About 2 kilometers north of Gouvernetou Monastery, we find the famous cave of Panagia Arkoudiotissa or Arkoudospelios, as the locals call it.
The cave has become famous for the stalagmite that looks like a crouching bear when you look at it from one side, after which the cave got its name.
Arkoudospelios has been a place of worship since prehistoric times, as evidenced by inscriptions found in the cave, dedicated to Apollo and Artemis.
According to archaeologists, the goddess Artemis was worshiped in the cave thousands of years ago, and one of her sacred animals was the bear. It was therefore natural to consider a cave with a stalagmite in the shape of this animal as a sacred place.
Around the cave there are ruined buildings that probably housed a small number of monks from the Gouvernetou Monastery. In 1637, Panagia tis Arkoudia is mentioned in a census of the Venetians.
According to local legend, a bear lived in the cave and secretly drank the little water that dripped from the stalactites into a hollow in the rocks.
The monks, who were thirsty and suffering without water, begged the Virgin Mary to help them. The Virgin Mary listened to the prayers of the monks and turned the bear into stone, the stalagmite we see today inside the Bear Cave.
In the cave there is a small chapel dedicated to the Transfiguration of Christ. A big festival is held here on February 2 every year. Many local residents go to the cave and spend the night the night before, bringing food and wine with them. To keep warm, fires are lit inside the cave, which is why its roof is so blackened.
To go to the cave of Panagia Arkoudiotissa, a path starts from the Gouvernetou Monastery, which descends into the Avlaki gorge. Arkoudospelios cave is 2 kilometers from the monastery and the path is easy.
If you continue downhill you will reach the Katholikou Monastery and, a little further down, the sea.
Editor: Fotini Anastasopoulou