The Monastery of Aghii Pantes, and
around the island

Aghii Pantes, the Monastery of All Saints (a 20-minute walk to the south of the town, reached by continuing uphill from the museum), is a peaceful and immaculate convent of 6 nuns, dating from the beginning of the last century, overlooking the town and the south and east coasts. The monastery’s main icon of the Aghii Pantes is unusual and has the appearance of a mandala; beneath the great circle of saints sit Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in paradise, with the souls of the good in their laps. The interior is plain except for paintings around the sanctuary arch. To the south side of the catholicon is the unusual pyramidal sepulchre, in grey stone, of Dionysios Goudis, benefactor and member of one of the maritime families of the island.

   The view from the monastery to the east, with the contrasting forms and colours of the cypresses, olives and red-tiled roofs shelving to the sea, the island of Spetsopoula opposite, and Hydra and Dokos in the distance, is delightful. Visible below on the coast is the small church of Aghia Marina, which is reached by following the main road south out of the town and turning left just at the edge of habitation. The church is at the tip of a small projection of land with bays to either side: this con figuration—two harbours and a rudimentarily fortifiable promontory—gave rise to habitation in earliest times. Excavations around the church have revealed the existence of a substantial settlement of the mid-3rd millennium bc (Early Helladic II), whose pottery finds, now in the Spetses Museum, show contacts with the mainland and the Cyclades. There are traces of later Mycenaean habitation on the site as well.
   South of Aghia Marina the coast road passes a number of large estates, purchased by members of some of the wealthiest and most important, Greek shipping families— Lemos and Niarchos. Spetsopoula (Ancient Aristera), the pine-forested island offshore to the east, was purchased in 1962 by Stavros Niarchos. Several other Athenian busi ness magnates have built estates further along the shore; in summer the waters are filled with the conspicuous, private yachts of yet others, drawn to the island by plutocratic magnetism. The landscape beyond, however, is contrastingly destitute. Repeated forest fires through the 1990s and especially in the summer of 2000, have left the south coast of the island and its interior charred and scalded, a tragedy that has not even spared the once idyllic coves of Aghia Paraskevi, and Aghii Anargyri, with its famous shoreside canopied grotto. A small patch of for est, of Niarchos property, close to the bay of Zogeria has survived, but otherwise the landscape is denuded and will take many decades to restore fully. Arriving after nearly 30km at the north shore once again, the trees return. The delightful inlet of Ligoneri (just outside the northwestern extremity of the town), reminds one of the beauty of the combination of pines and rocks and water which made Spetses so famous.

Spetses Island is part of the Argosaronic Island Group, Greece.

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