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Zaraka monastery (Μονή Ζάρακα ) is a ruined Frankish abbey near Stymfalia, in the Peloponnese, in Greece. It was built on the shores of Lake Stymphalia during the "Frangokratia", i.e. the occupation of parts of the Byzantine Empire by Franks and Venetians, following the events of the Fourth Crusade in 1204, and the establishment of the Latin Empire of Constantinople and Greece.

Zaraka's monastery ruins (HDR)

The monastery was built by monks of the Cistercian Order, in c. 1225. What is particularly noteworthy about this monastery is that it the only one actually built by the Cistercians in Greece (out of the approx. 17-19 houses throughout Greece), since in all other occasion the Cistercians had occupied existing Greek Orthodox monasteries that had been abandoned by the Greek monks.

In this respect it is one of the exceptionally few samples of western Gothic architecture in Greece, along with the (most likely Benedictine) monastery of Isova in the western Peloponnese (just north of the village of Trypiti).

Archaeologists believe that the abbey had been built in the same location, or general area as an Ancient Greek temple dedicated to Artemis, which is supported by the fact that materials from a temple have been extensively used in the buildings of the monastery.

The monastery makes sporadic appearance in the Statutes of the Cistercian General Chapter and it was one of the houses granted special exemption from the compulsory annual attendance at the General Chapter, and along with the houses in Syria and the Crusader States it was only required to attend once every seven years. The monastery was abandoned in 1276.

The main surviving structures are the imposing gate house and the forward section of the church.


E. A. R. Brown 'The Cistercians in the Latin Empire of Constantinople and Greece, 1204-1276', Traditio vol.14 (1958), 63-120
B. Kitsiki-Panagopoulos, Cistercian and Mendicant Monasteries in Medieval Greece (Chicago : University of Chicago Press, 1979)
P. Lock, The Franks in the Aegean, 1204-1500 (Longman, 1995)
D. H. Williams, The Cistercians in the Early Middle Ages, 1098-1348 (Gracewing, 1998)
Excavation report my Sheila D. Campbell [1]

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