Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Kesariani Forest, Athens - The Hidden Church

Near the centre of the Greek capital, the visitor can easily and quickly reach the Forest of Kesariani. The Forest is located behind the Panepistimioupoli, which is the area where many schools of the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens exist, including the School of Theology, Philosophy, Mathematics, Physics and many more. The forest reaches the top of the Ymmitos Mountain, which hugs the Eastern part of Athens.

Here, the Philodassiki Enosi Athinon was founded in 1899. Its main objective was the reforestation of fallow land, the encouragement of forest lovers and the protection of the natural environment. It undertook the initiative of the reforestation of the hills in and around Athens. Therefore with this initative, the hills of Lycabettus, Philopappou, Ardittos, the Nymphs and Pnyka were reforested simultaneously with the slopes of the Acropolis.

In 1945, the late president of Philodassiki, Kaiti Argyropoulou, undertook the initiative for the reforestation of the area around the Byzantine Monastery of Kessariani. This resulted in the planting of more than three million trees within the area. In 1964 a small Botanical Garden was also created with an assorted and abundant collection of Greek wild herbs, plants, bushes and trees.

Currently Philodassiki’s aim is not only the creation of new forests, but also their protection from trespassers of any kind. It has encouraged and increased awareness on the importance of Greek forests and of their conservation.

Walking around the forest one is reminded of the beauties of nature. It is amazing how a forest exists so close to Athens, which is known for not being a ‘green’ city. However, here the visitor can also find the Byzantine Monastery of Kessariani. Also a small cave-like chapel of the Ascension of Christ is found here, which is a place where the locals brings icons to be blessed, showing how both Church and Environment coexist.  

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