Nestled in the mountains of Boeotia, a few miles from Delphi, the Monastery of Hosios Loukas (“Saint Luke” in English, also spelled Ossios Loukas or Osios Loukas) ranks very high on the list of the most beautiful Byzantine monasteries in Greece!
Follow the guide!
How to get to Hosios Loukas? Where to stay in the surroundings? …
Find all the practical information as well as tips from the Captain at the end of the article!
Brief history of Hosios Loukas
Careful: Hosios Loukas is not to be confused with his namesake, Saint Luke the Evangelist!
Born in 896, the Saint Luke of Ossios Loukas was a Greek hermit who decided in 945 to build a monastery on the massif of Helicon, on the site of an ancient temple dedicated to the Greek goddess Demeter.
Known for his mysterious healing powers, the hermit (nicknamed Luke the Stiriot, the Venerable Luke or Luke the Thaumaturgist) surrounded himself with disciples and attracted the favors (and financial support) of wealthy dignitaries, who helped him build a church dedicated to Saint Barbara (Agia Varvara in Greek).
Saint Luke died in 953, two years before the church was completed. His bones are preserved in a reliquary which visitors can still see today in the crypt of the Monastery of Hosios Loukas.
🤔 The prophecy of St. Luke 🤔
During his lifetime, the future Saint Luke predicted that Crete, then under Arab domination, would soon be freed from the yoke of its invader! No sooner said than done (or almost…): 8 years after the death of the saint, his prophecy came true! That’s all it took to make the monastery of Hosios Loukas famous!
In 1011, a second church, the catholicon, was erected in the Monastery of Hosios Loukas, in honor of its holy creator, St Luke.
In the 15th century, the Latin monks settled in monastery were replaced by orthodox monks.
In 1460, when Greece was invaded by the Turkish army, the reliquary of Saint Luke was sent to Venice. It would stay in Italy until 1986, when it was finally returned to the Monastery of Hosios Loukas.
In 1990, the monastery of Hosios Loukas was declared a Unesco World Heritage Site (together with the monastery of Daphni and the monastery Neo Moni of Chios).
Visiting Hosios Loukas
With its sumptuous golden mosaics and its rich marble pavements, the monastery of Hosios Loukas does look a little like Saint Mark’s Basilica in Venice or Hagia Sophia in Istanbul… only much smaller!
Before entering the monastery, take a minute to linger outside and enjoy the spectacular scenery!
Church of the Theotokos (= the Virgin Mary)
Built between 945 and 953, the Church of the Theotokos (formerly dedicated to St. Barbara) is the oldest building in the monastery of Hosios Loukas. It is an excellent example of medieval Byzantine decorative architecture.
Outside the church, look closely at the friezes and you’ll surely decipher symbols that do not look like the Greek alphabet: these are kufic characters, a style of Arabic calligraphy. These characters were indeed often used as ornaments in byzantine buildings, not for their meaning, but rather for their aesthetics. They are often qualified as pseudo-kufic characters, since they only seek to imitate the Arabic calligraphy.
Inside the church, be sure to take some time to admire the marble pavement, the white-marble iconostasis, the traces of the original wall paintings, as well as the 10th century frescoes representing Jesus.
Built at the beginning of the 11th century, the Katholikon is a large church dedicated to the creator of the monastery: Saint Luke. It is connected to the Church of the Theotokos: this configuration is very surprising and can be explained by the monks’ desire to facilitate the passage of pilgrims from one building to another.
The Katholikon is famous for the incredible richness of its mosaics, pavements, and murals, most of which are incredibly well preserved.
Located under the Katholikon, the Crypt was built to accommodate the remains of Saint Luke. Dedicated to Saint Barbara, it presents striking wall paintings that are definitely worth a visit!
Located near the ticket office, the old refectory has been converted into a small museum. Visitors can admire architectural fragments of of the monastery.
Getting to Hosios Loukas
The monastery of Hosios Loukas is located 35 kilometers / 20 miles / 40-45 minutes from Delphi.
To get to Hosios Loukas from Athens, the easiest is:
- Either renting a car (the monastery is located 170 kilometers/105 miles/2 hours away from the capital)
- Or opting for a day trip which includes visits to the sanctuary of Delphi and to the monastery of Osios Loukas as well as a stop in the picturesque village of Arachova.
🚘 Visiting Greece by car 🚘
If you’re planning on exploring the Peloponnese on your own, Captain Ulysses strongly recommends renting a car: it is by far the most practical way to get around the peninsula. Not to mention that car rental in Greece is on the whole very cheap!
To find THE best deal, the Captain recommends Rentalcars, which compares offers from a host of rental services.
One last piece of advice: the Peloponnese is crisscrossed with small mountainous roads, so you should definitely opt for a fuel-efficient car, even if it is a little more expensive to rent!
The Monastery is open every day:
- from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. from May to October
- from 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. from November to April
Entrance tickets are available at a rate of 4 € per person.
Looking for tips and recommendations? Here are all of Captain Ulysses’ suggestions in Greece!
🛏️ Accommodation: to book your accommodations in the Peloponnese, Captain Ulysses highly recommends Booking.com. From youth hostel to luxury boutique hotel: there’s plenty to choose from!
🚌 Local transportation: to get around the Peloponnese, Captain Ulysses can only recommend renting a car. He suggests renting your car on Rentalcars, which compares offers from a host of brands, including Hertz, Avis, Europcar and trusted local agencies.
If you prefer to avoid driving, GetYourGuide and Civitatis offer a selection of day-trips in the Peloponnese.
✈️ Flights: to book your flights to Greece, Captain Ulysses warmly recommends the Skyscanner comparator. You’ll be able to compare countless offers to find the best deal. If your dates are flexible, you can also compare prices over several months to find the cheapest flights possible.