The Monastery of the Dead (Excerpts from the newspaper “Freedom” (Ελευθερία), 1950s)

Child abuse, brainwashing, horrible tortures, terrible secrets, fear, and death … And all this with a religious fanaticism that brings to mind the works and days of the Holy Inquisition. If you’re wondering when and where this happened, the answer is shocking: In the year 1950, just a few kilometers outside of Athens, in the region of Keratea , at the Old Calendarist Pefkovounogiatrissas Monastery. The «Espresso» met the nuns who today serve the Lord in the same monastery where the Middle Ages were once revived. The nuns insist that all these things were a misunderstanding. Indeed, “they christen” the torturers of children saints!

The Pefkovounogiatrissas Monastery in Keratea, which rocked the entire nation in 1950 when its horrible secrets were revealed!
The Pefkovounogiatrissas Monastery in Keratea, which rocked the entire nation in 1950 when its horrible secrets were revealed!

“My sister and brother-in-law, both consumptive, died there. Their three children were subjected to various abuses. The little boy was hung upside down naked many times and beaten to unconsciousness. When his father was alive, the nuns urged him to infect his child with tuberculosis, because he would become a bad man if he lived. They advised him to chew on his food and then feed it to his little boy, so that ‘he dies before him!”

Hundreds of people—dozens of children amongst them—were tortured to death by the abbess in order to be sent “to paradise without sin.”

1950 photograph showing the children with the nuns at Peukovounogiatrissa Monastery in Keratea.
1950 photograph showing the children with the nuns at Peukovounogiatrissa Monastery in Keratea.

More than two hundred innocent souls were horribly tortured at the behest of Abbess Mariam Soulakioti, who was sentenced to life imprisonment and died in Averov Prison. For years and years Keratea and the horrible deaths had haunted the headlines, but every now and then another shocking story sprang from hell.

Such as the story of Seraphim Silvestri, who lost his sister, brother-in-law, and three nephews in the cells of the monastery, as well as a young woman who left the seat of the court speechless when he began recounting what the nuns did to her 10 year old niece.

“Once they put my little niece, a 10 year old girl, in the kitchen for a chore. She was hungry and licked a potato. The sentence they imposed: The tied her completely nude in the stable and left her overnight. In the morning they found her senseless from cold and fear. Her soul had been cleansed and had been through all the preparation for paradise…”

Children in the monastery from the scandal of Keratea.
Children in the monastery from the scandal of Keratea.

The years went by, the inhumane stories were forgotten and today almost nobody remembers the screams of the children begging for help. The old nuns paid for their crimes, others were imprisoned and died in prison and the others in the monastery, which continues to operate with new nuns who pray daily for the soul of the “Saint Mariam.”

Abbess Mariam Soulakiotou. Witnesses who washed and dressed her body for her burial claimed that her body had broken needles left in it.
Abbess Mariam Soulakiotou. Witnesses who washed and dressed her body for her burial claimed that her body had broken needles left in it.

“She paid for something she did not do”

Fifty-eight years later, the nuns at the Keratea monastery could be changed, new ones came, but however all of them do not stop praying to Abbess Mariam, “to this saint who was slandered and paid for something she did not do,” as they say characteristically.

Cultish devotion even after her death.
Cultish devotion even after her death.

As two of the older nuns pointed out to «Espresso» “this monastery has been mercilessly beaten in the past and they continue to fight it. But we are not afraid just as Mariam didn’t fear. She was sentenced to die on a prison bed for crimes she did not do. She was a holy person,” they stressed and added: “Indeed, it was expected that she would have a tragic end, just as the other saints who were tortured by seculars before taking their place next to God.”

As the nuns recounted to us, “The monastery, which dates from 1927, was fortunate to host distinguished people, providential. Like the Archbishop of the Genuine Orthodox Christians, Matthew Karpathakis, the Abbess Mariam and several others. Here we honor St. Matthew every May and many believers come to pray to his icon for him to help them. Besides, his miracles are numerous. We will never forget a miracle that happened here about ten years ago and which many people question even today.”
The girl who swallowed Communion

According to the nun Despina, “ten years ago, a 10 year old mute girl came to the monastery.” Her parents had gone to all the doctors, but had not seen results. An aunt of the child told them to bring her here, as they did. Once the little girl kissed of St. Matthew’s icon, she turned and for the first time said to her mother: “Mommy, I have something in the throat.” We were all speechless. Her mother told her to spit it out, but the short answer that “the owner of the photograph [i.e. picture of Matthew] told me to swallow.” Once she swallowed it, she started laughing and telling us that it was very beautiful and sweet. We understood that it was Holy Communion. Today, this little girl, now a woman, still comes to the Monastery.”

The monastery’s abbess stands in front of the icon of Bishop Matthew Karpathakis
The monastery’s abbess stands in front of the icon of Bishop Matthew Karpathakis

The corpse that “streams myrrh” and the horrible tortures

Sunday, November 19, 1950
After the death of Bishop Matthew Karpathakis, the Abbess Mariam deliberately spread rumors that his corpse “streamed myrrh”! In this way, hundreds of simplistic people were attracted who rushed there from many parts of Greece to see the miracle of St. Matthew whose body allegedly emitted myrrh.
Yet in reality, the sly abbess had sprinkled his corpse with perfume to deceive the pious and create a legend around the name of Matthew.

Mariam confessed that 36 of the 50 children had been cloistered in the "Andron" of Keratea.
Mariam confessed that 36 of the 50 children had been cloistered in the “Andron” of Keratea.

Saturday, November 25, 1950
The revealing narrative of the elderly Eugenia Margetis continues as she described with the darkest colors some of the horrible tortures to which she and other nuns were subjected.
Mariam ordered nuns under punishment to remain only in underwear and then assigned to a nun from her surroundings to beat them with a plank.
Other nuns, after Vespers, were led into the forests around the Monastery and fastened half-naked to the trees and remained tied up until Orthros.

More murders, blackmail, and frauds of Mariam come to light.
More murders, blackmail, and frauds of Mariam come to light.

Tuesday, November 28, 1950
From the continuing questioning about the scandals of Keratea Monastery, it was disclosed yesterday that Mariam’s most common method of torturing her victims was hanging them upside down from the surrounding trees to … leave them in the nest of these demons.
The son of Pavlakis narrated to his mother that the nuns at the Keratea Monastery submitted him to torture. Specifically, before dawn the nuns awaken the young boys and girls for Orthros. They would wake them up with a ferocious beating and told them this was for their purification, because in order to go to church and hear the Orthros and Liturgy, they must be savagely flogged beforehand, to be in pain and cry, because only then would they realize the greatness of the Christian religion. If any of the children dared to protest, the nuns moved him to the adjacent pine forest, tied his legs and they hung him from a pine tree with his head towards the ground.

The arrest of four "bishops" is ordered.
The arrest of four “bishops” is ordered.

Friday, February 9, 1951
Yesterday, the preliminary hearing for the Keratea Monastery scandals which began on November 15th, were terminated by the deputy procurator Mr. Papakaryas terminated after the request of the Chief Prosecutor Mr. Velouzou,…new criminal lawsuits were brought against Mariam Soulakiotou and the other monks for 13 new felonies, i.e. for homicide, fraud, forgery of wills, extortion…
Besides Mariam Soulakioti, notorious Abbess of the “Peukovounogiatrissa” monastery in Keratea, her helper Euphrosyne Mendrinou, as well as nuns and monks of their immediate surroundings, who have been placed in custody, have emerged from the preliminary investigation by Mr.. Papakarya guilty elements also against other foreign persons…
• Mr. Bakas, his wife and their three children, holders of significant property, went into the monastery appropriating their property. After some time, however, Mrs. Bakas realized she wanted to leave the monastery. But then Mariam put her in quarantine for six months in a hovel with grossly inadequate food. Mrs. Bakas contracted tuberculosis from the hovel and died shortly after. Her husband, also in the same manner, was infected and died of tuberculosis.
• The case of the Panagiotopoulou couple, who were forced to divest a house in Kallithea to Mariam, which was already being used as an Old Calendarist metochion (dependency), was also characterized as a homicide. Afterwards, the pair died of starvation in the Monastery.
• The case of Michalakou, who was consumptive and, in knowledge of her disorder, was punished with confinement in a hovel and died a few days later was also characterized as murder.
• The case of the nun Theodotis is also another matter of murder. The nuns hit her in such a barbaric way that she developed hemoptysis as a direct result from the abuse and died from it.
• The case of another nun, Maria, is similar. Without knowing what she signed, Maria signed over her property to Mariam and her surroundings. Afterwards, thinking that she was the lady of her estates, went to them to pick olives. The other nuns, however, attacked her, and beat the nun Maria so savagely that she was taken to hospital where she died.

New crimes of Mariam come to light.
New crimes of Mariam come to light.

Wednesday January 26, 1953
Attorney: It is a shame for Greece that Keratea exists! …
Witness: They compelled my consumptive brother-in-law to chew food and then gives it to his 6-year-old child in order to impart the damned disease.
Counsel: Why?
Witness: Because they convinced him that his son would become the child of the devil and would burn the monastery.
….
Once they put my little niece, a10 year old girl, in the kitchen for a chore. She was hungry and licked a potato. The sentence they imposed: The tied her completely nude in the stable and left her overnight. In the morning they found her senseless from cold and fear.
Her soul had been cleansed and had been through all the preparation for paradise …

keratea5

Sunday, February 6, 1955
In the outskirts of the capital and under the nose of the Archbishop of Athens and All Greece, a ghastly den of crass ignorance, criminal unscrupulousness and unmentionable orgies operated for years undisturbed. An illiterate monk, in collaboration with a brutal nun slowly dragged various naive and tired and mentally ill and ignorant into this den via methods analogous of Nazi concentration camps…

keratea7
Note: photos from newspapers are placed in random order not  in relation to their texts.

moni2_0Το δημοσίευμα της εφημερίδας «Ελευθερία» το Σάββατο 25 Νοεμβρίου 1950.

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When Blind Obedience Leads to Homicide: Mother Mariam Soulakiotou, Abbess of Peukovounogiatrissa Monastery (d. 1954)

The “Keratea Scandal”
The “Keratea scandal” erupted in the 1950s.  At an old calendar monastery in Keratea (Πευκοβουνογιάτρισσας = Pine Mountain Physician), it was revealed that Abbess Mary Soulakiotou and the nuns kept affluent old women and underage girls and submitted them to grueling fasts and physical torture. The principles of the charges were ‘unlawful restraint and fraud.’

Mother Mariam Soulakiotou Abbess of Peukovounogiatrissa Monastery in Keratea, Who Killed 150 Girls to “Send Them to Paradise”
Mother Mariam Soulakiotou Abbess of Peukovounogiatrissa Monastery in Keratea, Who Killed 150 Girls to “Send Them to Paradise”

On the night of December 4th, 1950, eighty-five men led by officers of the gendarmerie, the responsible deputy prosecutor, magistrate and coroner surrounded and invaded the monastery at 6am and investigated.
They found 36 boys and girls stunted, pale, with fears and religious delusions. At midday, they placed the children in cars and transported them to the Children’s Station in Lavrion. The gathering up and embarkation occurred with the sharp resistance of nuns and children, weeping, curses, and knell sounds were heard for hours after removal of the children.
The Abbess Mariam and some very active nuns and monks transferred to prison.

The death of Mariam in 1954. Today, the Matthewites consider her "a saint who was slandered and paid for something she did not do."
The death of Mariam in 1954. Today, the Matthewites consider her “a saint who was slandered and paid for something she did not do.”

THE TRIAL
The trial of Mariam Soulakiotou, the nuns and monks who were arrested, and the Old Calednarist Bishop K Alexandropouolou started at the beginning of 1953. The Chairman was appellate Tousis, the prosecutor Kostopoulos.
Forty-one witnesses went to denounce the gruesome details of the life in the monastery Keratea. At one point, the prosecutor interrupted a witness and said: “Keratea is a disgrace for Greece. The hairs of my head are standing up. Just think, 150 girls with tuberculosis died there.”
The witness Seraphim Silvestros testified that his consumptive sister and brother-in-law died in the monastery, and their three children suffered various abuses. The little boy was hung upside down naked many times and beaten to unconsciousness. When his father was alive, the nuns urged him to infect his child with tuberculosis, because he would become a bad man if he lived. They advised him to chew on his food and then feed it to his little boy, so that ‘he dies before him.’ This child had tuberculosis and during was at the sanatorium of Tripoli during the trial. The monastery appropriated the property of three orphans (65 acres and a house). The witness said, “They told us that we must die to empty cells so that others can come, in order for us to go to Paradise.

The trial lasted twelve days with such narratives.

The monastic community.
The monastic community.

Taken from: ΑΠΟ ΤΟΝ ΕΜΦΥΛΙΟ ΣΤΗΝ ΧΟΥΝΤΑ του Σ Λιναρδάτου τόμοι Α και Β εκδόσεις ΒΗΜΑ-Βιβλιοθήκη
Mariam was imposed for ten years to prison for extortion, embezzlement, fraud and other offenses. Her partners received smaller penalties.
Many people, influenced by the numerous “calumnies” and lies sought the complete dissolution of the monastery. They continuously met, and talked about they would convert the monastery to once they had it in their hands.
Once they decided to change it into playgrounds, another time a hospital and another time into barracks. The latter was particularly insisted particularly by senior military who arbitrarily entered the Convent and measured counted the size of some cells and decided to install a leprosarium in the monastery buildings. But after this spread, residents of Keratea rose up, resentful of their decision, and persistently required this not be done.

Children in the monastery from the scandal of Keratea.
Children in the monastery from the scandal of Keratea.

NOTE: The Peukovounogiatrissa Monastery, founded in 1927 in Keratea (near Attica) was under the Matthewite faction of the Old Calendarist schismatics. St. Joseph the Hesychast was with the Matthewite faction (http://apantaortodoxias.blogspot.ca/2012/07/two-holy-fathers-on-calendar-issue.html) until 1945 when he returned to the schismatic Florinite faction. In the 1950’s, after a vision, he went back with the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
During the 40s, Bishop Matthew suffered a stroke in which half of his body, the whole right side, was paralyzed. In normal circumstances, such a bishop would be obligated to retire since he can no longer serve the Divine Services in the image of Christ. By 1948, he was by himself, without any other bishops. The likelihood of Matthew’s movement disintegrating became very great; therefore, in August of that year, Matthew was ‘authorized’ by his church assembly, lead by the protosyngellos Fr. Evgenios Tombros and the Abbess of the convent in which he lived in Keratea, the nun Mariam, to consecrate bishops (uncanonically) by himself to continue their schism. To justify themselves in this action, they claimed that they were under persecution and that Matthew was the only canonical bishop left in the world.

In 1938/39, two of Elder Joseph's nuns (Euphrosyne and Fevronia) went to the Monastery of Panagia Pefkovounogiatrissis in Keratea. They were originally in Gerondissa Efpraxia's Monastery.
In 1938/39, two of Elder Joseph’s nuns (Euphrosyne and Fevronia) went to the Monastery of Panagia Pefkovounogiatrissis in Keratea. They were originally in Gerondissa Efpraxia’s Monastery.

At any rate, many people came to realize the impasse lurking in Old Calendarism, in 1950 and 1951 with the revelation of scandals such as the torturing of children, the misappropriation of properties and financial scandals in the monastery of Keratea, Attica, and the sentencing of the self-styled “abbess” Mariam to life imprisonment. Furthermore, as the expresser of obscurantist and extremist views on the Orthodox Faith, old calendarism began to lose followers with the rise in the standards of education and living of the Greek people, and the general recession in illiteracy during the 50s – 60s and 70s decades. Until that time, it had remained stationary.