There were three monasteries fairly close by and we set off with the intention of visiting them all.
The monastery of Tharri is by far the grandest and, if you’re tight on time, this is the one to go for. It’s nicely set in the hills of Rhodes and is hidden from view until you are almost upon it. A large car park points the way to the monastery gates with a small shop to the left selling religious memorabilia, honey, and ouzo made on the premises.
There were no shortage of monks here and, whilst many sat in the shady area around the church, listening to the tales of the ‘main man’, one stood out as being the worker. He was everywhere, hosing down two large outdoor baths, carrying water to the quarters, advising visitors what to wear (mainly the women that they needed to use one of the wraps at the main entrance), extinguishing candles in the church and generally being busy. None of the others stirred, they just sat alongside the ‘chief’ nodding attentively as he ‘held court’.
There are some great views around this 9th century site and inside the church is just covered in religious imagery. Although the monastic use of the site dates back to the 9th century, the current church was completed in the 13th century, and the depictions of biblical stories date to the 16th and 17th centuries. You are asked not too take photos inside the church, but there are few restrictions when you look round the rest of the site. Indeed, we felt totally at ease to wander freely around the grounds and even ended up (by mistake rather than intent) walking through the residential area of this small religious community, before sitting, under the shade of trees, in the small monastic courtyard next to the church. Just soaking up the atmosphere of this busy little monastery, before resuming our tour of the island.
The Monastery of Artemis is once again in a beautiful setting with picturesque views around it. The traditional blue and white church is built in the center of a small courtyard surrounded on three sides by the monastic cells of the monks. This is supposedly a working monastery but everything looked slightly run down and uninhabited. Unlike Tharri, we saw no evidence of a resident community other than the traditional Monastic cats basking in the sunshine.
The Monastery of St. Nicholas has a prime spot with almost perfect 360° views across the island. It was erected by John and Fotis Mastrogiannatsu in celebration of the life of John’s son who was killed in August 1995, aged 21. It was built out of Nikos’ savings and the first mass was held on 17th August, 1986, exactly one year after his death. It is a really small church with modern paintings (bold but one-dimensional) and in the corner a chilling reminder to the life of Nikos in the form of a large portrait.