St Gerasimos is the patron saint of the island and lived from 1506 until
1579. St Gerasimos is as synonymous with the island as St. George is to
England. He was born into the wealthy and aristocratic Notaras family. He
was later ordained at Mount Athos.
When Gerasimos arrived on Kefalonia he spent his first 5 years living in a
cave beneath the small hermitage on the hills overlooking Lassi. There is
now a church next to the cave dedicated to him and rejoices under the name
of Odos Spiliou Agios Gerasimou (St Gerasimos' )
You may visit the church and the cave of which is situated toward the back
right hand side. There is a small selection of relics in the cave, it is
also quite dark but you are able to appreciate your surroundings. There is
a surreal feeling to the cave when you digest the history attached to it.
In 1560, he moved to the Omala valley, where he rebuilt a chapel and
founded a nunnery under the name of "New Jerusalem.
A large beautiful and impressive new monastery has been built where you
can see amazing frescos painted on practically every interior wall. A visit
is a must to experience it's splendor. The monastery and it's grounds are
in the middle of the Omala Valley and can be seen for miles around. Next
door you will find the Robola Wine Company.
St Gerasimos's mummified body is kept in its Silver casket at the old
church and it's situated directly in front of the entrance. This church is
built over the cave where St Gerasimos lived as a hermit and can be
reached by climbing down a ladder into the cavern below , through a narrow
tunnel into the very cell where Gerasimos spent his monastic life.
Both buildings are free admission and you may make a donation and light a
candle. In the smaller church you can purchase small icons and various
other St Gerasimos themed goods. Saint Gerasimos died on 15th August 1579
and the Patriarchate declared him Saint in 1622 when on 20th October 1581
his Holy Relics were found incorruptible and fragnant.
He is still regarded, as one of the most loved saints in Greek history,
and his cherished remains at his monastery is where Greek pilgrims flock
to from all across their homeland and from overseas.
There are two celebrations in the year: On 16th August (the Formation of
Saint) and on 20th October (the removal and the granting of the remains of
the Holy Relics). During these days of celebration processions take place
with the participation of thousands of pilgrims from all over Greece. On
August 15th, 1579AD, Gerasimos died. Two years later, his body was exhumed
but appeared not to have undergone any change. Eight months later, his
body was exhumed again but still there was no change, except for the
pleasant odour the body emitted. The ecclesiastical authorities of
Kefalonia petitioned the Patriarch of Constantinople, who declared
Gerasimos Notaras a Saint.
Two festivals are held each year to celebrate Agios Gerasimos, August
16th, the date of his death (which was the 15th, but this coincides with
the dormition of the Virgin Mary and so was set a day later) and October
20th, the date his body was exhumed. The festival days are commemorated
with processions, which involves carrying the Saint's body to the well,
which he is said to have dug with his own hands and is now known as the
Holy Well, and when his body is placed on the well, the water level is
said to rise. On the return journey, people lay down on the ground and the
sarcophagus is passed over their bodies as they hope for his miraculous
powers to touch them and cure them of ailments. The Saint planted some
plane trees which are still preserved in the Monastery as well as the
three large wells and 37 smaller ones he opened and the threshing fields
that he worked to bring in funds for the Monastery. A new and very
magnificent church of the Saint was completed in 1992 and is also within
the Monastery grounds.