loukas’ relics in fact belonged to St. Luke [the Evangelist] who had also been buried in Thebes [and whose relics had also been taken to an area outside Venice]. On the 16th of December 1464, following numerous talks, it was proved that the relics which had been moved to Italy were in fact those of the monk of the Eastern Church, Loukas Steiriotis.

On the 11th of October 1986, after 526 years and coordinated efforts by the Diocese of Thebes and Levadia and local officials, a delegation headed by the Bishop of Thebes and Levadia Ieronymous [the current Archbishop of Greece], the ex-bishop Nikodemos, the then abbot of the Monastery Nikodemos and the then dean and current abbot, Georgios, collected the holy relics and replaced them in the reliquary of the Katholikon at the Monastery of Hosios Loukas, on the 13th of December 1986."

"The tomb of Hosios Lukas in the crypt. Several other important members of the community are buried here. The church of Hosios Lukas is lower than the church of the Virgin, which forced the monks to build a crypt under the church to elevate the floor of the church to make it even with that of the church of the Virgin and also to support it. When the monks rededicated the first church to the Virgin, they dedicated the crypt to Saint Barbara." (,

Architecture and Decoration of the Monastery of Hosios Loukas
"The Church of the Theotokos, the oldest in the complex, is the only church known with certainty to have been built in mainland Greece in the tenth century. This centralized parallelogram-shaped building is the oldest example of the cross-in-square type in the country; its plan closely follows that of Fenari Isa Camii [formerly the Church of St. John the Baptist] in Constantinople. The walls are opus mixtum (part brick, part stone, part marble) and display curious pseudo-kufic patterns.

The Church of the Theotokos adjoins a larger cathedral church, or Katholikon, tentatively dated to 1011-12. The Katholikon is the earliest extant domed-octagon church, with eight piers arranged around the perimeter of the naos (nave). The hemispherical dome (without a drum) rests upon four squinches which make a transition from the octagonal base under the dome to the square defined by the walls below. The main cube of the church is surrounded by galleries and chapels on all four sides.

Hosios Loukas is the largest of three monasteries surviving from the Middle Byzantine period in Greece. It differs from the Daphnion and Nea Moni in that it is dedicated to a single military saint. St. Lukes' prophecy about the reconquest of Crete is commemorated by the image of Joshua on the exterior wall of the Panagia church: Joshua was considered a model "warrior of the faith", whose help was especially effective in the wars waged against the Arabs. The Katholikon contains the best preserved complex of mosaics from the period of the Macedonian Renaissance. However, the complex is not complete: the original image of Christ Pantocrator inside the dome is missing, as are the figures of archangels normally placed between the upper windows.

There is evidence that the monastery was reputed all over Byzantium for its lavish decoration, liberally applied to all surfaces. Apart from revetment, carving, gold and silver plate, murals, and mosaics (especially imposing on curving surfaces), the interior featured a choice assortment of icons, chandeliers, silk curtains, and altar cloths. Only a fraction of these items are still in situ, most notably colored marble facings and window grilles. Notwithstanding the losses, the Katholikon "gives the best impression available anywhere today of the character of a church interior in the first centuries after the end of Iconoclasm"."

The Katholikon (left) and Church of the Panagia (right) (

For the official website of the monastery of Hosios Loukas, and its history, pictures, etc., see:

The full service of St. Luke Steiriotis (in Greek) is available here:, and additional canons and engomia of the Saint are available here:

May St. Luke intercede for us all and help us!

Troparion of St Luke of Mount Stirion Tone 1
Let us firmly honour Luke the Godbearer with hymns and chants, the glory of the faithful, the boast of the righteous, bright light of Stirion and its true inhabitant; he brings near to Christ those who cry out in faith: Glory to Him Who has strengthened thee; glory to Him Who has crowned thee; glory to Him Who through thee works healings for all.
Kontakion of St Luke of Mount Stirion Tone 8
God in ineffable judgment chose thee before thou wast fashioned according to His good pleasure; He took thee from thy mother's womb, He sanctified thee as His servant. As the Lover of mankind, He guided thee to Himself, before Whom thou dost now stand rejoicing, O Luke.

Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

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