The Holy Monastery of the Dormition of the Theotokos, located in western Macedonia, was built in the middle of the 18th century. It played a major role in religious affairs, national aspirations and social matters not only during the Ottoman occupation and the Greek revolution but also long after that it continued to contribute to the local historical evolution, spiritually and materially. Initially, it functioned as the local parish church for the residents of the adjacent town of Mikrokastro. However, it soon became a major religious center for pilgrims thanks to the many miracles of the miracle working icon of the Holy Merciful (Eleousa) Mother of God.
In the year 1993 functions as a convent in the East Orthodox monastic typicon. The Sisterhood has continued all the renovations of the previous years, as well as raising a new wing of cells, workshops, chapels and guesthouses. The Sisters landscaped the surrounding area, implemented reforestation programs and preserved the buildings in the Monastery which is now given by law the status of preserved religious and historical monument.
The plants and herbs which constitute the source of the basic ingredients are either cultivated in the Monastery’s gardens or collected from the surrounding mountainous regions. All the products have been processed with the aid of advanced technology in the Monastery’s workshop which has been given official approval by the Greek National Organization for Medicines. (EOF)
The Holy Scripture informs us that the Lord God on the third day of creation ordered the earth to bring forth the herb yielding seed after its kind, and the fruit tree yielding fruit, whose seed is in it, after its kind.
And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed, and the tree yielding fruit: and God saw that it was good.
This wonderful herbal world good God presented to man to serve him and enjoy its fruit.
The importance of the natural environment and its many benefits to man seem to have been especially valued by Christianity and, even more so, by Orthodox Monasticism.
Characteristically, Orthodox Monasteries are more often than not built away from inhabited areas in remote natural surroundings, as if in the arms of Mother Nature. In accordance with tradition, the Holy Monastery of the Dormition of the Theotokos complex at Mikrokastro is surrounded by lush vegetation, either naturally grown or by reforestation by the Sisters who are daily exposed to this bountiful growth. This exposure stimulates their interest to study and manage its potential.
Their initial amateur preoccupation with plants and herbs soon turned into a regular cultivation of various plant species which along with scientific support led to the creation of the workshop “Herbal Garden” of the Monastery.
Furthermore, the agricultural knowledge and experience gained by Sisters prompted the professional cultivation and process. With the aid of advanced technology they have eventually succeeded in creating an array of products for personal hygiene and care, so much so that their workshop has been given official approval by the Greek National Organization of Pharmaceuticals.
The Monastery’s efforts are not just to provide for the means of the Monastery but simultaneously it is grounded in spiritual values which aspire to curb the mindless consumption of industrial products whose purity is disputed. Their conscientiousness, stemming from their Christian faith, compels them to cultivate only specially selected plants and herbs, and abstain from poisonous fertilizers and pesticides and conform to ecological standards and directives.
Another aim of this scientifically approved and methodically organized work of the Sisters is to spread to today’s world, and mostly to the young, the gospel to return to nature and respect the natural surroundings towards which we have sinned against with our relentless pollution and abuse.
A new attitude to the world of plants and herbs will reveal the benevolent treasure that God’s wisdom has imputed even in the humblest and “insignificant” blade of grass: All for the sake of human needs and no less for the aesthetic adoration of nature’s indescribable beauty that even Solomon in all his splendor could not match and the uncountable varieties of species that boggles the human mind.
The Sisters do not consider themselves to be innovating -they are simply continuing the monastic tradition and through cultivating their herbal garden they spread the message that God the Creator has made everything “very good” and vouchsafed it to man to labour.