Papikio mountain -Rodopi -Thrace

Papikio mountain (Oros) still hides today its monastic state, which flourished in the 11th century. “There were 23 monasteries here, some Swiss archaeologists came looking for them, but there’s no chance you could find them on your own”, says Yannis Ouzounides, the chief mason of the Maxim Monastery north of Sostis, who knows Papikios as the back of his palm. On the contrary, written sources state that there were way more monasteries than 23 – up to 370 -, but this is not confirmed. Nevertheless, Papikio was one of the most important monastic centers of Byzantium and its monasteries hosted some of the greatest Byzantine personalities.
The area seems to have been inhabited by hermits well before the 10th century, but the bloom of the monastic community, when monasteries and communal installations   were built, started approximately around  the 11th to 12th century. Excavations have proven destructive fires started in various monasteries at the beginning of the 13th  century, while wars of the time led to the monasteries’ final destruction and abandonment in the 14th  century.
Excavations in the greater Papikio area began in 1983 and brought to light three three Byzantine, single-space dome-covered churches, which were probably the catholics of small monasteries. Two monastic complexes and a Byzantine bathhouse dating back to the late 11th century, were also brought to light. The single-space churches are located in the Kerasia area and one of them is between Kerasia and Sostis. A truly shocking monastic complex is located north of Linus (north of the road leading to Poa). There, among other things, an exceptional cistern was discovered, impressive mosaic floors as well as the tomb of Empress Maria Botaneiates. The second monastic complex is located north of Sostis and is a three-aisle basilica.
To locate them, it is strongly suggested to have a local guide with you.