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ZOIS KAPLANIS (1736-1806): The philanthropic hermit

ZOIS KAPLANIS (1736-1806): The philanthropic hermit

15 Apr, 2024

The darkness of the world as it grows, its ominous shadow spreads with bad moods.

So, I was thinking about what to write, what to refer to in order to somehow raise our calculation and my mind ran to the life of this man who shocked me, still a child, when I first read about him.

Zois Kaplanis was a man of selfless giving, a living saint. Let's meet him!

Zois Kaplanis was born in the village of Grammeno in Ioannina. At a very young age he lost his mother and his father remarried. But after a while she lost him too. Although a small child, he was forced to support his cruel stepmother, so he hired a donkey, cut wood from the Megalongos forest and transported it to Ioannina, where he sold it. The neighbors, sympathizing with the orphan, began to call him "Pikrozoi", a nickname that was to follow him throughout his life.

His stepmother, however, after beating him one day, brutally kicked him out of the house. It was the eve of Orthodoxy Sunday and little Zois was forced to go to Ioannina, in search of a better fortune. This forced and bitter flight left an open wound in his sensitive soul. Even in his will he mentions that his annual memorial service be held, not on the day of his death, but on the day he left his village.

Some relatives picked him up and with them he learned to read and write by himself.

He was 18 years old when the great merchant Panagiotis Hatzinikos from Konitsa hired him to learn the art of fur. He soon realized the value and the studiousness of Zois, freed him from manual work and made him first an employee, then a grammarian and finally his partner.

Hadjinikos' businesses were based in Bucharest. Seeing that with the movements of Zoi his business was developing, he sent him to Nizhna (today Ukraine), where many Epirotians lived. Zois toured the surrounding Russian cities for three years, trading furs and increasing Hatjinikos' profits.

In 1771 he moved to Moscow, the largest fur trading center at the time. There he lived in a cell, inside the Greek monastery of Agios Nikolaos, a member of the Iberon Monastery of Mount Athos, while he stopped his collaboration with Hatzinikos, due to the old age of his benefactor. In Moscow he became rich in the fur trade, but always lived ascetically.

There he met many Epirotians, but the acquaintance with Zois Zosimas and his brothers was a milestone for his subsequent course. Zosimas introduced him to the secrets of giving and to the model of an ascetic and celibate life, a way of life that allowed these good spirits to remain permanently and undividedly devoted to their divine work.


Kaplanis' philanthropic work is enormous.

The Chaplain School (1797) of Ioannina is considered the most important. He allocated a significant part of his property to her. Psalidas took over as director, adopting modern ideas. Positive and natural sciences were taught, while physics and chemistry experiments were carried out. Later he asked the Patriarch to make the School patriarchal, which was done. The reason was the reactions of local actors about what the school taught. Kaplanis financed needy students as well as foreign language teachers.

He built and maintained a school in his native land. He paid teachers, but also supported needy students. At that time he had about 90 students. He also founded a Weaving School that operated until 1970.

He subsidized the Athonia School on Mount Athos, the Greek School on Patmos, the Holy Sepulcher and Mount Sinai in Jerusalem. He deposited an amount in a Moscow bank, the interest of which went to the hospital in Ioannina. In his will he left sums for the needy of Nizhna, but also for the hospital of Ioannina. He donated to needy girls of Ioannina and Grammenos, while money was also sent to improve the conditions of the prisoners.

In 1805 he allocated money for the renovation of Agios Nikolaos in Grammeno.

His first biography was published in Russia, since there too his philanthropic work was great.

He is the first to be called a "national benefactor", since his work predates the revolution of 1821.

He was buried in the cemetery of a Russian monastery in Moscow in December 1806. Someone carved a characteristic epitaph on the tombstone: "All his condition he sacrificed with eucharity, for the illumination of his Fatherland and for poverty."




. Photo https://el.wikipedia.org/ 

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