Elder Porphyrios at Kallisia, c. 1965.
Elder Porphyrios was born in the village of Aghios Ioannis in the province of Karystia on the Greek island of Evia (Euboea). The name he received at birth was Evangelos. His parents, Leonidas and Eleni Bairaktaris, were poor farmers and had difficulty in supporting their large family. For this reason his father left for America where he worked on the construction of the Panama Canal.
Young Evangelos was the fourth child of the family. As a boy he looked after sheep on the hills and had completed only the first class of primary school when, at the age of seven, he was obliged on account of his family’s extreme poverty to go to the nearby town of Chalkida to work. He worked there in a shop for two or three years. Thereafter he went to Piraeus to work in a general store owned by a relative. At the age of twelve he left secretly to go to the Holy Mountain. His longing was to imitate Saint John the Hut-dweller whose life he had read and for whom he felt a special affinity. The grace of God led him to the hermitage of Saint George in Kavsokalyvia on the wooded slopes of the south-eastern extremity of Mount Athos where he lived in obedience to two elders, natural brothers, Panteleimon, who was a father confessor, and Ioannikios, who was a priest. He devoted himself with great love and in a spirit of utter obedience to the two elders who had a reputation for being exceptionally austere.
He became a monk at the age of fourteen and took the name of Niketas. Two years later he took his final monastic vows of the Great Schema. Shortly thereafter he was granted the gift of clear sight. At the age of nineteen he became very seriously ill and was obliged to leave the Holy Mountain. He returned to Evia where he went to live in the Monastery of Saint Charalambos at Levka. A year later, in 1926, and at the age of twenty, he was ordained priest at the Church of Saint Charalambos in Kymi by the Archbishop of Sinai, Porphyrios III, who gave him the name Porphyrios. At the age of twenty-two he became a confessor and spiritual father. For a time he was parish priest in the village of Tsakei in Evia.
He lived for twelve years in the Monastery of Saint Charalambos in Evia serving as a spiritual guide and confessor and then for three years in the deserted Monastery of Saint Nicholas in Ano Vatheia.
In 1940, on the eve of Greece’s entrance into the Second World War, Elder Porphyrios moved to Athens where he became chaplain and confessor in the Polyclinic Hospital. He himself said that he served there for thirty-three years as if it were a single day, devoting himself untiringly to his spiritual work and to easing pain and suffering.
As of 1955 he made his home in the tiny Monastery of Saint Nicholas in Kallisia on the foothills of Mount Pendeli. He rented this monastic dependency along with the surrounding area from the Pendeli Monastery and worked the land with great diligence. At the same time he carried out his copious work of spiritual guidance.
In the summer of 1979 he moved to Milesi, a village some thirty miles north of Athens and overlooking his native Evia, with the dream of founding a monastery there. To begin with he lived in a caravan under exceedingly adverse circumstances and later in a simple room constructed from breeze blocks where he endured without complaint his many health troubles. In 1984 he moved into a room in a wing of the monastery which was under construction. In spite of the fact that the elder was seriously ill and blind, he worked constantly and unstintingly for the completion of the monastery. On the 26th February 1990 he was able to see his dream becoming reality when the foundation stone of the church of the Transfiguration was laid.
During the final years of his earthly life he began to prepare himself for his death. His desire was to return to the Holy Mountain and to his beloved Kavsokalyvia. So it was that he died in his hermitage in Kavsokalyvia on the morning of 2nd December 1991.