The Monastery of Panagia Chozoviotissa on Amorgos Island

The Monastery of Panagia Chozoviotissa on Amorgos Island

Every year, on November 20th and 21st, a special celebration takes place on the island of Amorgos, Greece. Its landmark Monastery of Panagia Chozoviotissa, patron saint of the island, celebrates, opening its doors from dusk till the next morning to pilgrims from all over Greece.

The Monastery of Panagia Chozoviotissa is no ordinary structure. While it is true that all monasteries and other religious buildings are usually built amid a beautiful natural setting, as if praising God for this very beauty, Panagia Chozoviotissa still makes for a category itself. Any visitor who has stepped the more than 300 steps to its entrance can attest the unparalleled feeling of awe at the sight of this momentous structure, built in the vertical cliffs like an eagle’s nest, with only the azure sea lying 300 meters below.

The Monastery remains solid in this place for 1000 years now, housing the icon of Panagia (Virgin Mary) Chozoviotissa. The somehow awkward name derives from the name “Chozova”, an area in Palestine near Jericho, where the similarly built Monastery of St George is located. The icon of Panagia Chozoviotissa, a treasured work of art consisting of silver and gems, was originally created and kept there.

According to legend, it was the 8th century and the instability surrounding that time that drew the fate of the icon and ultimately of the island of Amorgos. It was the time of the advancing Arab conquest and of the movement of iconomachy, which saw icons being burnt or otherwise destroyed as symbols of idolatry. The icon was then considered to be in great peril. It was therefore put in a boat departing from Jaffa and was set adrift the Mediterranean. After its mysterious voyage, it arrived at the wild southern shores of Amorgos.

The area there was uninhabited at the time –whoever has seen the abrupt cliffs of southern Amorgos could not wonder why. Locals from nearby areas would even call it “demonotopos” (demons’ place). The rough, rocky terrain, prohibiting any cultivation or even cattle, was only dominated by the sound of wild winds. Yet, the floating icon arrived at these very shores and locals considered it a sign that this inhospitable land should house it.

Works started for a chapel to keep the icon at a place somewhere in the middle between the shore and the current location of the Monastery. However, as the story goes, every morning builders would find the work of the previous day destroyed. Unable to explain the phenomenon, they laboriously continued building, until one day, the mason’s chisel was mysteriously found much higher in the cliffs. Considering the finding as a divine indication of the spot to build, the chapel was constructed in that very corner of the unbelievably steep cliffs. It is the exact location of the Monastery church today, where the chisel can be still seen.

The original structure only consisted of the church that housed the precious icon. Over time, the spirituality of the location drew hermits who settled in the caves and niches in the surrounding area, gradually forming a community. A monastery was being born. And in 1088, the Byzantine Emperor Alexios Comnenos issued a decree officially renovating the building and giving it the form we can see today.

An almost continuous, blinding white wall, supported by massive buttresses, forms the impressive façade, practically the only visual element of the structure. Few small windows, scattered here and there, dot the surface. A narrow eastern side creates space for the entrance, a tiny wooden door that forces visitors and pilgrims to bow upon entering. Nowhere in the whole place is the width more than 5 meters, as the hosting rock serves as the northern wall throughout the building. The Monastery of Panagia Chozoviotissa is a sublime example of human genius and nature’s forces working together.

Today, hundreds of years after the arrival of the icon at the shores of Amorgos, the Monastery is considered one of the most important religious sites of the Aegean Sea. Three monks still keep it alive and welcome visitors all year round. Its celebration draws pilgrims from all over Greece, who flock in the little church and narrow spaces for the vesper, continuous night prayers and morning celebrating mass. Food is offered after the vesper and the morning mass, reminding the importance of the social function of religion. But perhaps the most overwhelming experience is witnessing the tranquil adoration in the early hours of dawn on November 21st, with the sun rising from the seemingly endless sea.

An exciting summer season is ahead!

An exciting summer season is ahead!

As April is approaching its end, days are getting warmer and longer and summer feels ever closer. And what an exciting summer it seems it will be! Festivals, sport competitions and other events are already underway so have a look at the options available on the Greek islands for this season, pick what suits your interests best and start planning!

Naxos Trail Race – Naxos —– 30 April – 1 May 2017
Be part of the first Naxos Trail Race, taking place on the island from 30 April to 1 May 2017! Parallel events, such as hiking and gastronomy, are included in a very special program not to be missed.

ampelos_santorini4th International Symposium Ampelos 2017 – Santorini —– 12-14 May 2017

Dedicated to the Mediterranean Vineyards and the effect of climate change, this Symposium is held amid the highly productive wine country of Santorini, whose soil is famously fertilized by its volcanic ingredients.

6th Naxian Picasso Diathlon – Naxos —– 14 May 2017
A day of sports and fun taking place for the 6th consecutive year on Plaka Beach, Naxos. Join the race of running and biking for a fresh start of the season!

amorgos_trails_challenge_2017Amorgos Trail Challenge – Amorgos —– 20-21 May 2017
Take the challenge and discover the natural wonders of this unspoiled island through specially designed mountain running routes.
Amorgos Trail Challenge is part of the Cyclades Trail Cup, running on Naxos, Syros, Andros, Tinos and Donousa islands.

4th Tinos Running Experience 2017 – Tinos —– 9-11 June 2017tinos_running
A successful athletic event running for the 4th consecutive year, Tinos Running Experience invites athletes from Greece and abroad to three days of run and fun.

Supa Dupa Fly Festival – Santorini —– 9-13 June 2017supa_dupa_fly
Already feeling nostalgic of the 90s and 00s? After the success of Supa Dupa Fly 2016, the festival once more lands on Santorini with a series of parties and other music events. Start packing for four days and nights of RnB and Hip Hop revival!

Constellation of Amorgos Festival – Amorgos —– 19 June – 02 July 2017constellation_amorgos
Stay tuned for the full programme of this exciting series of events celebrating the beginning of summer on Amorgos Island -coming soon!

Up Festival – Amorgos —– 10 – 16 July 2017
One of the biggest music events in Greece takes place on Amorgos Island every July. Right under the stars, an impressive line-up of artists fills the air with music and good vibes.

XLSIOR Gay Festival – Mykonos —– 23-30 August 2017
Bringing together world famous artists and thousands of music lovers and friends of the international gay community, XLSIOR festival is where the heart of Mykonos beats in summer.

Gastronomy Days – Amorgos —– 17-24 September 2017
Amorgos Gastronomy Days will be running in parallel with the free diving competition “The Authentic Big Blue” and will be showcasing the richness of local cuisine.

The Authentic Big Blue – International Free Diving Tournament – Amorgos —– 18-24 September 2017authentic_big_blue_amorgos_2017
30 years after Luc Besson’s freediving cult movie “The Big Blue” was filmed in the waters of Amorgos, the first Authentic Big Blue international tournament brings the island in the centre of freediving activity once more.

Santorini Experience 2017 – Santorini —– 6-8 October 2017
Be part of the ultimate sport experience held in one of the top travel destinations of the world! Routes are designed in order to take participants through the island’s most beautiful settings, with the stunning background of the magnificent caldera and the volcano itself forming parts of the running and swimming events.

Stay tuned on our website as more events finalize their dates and schedules for 2017 summer season, including:

  • Naxos Festival
  • Domus Cultural Festival of Naxos
  • Naxos Mountain Bike Race
  • Mykonos Run
  • International Music Festival of Santorini
  • Gyzi Mansion Festival (Santorini)
  • Ifestia Festival (Santorini)
  • Santorini Jazz Festival
  • Tinos Festival
  • Tinos Jazz Music Festival
  • Tinos Arts Festival
  • Tinos Climbing Festival

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