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Welcome to Greece!

Kalimare! Good morning from Katakolo, Greece! We are in the small port town of Katakolo, the closest seaport to Ancient Olympia, only an hour’s drive away. We don’t think St. Paul ever visited this area of Greece, but he did visit ports similar to Katakolo during his journeys between 47-62 AD. 

Pictures: The port town of Katakolo, Greece

Our pilgrimage group splits up here. Some stay to shop at the local vendors in Katakolo, others go to Pyrgos about 10 miles away to visit a local orthopedic surgeon because one of our pilgrims fell and broke an ankle, and others go to Olympia to see the ruins of Ancient Greek traditions. 

Ancient Olympia

Today we are going back in time to the Greek Archaic Period, about 800 BC - 480 BC, when the poet Homer writes the famous Iliad and the Odyssey. During this time city-states (e.g. Athens, Sparta) have been formed and conflicts between them are rising. In order to create peace between the warring city-states, the Olympic Games are established. The first Olympic Games takes place in 776 BC in honor of the greatest of the Greek gods, Zeus. The only event at first is running. Later, the Greeks would add more events such as wrestling and boxing. Only men competed in the Olympic Games and only men were spectators. The only woman allowed to watch the Games was the priestess of the goddess of Demeter (sister of Zeus and goddess of agriculture). There was an altar for the priestess on the northern end of the Stadium, opposite the judges. 

Pictures: The famous arch to the Olympic Stadium & the ancient stadium racetrack
The racetrack is over 200 meters long and over 30 meters wide.

Don’t worry ladies, the Ancient Olympic Stadium was also home to the Heraia Games in which only women—usually young girls—would compete in honor of the goddess Hera. 

One of the oldest temples today in Greece is the Temple of Hera. This 7th century BC temple was originally built with wood and dedicated to both Zeus and Hera (wife of Zeus and queen of the gods). Eventually, the wood was replaced with limestone and mud brick, and, after the Temple of Zeus was completed nearby, this temple was re-dedicated to Hera alone. After the Romans conquered Greece, the Temple of Hera became a museum of treasures for the Roman Empire. The temple ruins is where the Olympic torch is first lit for today’s Games.

Pictures: Temple of Hera ruins

Near the Temple of Hera and close to the Olympic Stadium, we see what is left of the Temple of Zeus, which is mostly columns. The Temple of Zeus was built in the 5th century BC (c.470 BC - 457 BC) during the height of the Olympic Games. It was made of limestone and covered in stucco with marble used for the roof and for sculptures inside, including sculptures of Hercules. The floor was at first mosaics but then covered with marble. The Temple held one of the Ancient Wonders of the World: a 42 foot-tall (13 meters) golden statue of Zeus. The statue of Zeus was lost during an earthquake which destroyed most of the Temple of Zeus. 

Pictures: Temple of Zeus ruins  

The site of Ancient of Olympia is home to beautiful examples of ancient Greek architecture, culture, and museum artifacts such as the marble statue of Nike, the goddess of victory. After Olympia, some pilgrims witness Greek dancing at a local restaurant and we all return to the ship in Katakolo and sail to Athens. 

See you tomorrow in Athens! We are praying for you. May God bless you always and in all ways. 




Holy Land Pilgrimage

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Follow Msgr. Lofton's group pilgrimage to the Holy Land: October 19th - November 4th.


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