Monastery Penteli – Penteli, Greece - Atlas Obscura
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Monastery Penteli

The heads and relics of 179 monks slaughtered by pirates are on display within this Ceonobic Monastery. 

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When Bishop Timothy of Evia visited Mount Penteli in 1578, he found dozens of monks living in poorly maintained buildings with dozens more living in caves on the side of the mountain. With backing from the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople and financial assistance from a wealthy Athenian family, he acquired land on the south side of the mountain. The land was the site of a 10th-century monastery destroyed by the Ottomans in 1465. Bishop Timothy and the local monks constructed a new, larger monastery surrounded by tall walls and large wooden gates.

Upon completion, well over 100 monks took up residence at the monastery. The number continued to grow until 1680, when Barbary pirates laid siege to the area, destroying the monastery and slaughtering some 179 monks. The monastery was then reconstructed and experienced a peaceful period until 1688 when it was pillaged again during the Sixth Ottoman-Venetian War. The monastery was reconstructed once again shortly after, and was renovated once more in 1768. 

From 1778 to 1780, the monastery served as a shelter for residents of Athens fleeing a plague that was ravaging the city. It continued to operate without incident until it was once again pillaged in 1821 by retreating Turkish forces during the Greek War of Independence. The monastery was again renovated and enlarged in 1858. It has remained relatively untouched since. 

Over the years, many ancient artifacts and relics were collected from the monastery and are now on display throughout the complex, including blocks and columns from ancient temples, rare icons, along with the heads and relics of the slaughtered monks.

Currently, there are 58 monks and hieromonks registered with the monastery, with 17 calling the monastery their permanent home. They and the grounds should be given the utmost respect, especially due to the horrible scars the monastery holds.

Know Before You Go

Entry onto the monastery grounds is generally allowed during daylight hours. The church is open sporadically during the day and early evenings. Liturgy is held every Sunday. Each year, the church commemorates the Dormition of the Theotokos on August 16th.


If you wish to enter the grounds, a proper show of respect is achieved by modest clothing and proper behavior. For men: shorts, tank tops/sleeveless shirts, and sandals/flip flops are frowned upon. Women's shoulders should not show, so anything strapless or with thin straps should be avoided. Skirts and dresses should, at a minimum, come below the knee. Some churches ask that legs are completely covered. Feet should be kept on the ground when seated, as it's considered insulting for feet to face holy images.

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