The visitor to the southeastern Crete will come across an impressive monastic complex, the Holy Monastery of Timiou Prodromou Kapsa, which nests in the middle of grey-red rocks. The monastery was built either in the thirteenth or the fourteenth century.
It was the hermitage of ascetic and God-bearing Father Saint Joseph Gerontogiannis. His real name was Ioannis Vintsentzos.
Ioannis was educated by clerics
He was born at the village of Lithines, Sitia, in particular at the chapel or Kapsa in 1799, when his parents, Emmauel and Zambia Vintsentzos, had gone there to pay their respects to St. John the Baptist. The boy was baptised a few years later in the same chapel and was given the name Ioannis. Ioannis was an astute and clever man. Since no schools were allowed to function during the Turkish occupation, he was educated by clerics. In addition, he had an extensive knowledge of the Orthodox service and was soon to become an assistant chanter and eloquent participant in debates concerning Church matters.
At the same time he occupied himself with the family property; he worked in his father’s fields and tended the family’s flock of sheep in the area of Kapsa, Sitia. As soon as he reached adulthood, he married a pious young maiden from his village. The young woman was so beautiful that she attracted the attention of the Turks. To protect their daughter from the Turks, they would hide her in remote caves of southern Crete, and ultimately find a man for her who would be able to protect her. This man was Ioannis Vintsentzos. Their marriage was officiated at the Monastery of St. John the Baptist, which was in ruins.
On Easter Friday 1841 Ioannis fell in deep sleep – His vision
The surname Gerontogiannis was attributed to the Saint by the family of his wife. Ioannis and his wife lived happily at the village of Lithines and devoted themselves to the upbringing of their children. Ioannis enjoyed the respect of his fellow men because of his hospitality, generosity and philanthropy.
On Easter Friday 1841 Ioannis fell in deep sleep and all efforts to wake him up failed. Forty-three hours later Ioannis woke up to find his family and a number of friends at his bed side He then related to them his experience during his short hibernation. He said that he had been taken up to heaven where he saw and heard things wonderful which cannot be put into words. Later Ioannis shared his experience with the bishop of Ierapetra and with the local commander.
His devotion to God at his place of birth, Kapsa
Taking his vision as a sign from God, Ioannis decided to leave his family and village and devote himself completely to God. As a place of practice, he chose his birthplace, where he was also baptized and got married. He was ordained monk and named Joseph . He practices abstinence and penance. At the same time, he refurbished two cells of the local monastery to accommodate visitors, while he lived in a cave located over the monastery, on a steep slope in the gorge of Pervolakia. He lived there for 17 Saint joseph Gerontogiannis Kapsa monastery Creteyears. During that time novice, monks and laymen consulted him while he also found time for the complete refurbishment of the monastery.
The fame of Saint Joseph attracted numerous people in the area who wished to receive his blessing and advice. Owing to his fame and virtuous life he received an invitation by the head of the Monastery of Agia Sophia at Armenous, which was almost in ruins from Turkish attacks. Saint Joseph took over the reconstruction of the monastic complex. He rebuilt it entirely from the ruins. The reconstruction work lasted five years (1866-1870).
In 1870, Saint Joseph Gerontogiannis returned to his hermitage where he died four years later, August 6, 1874, at the age of 75.
On May 7, 1982 there was a panegyric removal of the Saint’s relics following an all-night devotions in a vigil celebrated by the Metropolite of Ierapythis and Siteias Kyros Filotheos and by Bishop Methodios Petrakis, clerics and a large congregation.
The relics of Saint Joseph Gerontogiannis were placed in silver shrines and deposited in the church along with his skull.
The faithful people of Sitia and all active Christians of the Lassithi county take pride in the fact their homeland is the place of such an eminent personality of the Church.Saint Joseph Gerontogiannis (or Hosios Ioseph) a paragon of married and celibate life, blesses all those who resort to him and are pure in heart or come in penance. The Saint is commemorated on August 6.
(source: The Orthodox Messenger )
- Read more about the Holy Monastery Kapsa in the article The Kapsa monastery and the ascetic life of Saint Joseph Gerontogiannis