Amorgos is known for its many monasteries, among the oldest in the world, drawing tourists by the thousands, mostly from France, Italy, and Greece.
National Geographic recently took a trip to the island and met Sister Irini a nun who began transforming a long-abandoned monastery on Amorgos into an oasis.
“Visitors come throughout the year to walk her bountiful garden lined with Byzantine frescos, to hear her story, and to purchase her magnificent paintings of religious icons. She first came to the island as a young mother and wife 35 years ago; after her husband passed, she chose a new path. Her name is Sister Irini, now, and she remains Amorgos’s only nun,” says the article bringing to light the life of Sister Irini.
Sister Irini had visited the island years back and after her husband passed away she decided to move to Amorgos and took her vows as a Greek Orthodox nun in 2011. She spends her days gardening, painting, and praying, but always welcomes visitors to her monastery, Agios Georgios Valsamitis.
“It was empty and alone, and I had to work hard to make it paradise,” she says. “It really is paradise!” she tells National Geographic.
The article goes on to say, “Valsamitis appears Eden-like after an exhilarating ride up dusty roads, trying to avoid unruly, wandering goats. Its lush shade is a gift in the blistering afternoon sun and the cool landscape: a small miracle. The monastery sits upon an ancient well, previously a water oracle where 17th-century water readers foretold believers’ futures through the blessings of St. George. The Church is opposed to such notions, so the bishop had the well cemented shut in 1967.”
There are 30 fruit trees that Sister Irini lovingly planted and produce fresh oranges, lemons, apricots, peaches, and olives, cats lounge amid beds of flowers, stretching and yawning without a care in the world.
“The cats were sick,” says Sister Irini, “but I brought in doctors and now they’re happy.”
The Greek Orthodox priests reside in the island’s more famed monastery. Established by Byzantine emperor Alexius Comnenus in the late 11th century, Hozoviotissa perches high on a cliff.
“Every Saturday the priests come and share eggs and we hug and talk,” says Sister Irini. “It’s one of my favorite things.”
Sister Irini told National Geographic her choice was to devote herself to a simple, holy life.
“The quiet, sunrise, sunset—everything!” she says. “I love everything.”
*For the full article head to National Geographic