Σύντομον Ἱστορικὸν Ἱερᾶς Μονῆς Παναγίας Ἐλεούσης Κλεισούρας Αἰτωλίας

Ἡ Μονὴ τῆς Ζωοδόχου Πηγῆς «Ἐλεούσης», στὸ 20ο χιλιόμετρο τῆς Ἐθνικῆς Ὁδοῦ Μεσολογγίου – Ἀγρινίου, θυμίζει μετεωρίτικο μοναστήρι ἔτσι καρφωμένη ποὺ εἶναι στὸ βουνό, στὰ περίφημα στενὰ τῆς Κλεισούρας. Συνδεδεμένη περισσότερο μὲ ἱστορικὰ πρόσωπα καὶ γεγονότα τῆς νεώτερης ἱστορίας, δὲν ἔπαυε νὰ ἀποτελεῖ καὶ σπουδαῖο κέντρο καὶ σημεῖο ἀναφορᾶς τῆς θρησκευτικῆς ζωῆς τοῦ τόπου.

Ἡ προφορικὴ παράδοση ἀναφέρει ὅτι στὸ παλαιὸ χωριὸ Χρυσοβέργι, στὸ σημεῖο ὅπου σήμερα βρίσκεται τὸ ἐκκλησάκι τῆς Ἁγίας Παρασκευῆς, γύρω στὰ 1700, τὴν ὥρα τῆς Ἀνάστασης, κάποιος Τοῦρκος, μέλος στρατιωτικοῦ ἀποσπάσματος χλεύασε τοὺς Χριστιανούς. Ἕλληνας ὀνόματι Κουμπούρας παρεξηγήθηκε, συνεπλάκη μὲ τὸν Τοῦρκο καὶ τὸν σκότωσε. Οἱ ὑπόλοιποι φοβήθηκαν καὶ ἔφυγαν, οἱ δὲ Ἕλληνες κατέβασαν μὲ σχοινιὰ τὸν Κουμπούρα στὸ σπήλαιο (πάνω ἀπὸ τὸ σημερινὸ μοναστήρι), γιὰ νὰ κρυφτεῖ καὶ ἔτσι νὰ σωθεῖ ἀπὸ τὴν ὀργὴ τοῦ κατακτητοῦ. Ἕνα χρόνο ἔμεινε ἐκεῖ κρυμμένος, τρεφόμενος ἀπὸ τοὺς χωριανοὺς ποὺ τοῦ ἔδιναν τὰ ἀπαραίτητα μέσα σὲ αἰωρούμενο καλάθι. Ὅταν τὸ γεγονὸς ξεχάσθηκε, ὁ Κουμπούρας μὲ τὴ βοήθεια σχοινιῶν ἐπανῆλθε καὶ τότε διηγήθηκε, ὅτι στὸ σημεῖο ὅπου σήμερα εἶναι ὁ ναὸς ἔβλεπε κάθε βράδυ ἕνα ζωηρὸ φῶς. Ὅταν οἱ χωριανοὶ μὲ χίλιες δυσκολίες ἔφθασαν στὸ σημεῖο ποὺ τοὺς ὑπέδειξε, ἔκθαμβοι ἀντίκρυσαν τὴν εἰκόνα τῆς Παναγίας καὶ δίπλα πηγὴ μὲ νερό (ἁγίασμα). Στὸ σημεῖο ἐκεῖνο ἀνήγειραν ἀπὸ εὐλάβεια τὸ πρῶτο ἐκκλησάκι.

Κατὰ τὴν παράδοση πάλι, σ᾿ αὐτὸ φιλοξενήθηκε καὶ ὁ ἐθναπόστολος Ἅγιος Κοσμᾶς ὁ Αἰτωλός, σὲ μία ἀπὸ τὶς περιοδεῖες του. Ἐδῶ, εἶπε στοὺς χριστιανούς, μίαν ἡμέρα θὰ γίνει ἕνα μεγάλο προσκύνημα. Σὲ ἀνάμνηση τῆς φιλοξενίας στὴ Μονὴ τοῦ Ἁγίου Κοσμᾶ τοῦ Αἰτωλοῦ, ὁ μακαριστὸς μητροπολίτης Αἰτωλίας καὶ Ἀκαρνανίας Θεόκλητος (†2008) πρωτοστάτησε στὸ στήσιμο ἀνδριάντα του στὸν περίβολό της.

Συνδεδεμένο μὲ τὴν «Ἐλεοῦσα» εἶναι καὶ τὸ ὄνομα τοῦ Γιάννη Γούναρη, κυνηγοῦ τοῦ Ὁμὲρ Βρυώνη. Ὁ Γιαννιώτης αὐτὸς κυνηγός, λόγω τῆς ἰδιότητός του, πληροφορήθηκε, ὅτι ὁ Ὁμὲρ Βρυώνης σχεδίαζε τὴν ἐπίθεση κατὰ τοῦ ἡρωϊκοῦ Μεσολογγίου στὶς 24 μὲ 25 Δεκεμβρίου τοῦ 1822. Ἀντιμετώπισε ἔντονο δίλημμα: Νὰ σιωπήσει γιὰ νὰ σώσει τὴν οἰκογένειά του, ποὺ κρατοῦσαν ὅμηρο οἱ Τοῦρκοι στὴν Ἄρτα, ἢ νὰ ἀποκαλύψει τὸ μυστικὸ καὶ νὰ σωθοῦν οἱ κάτοικοι τοῦ Μεσολογγίου; Προτίμησε τὸ δεύτερο, σώθηκαν οἱ κάτοικοι τοῦ Μεσολογγίου, σφαγιάσθηκαν τὰ μέλη τῆς οἰκογενείας του καὶ ὁ ἴδιος κατέφυγε στὴ σπηλιὰ τοῦ Κουμπούρα, πάνω ἀπὸ τὸ ἐκκλησάκι τῆς Ἐλεούσης, ὥσπου ἐλευθερώθηκε ἡ νότια Ἑλλάδα. Ὅταν ἀργότερα περνοῦσε ἀπὸ τὸ σημεῖο αὐτὸ περιοδεύοντας ὁ Ὄθων, ὁ Γούναρης τοῦ ζήτησε ἀντὶ γιὰ ἄλλη χάρη, νὰ παραχωρήσει ὁ βασιλιὰς τὴν περιοχὴ στὸ Μοναστήρι καὶ ὁ βασιλιὰς τὴν παραχώρησε ἀπὸ τὴν εἴσοδο ἕως τὴν ἔξοδο τῆς Κλεισούρας (ἀπὸ τὰ ἀρχεῖα τοῦ Κράτους). Αὐτὸς ἦταν ὁ λόγος γιὰ τὸν ὁποῖο ὁ Μητροπολίτης Θεόκλητος ἔστησε εὐγνωμώνως τὴν προτομὴ τοῦ Γιάννη Γούναρη στὴ Μονή, ἐνῶ ἡ Συνομοσπονδία Κυνηγῶν πανηγυρίζει, κατὰ παραδοσιακὸ τρόπο καὶ τιμᾶ τὸν ἥρωα αὐτὸν τὴν Τρίτη Κυριακὴ τοῦ Ἰουνίου κάθε χρόνο. Τὰ ὀστᾶ τοῦ Γούναρη εὑρέθησαν στὰ θεμέλια του Ναοῦ κατὰ τὴν ἀνακαίνιση τὸ 1997 καὶ ἐτάφησαν κοντὰ στὴν προτομή του.

Ἀπ᾿ τὴν Ἐλεοῦσα ἐμπνεύσθηκε ὁ Κωνσταντῖνος Κρυστάλλης καὶ συνέθεσε τὸ ποίημα μὲ τίτλο «Ὁ καλόγερος τῆς Κλεισούρας». Στὴν «Ἐλεοῦσα» ἔγινε μοναχὸς καὶ ὁ Πανάρετος Παλαμᾶς, ποὺ θεωρεῖται καὶ κτήτορας τοῦ πρώτου ξενῶνος (1878), ὕψωσε μανδρότοιχο. Κατεσκεύασε τὴν κλίμακα καὶ ἀπαγόρευσε τὴ βοσκὴ στοὺς χώρους τῆς Μονῆς. Ἐκείνη τὴν περίοδο πέρασε καὶ προσκύνησε τὴν εἰκόνα τῆς Παναγίας ὁ βασιλιὰς Γεώργιος ὁ Α´. Ὁ Χαρίλαος Τρικούπης ἐπισκέφθηκε τὸ μοναστήρι καὶ χρηματοδότησε τὴν κατασκευὴ τῆς στέρνας, ὅπου συγκεντρώνεται τὸ βρόχινο νερό. Κτήτορας τοῦ ἄλλου Ναϋδρίου εἶναι ὁ μοναχὸς Ἀλέξιος ὁ ἐξ Ἰωαννίνων. Ἀπὸ τὸ ἔτος 1950 ἕως τὸ 1953 ἐμόνασε ὁ ἱερομόναχος Ἀγάπιος ἀπὸ τὸ ἄνω Κεράσοβον. Ἀπὸ τὸ ἔτος 1954 ἕως σήμερον (2008) μονάζει ὁ ἱερομόναχος π. Ἱερόθεος ἀπὸ τὸ Λημέρι Εὐρυτανίας. Τὸ 1956, ἡ τότε βασίλισσα Φρειδερίκη ἦρθε καὶ προσκύνησε στὴν Παναγία Ἐλεοῦσα καὶ ἐνήργησε νὰ γίνει ἡ ἄρση τοῦ ἐνοικιοστασίου βοσκῆς αἰγοπροβάτων καὶ τὴν προώθηση τῆς ἀναδάσωσης. Τὸ 1973 κατόπιν ἐνεργειῶν τῆς Ἱερᾶς Μονῆς ἀνεκηρύχθη ὅλη ἡ περιοχὴ τῆς Κλεισούρας, ποὺ ἀνήκει στὴν Ἱερὰ Μονή, ἱστορική, μὲ φυσικὸ κάλλος καὶ προστατεύεται ἀπὸ ὅλες τὶς Δημόσιες ἀρχές. Τὰ τελευταῖα χρόνια, οἱ ἀνακαινιστικὲς ἐργασίες ἐντάθηκαν, μὲ ἀποτέλεσμα τὸ μοναστήρι τῆς «Ἁγίας Ἐλεούσης» νὰ καταστεῖ κέντρο ἕλξεως πολλῶν χριστιανῶν, οἱ ὁποῖοι ἀπολαμβάνουν τὴν προστασίαν τῆς Παναγίας μὲ τὰ πολλὰ θαύματα ποὺ ἔχει κάνει.

Ἐπικοινωνία: Ἱερὰ Μονὴ Παναγίας Ἐλεούσης, 304 00 Αἰτωλικό. ἀρ. τηλ. 26320-22386.

Ἡμέρες πανηγύρεων: Ζωοδόχου Πηγῆς (Παρασκευὴ τῆς Διακαινησίμου), Τρίτη Κυριακὴ Ἰουνίου (μνημόσυνο τοῦ Γιάννη Γούναρη).

A Brief History of the Holy Monastery of St. Eleousa, in Kleisoura, Aetolia

The monastery of Zoodochos Pigi (Eteousa), located on the 20th km of the national road Mesoloongi - Agrinion reminds the visitor of a Meteora monastery, as it is suspended on the mountain amidst the famous straits of Kleisoura. The monastery is associated with historical figures and events of modem history and is no less the centre of religious life in the wider region.

Oral tradition reports that around 1700 AD a Turkish soldier insulted the Christians during Easter service in the village Hrysovergi, outside the church of St. Paraskevi. A Greek man named Koumbouras attacked and killed the Turk. The rest of the crowd was scared away. The Greeks tied ropes around Koumbouras and get him down in a cave, where he was hidden and rescued from the conqueror's rage. There he remained hidden for a year, being fed by the villagers who transported food to the cave inside a basket. When all was forgotten, Koumbouras came out of his lurking place and told everyone that at the place where today's church is situated, he used to see a bright light every night. When the villagers managed to reach the spot, they faced in astonishment the icon of Virgin Mary and next to it a spring of holy water. Later on, a church was built there, devoted to Virgin Mary.

According to tradition, the church offered hospitality to St. Kosmas Aetolos, a national apostle while on a tour. Then, he said to the Christians, One day it shall be a great congregation here. In memory of that hospitality, Bishop Theokletos (†2008, Bishop of Aetolia and Akarnania) helped in setting up a statue of him in the precinct of the church.

There is also a connection between the church of Eleousa and the hunter Giannis Gounaris, who was a hunter working initially for the Turk General Homer Vryonis. That brave man from loannina was informed that Homer Vryonis planned to attack the heroic town of Mesologi on the 24th and 25m of December, 1822. He faced the serious dilemma of whether to keep silent and save his family that was held hostage in Arta, or reveal the secret and save the lives of the Mesolongites. He chose the second: the Mesolongites were saved; while his family was massacred. Then he took shelter in Koumbouras’ cave, above the church of Eleousa, until southern Greece was set free. Later on, when king Othon passed by the area, Giannis Gounaris asked him to concede the region to the monastery. The king fulfilled his request. This is why the Very Reverend Mr Theokiitos showed his gratitude to Gounaris by building his bust in the monastery, white the Confederation of hunting celebrates and honours this hero the every third Sunday of June. Gounaris' relics were found in the foundations of the church during the renovation in 1997 and were buried next to his monument.

Eleousa inspired Constantinos Crystallis, when he composed the poem "The Monk of Kleisoura" Panaretos Palamas became a monk there and he also considered to be the possessor of the first hostel (1878). He constructed a surrounding wall and a staircase, while he prohibited gazing in the monastery's areas. During that period king George I passed by and bowed to Virgin Mary's icon. Harilaos Trikoupis visited the monastery and financed the construction of a cistern for the rainwater. Monk Alexios from Ioannina is the possessor of the other Naydrion. From 1950 to 1953 monk-priest Agapios from Ano Kerasovo lived there. From 1954 until today (2008) monk-priest Ierotheos from Limeri Evrytanias dwells there. In 1956 Queen Frideriki visited it and bowed to the icon of Panayia Eleousa. She removed the rent freeze of sheep and goat grazing and ordered reforestation. In 1973 the entire region of Kleisoura, which belongs to the monastery, was declared of historical value and its natural beauty is protected by the authorities. At Theokletos days the renovation works were intensified Eleousa has nowadays become a centre of attraction for many tourists, who enjoy Virgin Mary's miraculous protection.

Contact: Holy Monastery of Panayia Eleousa, 304 00 Aetolikon. Tel. No. 26320-22386.

Days of festivity: Holy day of «Zoodohos Pigi» (Spring of Life, first Friday after Easter Day) & Memorial Day of Ioannis Gounaris (third Sunday of June)