Agia Filothei: the Saint of Athens: a life full of strength and support. Do you wonder how a modern Athens area and Mpenizelos mansion at Adrianou Street are related to the fall of Cyprus to the Ottomans in 1571, during Ottoman-Venetian war?
Well, everything starts in Ottoman Athens, at 1522, when a little girl named Paraskevi, coming from the wealth byzantine family of Benizelos or Mpenizelos was born in Athens, where Archbishopric of Athens today is located, at the same name street at Plaka.
Paraskevi was raised after Orthodox values and education, which was rare during that hard times of Ottoman occupation. At her 14 she was forced to get married to and older wealthy man, who died 3 years later. So, after he parents died in 1549, she was both free and rich (and educated as well). Even with that, Paraskevi did not decide to have another husband, but she wanted to come closed to God, so she became a nun, called Philothei (friend of God).
Her amazing bio
She was buying slaves from people and especially women that were to be taken to harems. Her work was became more important around 1571, during Ottoman- Venetian war, when she restored a monastery located in modern area in Athens, called also Kalogreza, where modern Olympic stadium is located. Toponym Kalogreza comes after Kalogrea, nun in Greek. The neighboring municipality is called Psychico, after a well that was created in the area, so as workers in farms can rest and drink water! Besides that, she owned estates in Patisia area of Athens, Aigina and Tzia (Dafnis monastery founded in 1550) islands.
She was creating business in order people to be safe. At her monastery there were about 150 nuns, even former Muslims and female Cyprus immigrants. The Saint was also exchanging letters with Venetians, in order to receive financial assistance for Christians in Greece.
1589. Her martyrdom and last days
The nun was helping many girls to escape from the Turks, and that was an action that was not approved by Ottomans. So, a night of October 1588, she was captured at her Patisia estate (chapel of Saint Andrew today) where she was tortured and abandoned. Her nuns took her to Kalogreza monastery, where she finally died in February 1589. She was announced as a saint of the Orthodox church few years later.
So, places that exist today are located at Agios Filothei’s at Plaka, Mpenizelos mansion, Patisia Saint Andrew chapel, Dafnis’ monastery at Tzia, a chapel at Aegina island. With Dionysios Areopagitus and Saint Hierotheus, She is considered among the patrons of Athens. Her name day is on February 19th. There is definitely more historical information about her and and philanthropy work that we don’t know. Moreover, people have also created myths related to the Saint, with hidden passages and getaways, since her work was really astonishing at the time it took place.. Reality is that the remains are here till today, waiting us to visit them.
Here is a map to help you discovering her story, around the spots that we have some documentaries to show to you!
For more Athens medieval history, don’t forget to visit Byzantine museum!