28
Oct-2013

Pithariou, Panagia Petra and the Virgin Mary

Pithariou Monastery near Eressos was founded in the 17th century. Surrounded by oak and sycamore trees in a dramatic gorge, it is dedicated to the Taxiarches (archangels) celebrated on November 8.

Panagia Glykofilousa sits on top of a giant rock formation in the center of the town of Petra. You reach the top of the rock by climbing the 114 steps carved into stone. From the church the view of Petra and the surrounding sea and countryside is spectacular extending all the way to the coast of Asia Minor. The legend holds that a long time ago a storm brought a boat captain to the shores in the area where he noticed that the Icon of the Blessed Virgin, which he always had with him, was missing. He was unable to locate it until that evening he saw a strange light seemingly suspended between earth and sky. He climbed up to the top of the rock and found his icon before a lighted lamp. He took it back to his boat but again it disappeared and again he found it on top of the rock. He decided to build a small church there since that was obviously the wish of the Blessed Virgin. The church was built in 1609 and the present one dates to 1747. The Blessed Virgin is celebrated, as everywhere in Greece, on August 15. Near the base of the rock sits the Church of Aghios Nikolaos with 3 layers of wall paintings of which the oldest one probably dates back to the 16th century.

In Agiassos, the Virgin Mary is venerated and everything revolves around the miracle working icon of the Panaghia Vrefokratousa. Pilgrims flock to the town from all over Greece during early August and up to August 15 slowly building up to a carnival-like atmosphere, peaking on the eve of the feast day. There is another panighiri here on September 14 commemorating the day when the Holy cross which Mytilenians brought back from Jerusalem after it was consecrated on Golgotha. Agathon’s Cross is believed to have been made with wood from the True Cross and is kept in the museum of the church. 
The tiny Church of Aghios Andreas in Skala Eressos sits next to the cathedral of Saint Andrew and the ruins of the namesake ancient basilica. The saint himself, whose body lay in repose for many years until returned to his native Crete in the 19th century, died in a shipwreck off the coast of Eressos. 
In Mytilene there are several important churches including the Cathedral of Aghios Athanasios which was built at the end of the 16th century. The saint has been credited with saving the island from a plague in 1836. The largest church is Aghios Therapon, built in 1860, located near the main harbour. Supposedly the church sits on top of an ancient temple to Apollo. Both churches are full of Byzantine icons and impressive wood-carvings.. Also nearby is the Church of Saint Theodora, a three-aisled basilica and the church of Saint Nicholas, a converted mosque.

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