The Orthodox religion takes an important role in the Greek culture and its presence on the island of Mykonos is without exception. If when the name Mykonos comes to mind, you think about endless parties, then you miss an important part of the religious tradition of the island. Spreading all over the island with the thickest concentration built in the main village, the vast abundance of various sized churches make this fact truly evident.
Churches and monasteries of all sizes preserving their simple and austere architecture stand proudly at the most privileged locations of the island with a splendid view to the sea. A characteristic feature of the mykonian landscape is the plethora of small, family, votive chapels, with the typical red-brick color to the outside of the roofs. They blend in with the farmhouses and they are perfectly assimilated in each settlement, as well as among the infertile landscapes of the island with the characteristic smooth rocks. Most of them are simple, small and vaulted structures with a single aisle, as is the case with other Aegean islands.
The construction date of the chapels begins from the Byzantine times and until the 19th century. Some chapels are very old and have been designated as historical monuments by the Ministry of Culture, while others are of modern construction. After the World War II it was said that these chapels were as numerous as days of the year. In reality and lately more of a sign of affluence, it is estimated that the churches of Mykonos, along with the monasteries and the chapels amount to 600-800(which is actually one per local family).
The large number of chapels and churches on the island is the result of both a plethora of votive offerings and the Mykonian custom of enshrining the bones of their dead in the walls of family shrines. The churches were also built as a tribute to aid in the safe return of the island’s sailors. The locals continue the tradition of building chapels as an act of devotion.
In many cases these private chapels not only house the remains of family members and ancestors by commemorating important days in the family history, but also are the scene for yearly religious festive celebrations, the so called “Paniguria” which take place on various days throughout the religious year.
Nowadays, they remain an integral part of daily life of the locals, a beautiful background of the visitors’ photos but also a spiritual getaway from the Mykonian wild nightlife.
Regardless of however else you choose to enjoy your time in Mykonos, do give some of it to visit these holy diamonds:
Panagia Paraportiani, a complex of five churches, four of which are on the ground and the fifth on the roof, is the symbol of Mykonos located in the neighborhood of Kastro.
The cathedral(Mitropoli), Zoodoxos Pigi (or Megali Panagia)in Alefkandra, Panagia Panachra, Agia Kyriaki, Agios Nikolaos of the Harbor in the old port of Mykonos and Agia Eleni are a few of the many noteworthy post-Byzantine era churches and more traditional to Cycladic construction found in the Chora of Mykonos, with characteristic architecture, beautiful icons and elaborately worked rood screens. Of note is the fact that the Church of Agia Eleni is the largest church in Kastro and used to be the Metropolitan Church until 1878.
Agios Nikolaos of the Harbor (also called Kadena) is tis characterized by its distinctive blue dome, black and white tiled floor, starry-night painted ceiling and the ornate golden chandeliers, while is believed to have been built before 1700. In the past, an arch bridge connected the Chancellery building (current Town Hall) with this church which was built on an islet.
Next to Mykonos cathedral stands the Catholic Church of Panagia Rodario and also church of Agios Dimitrios. It was built using ancient marble parts and it is considered the oldest church of the castle. Agia Moni is also one of the oldest churches. A bit further down the road, you will find the chapel of Agia Sotira that has the grave of the last pirate Manolis Mermelechas, who died in 1854, in its floor.
Remarkable are the churches of Profitis Ilias (Matogiani) and the chapel of Pyriani (Panagia Pyrgiani), next to which you will find a Venetian defensive tower, with walls of thickness of 1,50m.
Classified as one of little churches of Mykonos, Agios Charalambos stands on the water edge, right behind the famous windmills, just above the waterfront.
In the settlement of Tourlos 2 km of Chora, lays the church of Agios Georgios, the chapel of Ai-Giorgis Spilianos inside the rock and the church of Agia Sophia.
The island has also many old monasteries, with very interesting architecture and remarkable works of religious art. Some kilometers from the capital of Mykonos, in Ano Mera stands the beautiful monastery of Panagia Tourliani where the Ecclesiastical Museum of Mykonos displaying holy vestments and nice items is located. Situated just under Panaghia Tourliani is the monastery of Aghios Georgios Ampelokipon dating back to the 17th century. The monastery of Panagia of Paleokastro is another important religious site found on the hill slopes above the village of Ano Mera as well. Agios Panteleimon is a beautiful 16th century castle-monastery found in Marathi and is well-decorated with beautiful icons with the most notable that of the Crucifix (Estavromenos) made by the local painter Christodoulos Kallerghis. This monastery is also voted to Saint Nikolaos.
During the past there were several more such as Agios Loukas with its famous religious school on the 18th century, which is today the cemetery of Chora.