The village is located in the Fokida (Phocis) region in Central Greece. The name of their village is Amygdalia (old name: Plessa) (white arrow). The region used to be called “Doridos“, “Dorida“, “Doris” or “Doridas“. Athens is 215 km to the east. A history of the region can be found here and more current information about Phocis can be found here (both sites are in Greek, copy and paste the website URL into Google Translate to read)
The village was settled before 1800. After the Greek liberation in the early 1800s, it was part of the Tolofon municipality (or province). In 1912 it was recognized as its own community under the name “Plessas”. The Plessas name is Slavic and means “Bald spot” or “non forested pasture.” In 1981 it was renamed Amygdalia and today belongs to the Dorida municipality. The village has its own Wikipedia page (link takes you to the English translated version).
The village hosts a three-day festival: The Feast of Our Lady of Koutsouriotissa, on August 22, 23 and 24. On the eve of August 22 before Vespers, sports competitions are held in the stadium near the monastery of Koutsouriotissa. Source.
5 km west of Plessa is the Monastery of the Virgin Koutsouriotissa (Μονής Κουτσουριώτισσας). The monastery was founded in the 1600s, but records kept by the Patriarchate of Constantinople city during the era of Leo the Wise (869-912) indicate that Christians may have been worshipping there much earlier. During the Ottoman Empire the monastery was repeatedly destroyed by the Turks.
“In the 1820s, a monk named Ioannikios (John George), who later became abbot of the monastery, led his fellow monks and local residents in an armed struggle against the Turkish Army. Between November 1827 and January 1828 the monastery and the surrounding area was the battleground between Greek military units under the leadership of General John Rooke (Ioánni Roúki) from Artotina and a Turkish army of 40,000 under Jelica Pitzari (Tzélo Pítzari). In September 1823, the Greeks expelled the Turks from the monastery, and it was rebuilt in 1830.” History source.
View from the monastery looking towards the Gulf of Corinth which explains the strategic value of the location. Over 100 years later, the monastery again became a refuge during the German-Italian occupation (1941 – 1944) of WW2. The residents of Plessa hid weapons inside the church to be used by the local rebels in the Dec 18, 1942 fight against the Italians which freed the region.
In Dec 1995 the monastery was badly damaged during an earthquake. The church along with a new three-story hospice is being slowly rebuilt.
The monastery consists of two areas: the first is a cave with a small church which houses an icon of the Virgin Mary and the larger monastery seen in the earlier pictures.
Candles that have been lit inside the cave. The story goes that during the 17th Century, a monk living across the Gulf of Corinth at the monastery of Archangels Aigialeias, saw a point of light on the opposite side of the Gulf every evening. After receiving a dream, he traveled to the area and found an icon of the Virgin Mary hidden in the hollow tree trunk at the entrance to a rocky cave. A small church was built inside the cave, where the image was placed. which still exists. The monastery was named “Koutsouriotissa” because the icon was found in the trunk (stump) of the tree. A church was built in the hills for the convenience of pilgrims, which also housed monks and pilgrims.
A view of the small church looking out from inside the cave. You can read more about the history of the monastery here. (this site is in Greek, use Google Translate to read).
In 1996 and 2008, Athanassios Manetas who was born in the village and later served on the Greek Supreme Court, wrote 2 books regarding the village and its history
Η μάχη της Γερομαστής, Η αμυγδαλιά στις φλόγες / Αθανασίου Μανέτα – The Battle of Geromasti, Amygdalia in Flames (2008) tells the story of the village during World War 2 when it was burned by the Axis forces
Πλέσσα – Αμυγδαλιά : 250 χρόνια ; Κουτσουρός : 400 χρόνια / Αθανασίου Θεοδ. Μανέτα – Plessa – Amygdalia: 250 years; Koutsouros: 400 years (1996) tells the story of the village and the monastery Koutsouros starting in the late 1800s through the publication date
Both books are out of print, but copies have been deposited in the Greek National Library. Excerpts from the books may appear on this website from time to time.
In 1966, teachers Panagiotis Th. Portoulanis and Ioannis Kokmotos, wrote a children’s history of the village: “Folklore and Historical Amygdalia (Plessas)”.
Παναγιώτης Θ. Πορτούλας και Ιωάννης Χαραλ. Κοκμοτός, “Λαογραφικά και Ιστορικά Αμυγδαλιάς (Πλέσσας)”.