is dotted with churches, monasteries and small mountain
chapels, each one with their own story
some have become
so famous, that pilgrims from all over the word come to
visit. The task to record ALL of them here is an
impossibility, so I will contain myself to the most known
One can certainly combine
some relaxation time in Vatera,
enjoying the beach, sunshine and friendly people and with
a car rental arrangement, can visit every single church
and monastery referred to in our site.
To the east of POLYCHNITOS,
you can visit the Byzantine monastery
(14th century) of Damandriou (left photo), dedicated to the
Assumption of the Virgin Mary. In the church there are wonderful
paintings of Byzantine Art and significant ecclesiastical
Your next stop is naturally
at the feet of mountain OLYMPOS
(South Lesvos) and surrounded by the verdant growth of olive
trees, chestnut trees, apple trees, planes and pine forest,
is easily reached from Vatera (25 min drive)
The town is known as the Jerusalem
of Lesvos, due to the miraculous icon of the
Virgin Mary the Vrefocratusa,
which is housed in the splendid basilica church in the centre
of it. It is believed that Evangelist
Luke made the icon, and the
the Ephesian carried it to the island from Palestine
in 803 - the period of Iconoclasm. He founded the monastery
that soon became a pilgrimage and the nucleus of the town
that formed around it.
The present church was built
in 1814 at around the time when the monastery stopped functioning
as such. In the courtyard there is an Ecclesiastical
Museum with an interesting collection of manuscripts
and valuable items. Agathon also carried with him a small
piece of the Holly Cross, which is exhibited at the museum.
Virgin Mary is venerated here and everything revolves around
the miracle-working icon. During the two-week period leading
up to the 15th of August (The Assumption of the Virgin Mary),
pilgrims from all over the world arrive to pray and offer
their pledges to the Virgin Mary. Many will be wearing black
attire for the duration of the two weeks, which they will
exchange for colourful clothes on the festive day of the
15th of August. The festivities begin on the eve of the
feast day and the town stays awake in vigil.
The town of PETRA
is situated in the north part of Lesvos. The
Church of Virgin Mary the Glycofiloussa is build
on top of a rock. You will have to climb the one hundred
and fourteen steps, cut into the rock to get to the church.
It is believed that a sea faring captain lost the icon of
the Virgin Mary that he kept in his cabin. While he was
looking to find it, he saw a bright light at the top of
the rock. When he went over to investigate, he discovered
the lost icon surrounded by a bright light. He interpreted
this to be as a sigh from above to build a church there,
which he did in 1747. The church was renovated in
Not far from Petra to the
east, is the picturesque
of SYKAMIA with the
stone houses and cobblestone roads. This is the birthplace
of the famous Greek author Stratis Myrivilis where you can
still visit the house he was born in. Again atop a rock
in Skala Sykamias you can visit the small Church
of Virgin Mary (Panagia) Gorgon (Mermaid). An
icon painted by an unknown folk artist shows Virgin Mary
with a mermaid's tail. Inspired
by this church and the dramatic plight of the Greek refugees
from the coastline of Asia Minor, after the burning of Smyrna
by the Turks, Stratis Myrivilis wrote the novel of the same
In the town of MANDAMADOS
(North East Lesvos), the monastery
of Taxiarchis - The Archangel Michael, is situated.
He is considered to be protector of the island and the fame
of his miracles has reached the faithful far and wide. From
past generations we know that Saracen pirates at about 1000
A.C pillaged the old monastery. All monks were slaughtered,
except Postulant Gabriel, who escaped with the help of Taxiarchis.
He then collected the blood of the slaughtered monks and
mixing it with mud, sculpted the face of the Archangel.
This sculpted icon can be seen inside the Church by the
temple. The new Church was rebuild in 1879.
Outside of the Church, a full
size icon of the Archangel can be seen in full regalia.
In 1974 during the invasion of Cyprus by the Turks and the
mobilisation of the Greek Army, pilgrims at the monastery
had witnessed the figure of Taxiarchis from the full size
icon, to go missing for whole days. When it returned the
golden boots he wears, would be dusty and dirty. The local
people believe, that the Archangel was out there, guiding
the Greek Forces.
West from KALLONI, you
can visit theimpressive monastery
of Limona. It was built by the Bishop of Mythimna,
Ignatius Agalianos, in 1523.It contains 35 churches within
its walls. Still inhabited by monks, it is prohibited for
women to visit the central church (dedicated to the Archangels),
which is the centre of the monastery. The Church is an imposing
three-aisle basilica, with a fretwork and gold-plated icon-screen
and frescos painted in the Byzantine manner ca. 1800. During
the Turkish occupation, the monastery played a vital role
in the survival of the Greek language and culture, by keeping
a secret school for young children. It was the only intellectual
centre of the island. The
monastery has a library, a museum
of Geology (1990) and a museum of
Ecclesiastical Art where many artistic
treasures and handwritten religious scribes are exhibited,
as well as one handwritten psalm of the 8th century with
paintings made with golden ink.
To the east of this monastery
(4 km from Kalloni), you can visit the Convent
of Panagia Myrsiniotissa built in 1527. It is
a Byzantine convent annexed to the monastery of Limona.
The grave of the Bishop Ignatius can be found here.
To the west, in the green
valley between VATOUSSA
and ANTISSA you can
visit the monastery Perivolis.
The church was build in the 1300's, but the wall paintings
were not made until the 1600's.
Further to the west (on the
road to Sigri and past the turnoff to Eressos), build on
the crater of a dormant volcano, at the top of mountain
ORDYMNOS, you can visit
the monastery Ypsilou,
build in 1101, to honour St. John the Theologian. The choice
of its location is evidence of its medieval origin. It was
pillaged many times and many of its treasures have been
lost, but you can still see some remarkable gold embroidered
vestments and bible covers from 1588.
If you come back on yourself
and head towards ERESSOS,
you can find the monastery Pithariou,
founded in the 17th century, also dedicated to the Archangels
It is a Byzantine Monastery with a plethora of interesting
icons, ecclesiastical objects and hagiographies. Surrounded
by oaks and sycamore trees in a dramatic gorge, its position
If you follow the coastal
road around the bay of Kalloni and then head towards Mytilene,
right across to the east coast of Lesvos, you will arrive
at the small village of MORIA.
At the church of St. Vassilius
at the entry of the village you will find the fragrant icon
of the "Panagia that sings". It is made from masticha,
insence, carnations and roses and exudes a heavenly fragrance.
very far from there to the north, past the village of THERMI,
on the hill of KARYES
you can visit the Convent of St.
Raphael. The original convent was built in the
12th century. On the 11th of May 1235 pirates pillaged the
monastery and killed all the nuns. In 1454 St.Raphael visited
the site with his friend Nikolaos the deacon and started
the second phase of the monastery for monks.
At that time the local villagers
started an uprising against the ruling Turks, which unfortunately
was unsuccessful. As a result the villagers sought refuge
at the monastery wanting to avoid the punishment that would
have been meted out by the Turks. St.Rafael refused to surrender
the villagers to the demanding Turks, so he was subjected
to torture and killed alongside the deacon Nikolaos and
the 12 year old daughter of the Mayor, Irene. The Turks
burned the monastery before leaving.
St.Raphael appeared in the
dreams of many faithful and indicated the site of his martyred
death and that of Nikolaos and Irene. In July 1959 the excavations
started that eventually revealed the mortal remains of the
three martyrs. The building of the new convent started in
1962 and finished in 1969, but to the present day it continues
to develop under the inspired guidance of the Mother Superior. There are two churches
at the convent, build almost one on top of the other. The
holly remains of the sanctified Martyrs St.Nikolaos & St.Irene are interned in the lower church, while St.Raphael's
holly remains are at the top church. Next to the lower church
are steps that lead to the source of the holly water.
Pilgrims seeking solace, peace,
serenity and praying for a miracle, constantly and repeatedly
visit this monastery all year around. The complex now has
communal rooms for overnight stays.
Finally, if you go back south
to MYTILENE, it's well
worth visiting the three major churches of the town. The
Cathedral of Agios Athanasios
is situated in the centre and it is a three-aisle cruciform
basilica built at the end of the 16th century. The holly
remains of the martyr Saint Theodoros of Byzantium - patron
saint of the town - are kept here. The fretwork icon-screen
is one of the most impressive works of post-Byzantine art
(1738), while the holy icon of Jesus Christ is an heirloom
from Asia Minor (16th Century).
of Agios Therapon is an imposing building (built
in 1860) very near the port and the biggest church in Mytilene.
Among its impressive icons, two are of special value, the
one of Christ ( 14th Century) and the other of Agios Ioannis
the Theologian ( 15th Century).
At the end of the ancient
town of Mytilene, you can visit the Church
of Agioi Theodori. It is the oldest church in
the town, built in the Byzantine period and reconstructed
after its destruction by a fire in 1759 as a three-aisle
As you can appreciate these
are a great many important monasteries and churches to visit
in one island. In order to savour the spiritual experience
it is advisable that you do it in three separate day trips.
One day to cover the ones located to the south, central
and north part of the island. A second day to cover the
ones located to the west and a third day for the ones located
to the east of the island. This way you can also experience
the surrounding countryside, villages, tourist attractions