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Polichnitos - Lesvos - 81 300 - Greece Tel.  +30 22520 41885,  61121,  - Fax.  +30 22520 41885, 61121

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LESVOS 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 ones.

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 items.

Your next stop is naturally AGIASOS. Build 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
monk Agathon 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.



The 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 village 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 title.

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.

North 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 is inspirational.

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.

Not 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).

The Church 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 basilica.

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 and people.

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