At the meeting point of Mounts Ithomi and Eva (Aghiou Vasiliou), and between the villages of Ancient Messini (Mavromati) and Valyra, stands, majestic and dominating, the historical monastery of Voulkanos, founded in the 17th century.
The name “Voulkanos, and the earlier versions Vourkano, Dorkano and Voulkani, are probably attributed to a Byzantine lord or land owner, to whom the area around Mount Ithomi belonged. Tradition has it that the Monastery of Korifi was built in the early 8th century, around 725 A.D., by iconolatry (icon worshiping) monks, at the location where the sacred icon of Panagia was found hanging on a bush, next to a lit lamp. According to a different tradition the builder was Emperor Andronikos II Paleologos (1282-1328) however, neither of the two traditions has been historically documented.
The church of the old monastery was a domed basilica with three naves; it survives today with two naves, after many modifications. It is built upon the site of the ancient temple of Ithomata Zeus, and a lot of the original masonry has been used in its construction. The temple’s interesting frescos were painted by the brothers Dimitrios and Georgios Moschou from Nafplio, in 1608.
At the intersection of the south wing with the western cells, there is a Byzantine Fotanama, a special place with a hearth surrounded by seats where the monks would sit in the winter. Amongst the churches of Greece there are just 11 such Fotanamata.
The church of the new lower monastery was built in 1701 and is of Byzantine style; cruciform with a dome. It is dedicated to the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, as the old church was dedicated to the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin, which is the main celebration of both monasteries.The pride and treasure of this monastery is the icon of Panagia Voulkaniotissa, bearing the inscription Odigitria, known in the mountains as Voulkanos, to which miracles have been attributed.
The monastery also guards the Holy Relics of many Orthodox Saints; Saint Neomartyr Ioannis” of Monemvassia, Saint Dionysios Areopagitis and Saint Ilias Ardounis of Kalamata, among them. In its rich library many books can be found, old and new, authentic manuscripts, Turkish documents and four Sigillia (seals) of the various Patriarchs of Constantinople, recognizing or verifying the monasteries privileges.