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Mykonos: Churches and Monasteries devoted to Saint Mary

Panagia Paraportiani

The chapel of Panagia (Virgin Mary) Paraportiani is one of the most famous churches of Mykonos, located in the town of Chora, in the neighborhood of Kastro. Its name literally means “Our Lady of the Side Gate” in Greek, as it is positioned near the main harbor entrance in the side gate of the entrance to the Kastro area, the oldest section of town. Originally, churches’ name derives from the Greek words “para” (next) “porta” (door), namely the inner or secondary door which was the entrance to the medieval stone walls encircled the area, which unfortunately has been completely destroyed.

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First begun in 1475, what makes Paraportiani so unique is its construction which is an assymetrical conglomeration of 5 churches into one. It is also combining 4 different architectural styles mixing Byzantine, vernacular, traditional and western elements as the churches were constructed over a period of time and not completed until the 17th century.

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Building of great Architectural value, it consists of 4 ground floor temples and one of the first, which is the main church. They are the churches of Agios Efstathios in the centre of the complex, surrounded by the churches of Agii Anargyroi, Agios Sozon and Agia Anastasia. The church of On top of these four churches is the church of Virgin Mary, which as placed on top, forms a central domed roof.

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The oldest church is Agii Anargyroi, which was built in late 14th century. The churches of Agios Efstathios, Agios Sozon and Agia Anastasia were formed in temples only in 1920. Probably the two low and strong arches that supported the roof arch were in the past a base of a heavier structure, perhaps a tower.

Its architectural quirkiness, deep history and whitewashed color have made it one of the most photographed churches not only in Mykonos but in the whole world.

The Church of Zoodochos Pigi

The church of Zoodochos Pigi, at the square of Alefkandra, is the current Cathedral of Mykonos. According to the legend, the icon of the Virgin Mary was found inside a well (‘pigadi’) and that is why the church is also called Panagia Pigadiotissa. Also, the locals call it angelohtismeni (means built by angels in greek).

The exact building date of the temple is unknown, however, the first written testimony is on April 1, 1667. The wood-carved iconostasis of the Church of Zoodochos Pigi was built in Venice during the 18th century, while also the imposing despotic throne was built on. Apart from the temple, the bell tower was built in 1912.

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Panagia Tourliani

Some kilometers away from the capital of Mykonos at the village of Ano Mera stands the beautiful monastery of Panagia Tourliani, known for its remarkable architecture and rare icons.

The monastery was founded in 1542 by fugitive monks of the monastery of Katapoliani of Paros who sought asylum on the island of Mykonos, and was initially named as the church of “Eisodia tis Panaghias” (Presentation of the Virgin Mary).

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In 1767, the monastery was restored, assuming its present shape. It took its present name after an icon of the Virgin Mary found in the nearby area of Tourlos. This Icon is believed to be blessed or miraculous, as most people say in Greece, and many go there to pray. Its marvelous architecture is impressive, especially the part which belongs to the bell-tower. In the monastery’s yard, there is a marble fountain, which has sculptured decorations, while the superb wood-carved “templo” (screen) of the church has been constructed in Florence. Inside the complex is the Ecclesiastical Museum of Mykonos, which features religious exhibits like vestments, Byzantine and Renaissance icons, the first bells of the monastery and other ecclesiastical gems.

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Panaghia Tourliani is considered the Patroness saint of the island and also host to the island’s most important religious festival, the Feast of the virgin, celebrated on August 15th of each year.

Panagia of Paleokastro

The monastery of Paleokastro is another important religious site found on the hill slopes above Ano Mera village. Founded in 18th century, this nunnery is a typical example of the monastic architecture of the Cyclades.

It takes its name from “Paleokastro”, the neighboring hill, crowned with a medieval castle (early Byzantine, occupied until the time of Gizi), which has its foundations on the remains of an ancient fortress.

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Its architecture is particularly interesting and the interior is decorated with icons and a magnificent altar. The striking 3-metre granite slab (menhir) that protrudes out of the ground next to the monastery is believed to be an ancient symbol of worship or a gravestone.

The monastery of Paleokastro had always a small community of nuns. Historians note that during the 18th century, the nuns were no more than five. During the period of Othon King was threatened with extinction. The nuns were old and sick, but eventually a stipend of 10 drachmas was provided for each. The monastery is celebrated on 15 August (Assumption of the Virgin).

This area is known as one of the two major settlements of the island in ancient time. One can see here, among other things, the old church of Agios Vlassis with its neighboring large dovecote and a prehistoric grave-marker consisting of a giant granite rock that rises 3 m above the sea level.

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Catholic Church of Mykonos Virgin of St. Rosary

The only religious denomination to establish itself on the island of Mykonos other than Greek Orthodox is that of the Catholic Church of Panagia Rodario which is situated in Alefkandra Square near the picturesque windmills of Mykonos, above Chora town.

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Constructed in 1668, the church has been dedicated to the Virgin of St. Rosary and was renovated in 1677 by bishop Leandros Xanthakis, as shown in an inscription above the entrance in Latin. The icon over the Holy Table presents Virgin Mary and baby Jesus between Saint Domenicus, the apostle of piety of St. Rosary and Saint Catherine of Sienna. This icon was transported to Mykonos from Venice in 1715. This is when the floor of the church was covered with marble and a gold-platted arch was put around the icon by Vicar John Vitalis, after a donation of his niece, Maroussa Vitali. The Canon Fr. Foskolos, an inhabitant of Tinos, decorated the Holy Table with paintings in 1748.

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The central entrance is on the West, towards the sea, facing the islands of Delos, Rinia and Syros. The next door, near the Sanctuary, which is still there faces north and was the entrance to the Sacristy and the residence of the priest.

Unfortunately, part of the church was destroyed in a big fire in May, 1st, the Labor Day of 1991. The Sanctuary Walk was burnt completely. The icon of the Virgin was seriously damaged but it was transferred to the island of Tinos and repaired. After restoration, the icon was transported with pomp and ceremony by his Reverence Fr. Nicholas Printesis, Archbishop of Naxos – Tinos – Mykonos etc. at which many worshippers were present. On 8th October 1997 His Reverence consecrated the new marble Holy Table which came from the offerings of the faithful. The church was ready to work again.

It is worth mentioning that in the visitors book of the church, for 1997, 12156 visitors wrote their names.

 

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