Stemnitsa is located 220 kilometers
(apprx.137 miles) from the capital of Greece,
Athens, in Peloponnesos, the most southern
tip of the Balkan mountain range, in the southern
part of Greece, in the province of Arcadia, County
of Gortynias. Stemnitsa is nested in the
mountain range of Mainalon (1050 meter eleva-
tion). It is located 45 kilometers south-west of
the capital of Arcadia, Tripolis.From Tripolis one
could drive to Stemnitsa from two different ways,
one via the tourist town of Vytina and the historic
village of Dimitsana (8 km away from Stemnitsa),
or through the mountain of Mainalon. Either route
will reward the traveler with beautiful views of the
Arcadian country side.
Mainalon is the fir-tree forest where the mythical
creature Pan, half man half goat, played his flute
and chased the forest nymphs with amorous
intentions.Here Artemis hunted deer and bathed
in crystal clear mountain steams. Apparently
among its bird varieties the nightingale impressed
a french poet to describe "Les rossignol de l'
Arcadie" ( The nightingales of Arcadia)
On the 2nd century A.D., Pausanias, from Magnisia
of Asia Minor, who was travelling in Greece,
describes in his "Arcadian" stories that Hypsous
(Stemnitsa's other name) was located at the foot of
Mount Hypsous. According to Pausanias, the area
between Hypsous and Thyraiou (Syrna) was very
mountainous and dangerous due to wild animals.
According to one of the many stories, the Pelasgian
king of Arcadia, Lykaonas built the village in honor
of his son Ypsountas.
During 746 A.D. the Black Plague killed many of the
inhabitants of Peloponnesos and in an effort to
increase its population the emperor of Constantinople,
Konstantin E., decided to permit Slavs to migrate
there. That is how the subsequent name of the village
"Stemnitsa" came into being meaning a thick forest
shaded with tall trees.
After the overthrow of the Franks in 1430
Stemnitsa was inhabited by a number of renown
individuals, as indicated by inscriptions found on the
walls of Zoodohos Peegee,
a Byzantine chapel built
The first mention, some say, of the word Stemnitsa,
was found in Turkish taxation documents dated
1512-1515 where the number of families appeared
to be about 120.This information was found and
published by professor John Alexandropoulos. In the
Grimani Venitian Census report Stemnitsa was
shown as the most populous village in Gortynia with
By the large number of churches
built there and from
other descriptions one can deduce that Stemnitsa was
a significant village. According to some stories there
were once seven parishes, each with its own priest
and church. Today one can see many small Byzantine
churches some still in a relatively good condition,
despite the lack of any serious effort by anyone for
their proper maintenance. The church of Bafero was
built in 1185, the Zoodohos in 1433. The two larger
ones are Ai-Giorgis and and
St. Paraskevi. Currently the
one priest there holds services on alternate Sundays
in those two larger churches.
After the fall of Constantinople in 1453 the village,
due to its location surrounded by mountains, and
having abundant spring waters and being away from
larger villages, served as a relatively safe heaven
from the invading armies of the Turks.
According to some, during the first years of the
2nd Venetian occupation of Peloponnesos
1685-1715, a small neighborhood was built in the
location today called Kastro (i.e. fort). This is the
time where, it is speculated, that a sizeable library
was created. These manuscripts and books were
subsequently destroyed when they were used to
make gun-powder supplies during the 1821 war
of independence.. Others show the cistern ouside
the church of Bafero and they describe how the
manuscripts and books were hidden there to save
them from the invators and were damaged due to
Stemnitsa served as the seat of the 1st Peloponnesian Government, for about a couple of months.
The small "keli" monasteri cell, still stands there
next to the church of Panagia Chrysopege.
In 1836 the township of Hypsous was created,
later in 1841 renamed Trikolonon.
Because the area is very infertile forced its
inhabitants to put their brains to work "evalan to
mualo na kopsi". Soon many developed into
skilled artisans of iron, copper, bronze, brass, gold,
silver, producing church bells, church utensils,
They excelled in the art of crafting jewelry
using silver and gold Jewelers from Stemnitsa
can be found everywhere around the world.
The Greek government recognizing Stemnitsa's
contribution as a center for the development of
metallic art established a public fund supported
where young adults
can go to learn to make
jewelry from silver and gold.Currently about 20-30
students are trained there every two years, tuition free.
They come mainly from the surrounding areas but
they are free to come from anywhere in Greece.
Master Lambis Katsoulis "the
of silver and gold" returned to Stemnitsa after many
years of running a successful jewelry shop in Athens,
"because I love Stemnitsa" he used to tell me, and
became instrumental for reviving and propagating
the art of jewelry making. "O Barba Lambis" was
capable of looking at a drawing or a photo of an old
coin and carving its mirror image on a piece of metal,
"the Mytra". This "mytra" then
became the"stamp" where thin pieces of silver or
gold could be pressed to produce the now famous
"Constantinata"depicting holy images
in the form of small coins.
"O Barba Lambis" was the first to direct this
school. This was his gift of love to the Stemnitsa
he loved so much... He was such a graphic
character! He indeed was a national "Treasure"!
At least three of the original graduates of the
Silver & Gold jewelry making school have
established very nice Jewelry stores in
Stemnitsa: Voula Gyftopoulou,
in 1984, took over
Barba Lambis's workshop. She worked
with him for a number of years
until he retired.Two more graduates:
Athanasios Asimakopoulos and Sophia Benopoulou
Sarakiniotis opened Jewelry Stores later on.
Voula Gyfropoulou told me that in addition to
Master Lambis another teacher by the name
Aristidis Lafogiannis taught the students
how to make icons of gold and silver.
During the years of Turkish invasion of Greece,
Stemnitsa was a shelter for the heroic revolutionary
family of Kolokotronis and others. After the
revolution of March 25, 1821, from the end of
May to mid of June 1821, served as the first seat
of the "Peloponissiaki Gerousia" (temporary Peloponnisian
government) of the liberated Peloponnese.
The Gerousia met at the "keli" (monks room) of the
small monastery of Zoodohos Pege.
During Turkocracy, Stemnitsa contributed Anthony
Pelopidas to the effort of the "Filiki Etairia" (The
company of Friends) an organization of patriots
dedicating their lives to the overthrow of the Turkish
invaders. Another Stemnitsiotis, Alexadropoulos
was confused by the Turks to be Alexandros Ypsilandis
a major figure in the Filiki Etairia.
In April 1996 the Pan-European Council of Silver
and Gold was held in Stemnitsa.
In more recent times many Stemnitsiotes excelled
all aspects of social life giving birth to industrious
and educated individuals. A son of Stemnitsa,
Dimitrios Thanopoulos, won a silver medal in Greco-Roman
wrestling at the 1984 Olympics in Los
Angeles. His father, the late Kostas Thanopoulos,
an ex-wrestler himself, was one of my best friends....
Another silver metal Olympian from Stemnitsa, in
the 1956 Australian Olympics, (I think) was Roumbanis.
It is beyond description the pride I feel that
my little village gave birth to these individuals.
I hope one of these days the local officials
recognize this tremendous pride and devote a
Plaque with their names and it should be placed
at both entrances to the village declaring that
Stemnitsa is their birthplace. In ancient Greece
these individuals were practically deified.
There are a number of PhDs from Stemnitsa,
and other highly educated professionals currently
teaching in American Universities or excelling in the
bussiness world. Stemnitsa also has many scientists
and professionals, excelling in various aspects of life
In 1995 Stemnitsa was made into a township
"Demos Trikolonon" having responsibility for
official business concerning the surrounding villages
of Syrna, Pavlia, Palamari and Ellinikon.
Nearby,7 kilometers from Stemnitsa, down by the
ravine of the river "Lousios" where Zeus used to
bathe, one can find the holy monastery of
St. John the Forerunner (Prodromos) built, according to some sources,
around 1167, on the side of the mountain rock and
it appears to be hanging there as an eagle's nest.
Built in such an out-of-the way place it served as a
center of faith and education for the enslaved Greeks
during the Turkocracy. Since 1960 one can drive to
about 800 yards from the monastery. Later on road
ways were built to make the monastery accessible
from the neighboring villages of Dimitsana, and Ellinikon.
This easy access to the monastery, some
would say, has destroyed the essence of the monastery,
that of being a place of silence for prayer.
About 200 yards below the monastery, is the river
Lousios with its roaring crystal clear waters.
Near the monastery are the excavations of an
ancient hospital built in honor of the god of medicine, Asklipeios.
One can find a very impressive museum of Folk
Art in Stemnitsa. Although it is now governed by a
7 member committee it was primarily established
through the tireless effort of Mr. John Savopoulos
and his wife Irine, seen here during my video interview
in August 1989 by the front entrance of the
A number of people from the village have volunteered
in all aspects of its existence and operation.
On the first floor one can find a room showing how
candles were made. Another small area depicts a
jeweler's workshop, a shoe repair shop, a copper
tinning representation, etc.On its second floor there
is a representation of the inside of a Stemnitsa house,
having every room furnished as it was customary
in the past. On the third floor is a very extensive
selection with Byzantine icons, old costumes, copper-
ware, guns, jewelry, etc. This museum was designed,
as I was told, by the same artist who designed the
famous museum in Athens the "Kythatheneon"
An organization called "Patriotikos Syndesmos"
composed of tireless individuals residing all over
Greece, but having their roots in Stemnitsa, they
strive, and are greatly succeeding, to put Stemnitsa
"on the map", as we say in America. Through
their efforts there was for many years a beautiful tourist hotel with
extremely clean rooms, fantastic cuisine and at
reasonable prices, called TO TRIKOLONION.
However, due to extenuating circumstances which are, at least, beyond
my understanding, it was "rented" for twenty-eight years
to a European company. It was renamed "COUNTRY CLUB TRIKOLONION".
and it was priced mostly for the use of affluent individuals...
However, in 2005 I was informed that "locals" are accorded
much lower prices.
The ex-king of Greece Konstantine and many of his relatives,
spent Easter 2005 in Stemnitsa's Country Club.
One can find fresh bread and other delicious bakery goods
made daily by the local
bakery "fournos" and a variety of commodities
necessary for a very pleasant stay.
Every week travelling vendors visit Stemnitsa with
fresh produce, fish, textiles,etc. There is a daily bus
which goes to Tripolis, or one could hire the local
taxi for trips from Stemnitsa to Athens, etc.
Another organization which is also very responsible
for the beautification of Stemnitsa is the Cultural
and Beautification Organization Politistikos kai
Exoraistikos Syllogos Stemnitsioton "Ypsountas".
This group of "patriotes" was headed for many
years by the visionary Basili Papaxeimona and has
beautified every corner of Stemnitsa with rebuilt or
repaired fountains, bridges, walkways, etc. This
organization is also in charge, I believe, of the local
cultural center "The Nikoletopouleion" and of organizing
a number of other events which take place
during the year, but mainly during the months of July
The new "Demos" (Municipality or Township) is blessed
with very energetic
and driving individuals, striving to maintain the
character of the architecture and enhance living
conditions. Stemnitsa is and will be surging ahead
under their guidance. Mr. Giorgos Gianni Baroutsas
has served, for a number of elective terms, as Mayor
of the municipality of "Trikolonon"
and is indeed responsible for many many enhancements,
of Stemnitsa in particular and the other villages of
the township, in general.
During the summer months a number of families
are vacationing there. Stemnitsa at an elevation
1050 meters, at the village square, is a fantastic
place to spend the hot summer months. One
needs a sweater and jacket in the afternoons and
evenings even in July and August.... The best time
to visit is between June and the end of September.
If you are from Stemnitsa but have not visited there
for many years the best time to go there is around
the 15th of August. On this day I have met friends
that I have not seen for many years.
During the rest of the year about 100 or less families
Stemnitsa, as many other small Greek towns in the
country-side and unfortunately lacks the means for
providing a living. It would seem that Greece is Athens.
The Country-side is forgotten by the Government.
Often not well-thought actions have resulted in
ecological disasters. The improper installation, or lack thereof,
of sewers, has resulted in the pollution of some of the
graphic "spring water fountains" .
The various Greek
governments have not devoted any time to plan
for the development of the small towns which are
empty of youth and future. Two thirds of the nations'
population seems to reside either in Athens, or Salonika.
This is a big problem that the nation has to
resolve sooner or later because Athens is quickly
becoming a nightmare of congestion and pollution
and the country-side is dying. Another national crime
which is gaining momemntum is the devouring of
Greek land and property by the Europeans, the
disappearing Greek Language and music.....
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