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Amorgos: Diving to the endless azure of enlightenment

17 February 2010 / 13:02:18  GRReporter
7929 reads

Zdravka Michailova 

Exclusively for GRReporter 

One can say that on the Cycladic island of Amorgos God is everywhere. In the light over the Aegean the monastery “Panagia (Virgin) Chozoviotissa," the emblem of the island, looks like a miracle. According to the custom, the icon of the Virgin Mary leaves the monastery on Resurrection on Sunday and goes to every large villages, to bless all. A week later - on Thomas the Apostle Day, after vespers in the church in the main village Chora, which is located on a naturally fortified height, centuries ago providing a refuge by piracy raids, the icon is taken back to the monastery, accompanied by folk procession. After this profound expression of reverence and awe, the icon is greeted with administering a Liturgy. 

Popular legend tells that the monastery was founded by monks who came from elsewhere - from Chozova in today’s Palestine. There, written sources confirm the existence of important Orthodox monasteries in the first centuries of Christianity. After the monastery was devastated by their conquerors, the monks crossed the sea and approached the coast on the island Amorgos, which reminded them of their home, and so they decided to stop and establish a new monastery there. The waves brought the Chozoviotissa icon and after it was found on the shore, the building of her temple began. Every morning the workers found the temple broken down, until finally they noticed that the trowel and plummet of the craftsman were hanging three hundred meters from the high rock that overlooks the sea. 

Thus they understood that the will of Mary was for the monastery to be built at that location over a vertical precipice from which the breath stops, but once you look up, the sight of the high rock uplifts you. The cloister, visible only from the sea, is wedged in the rock and looks like it is hanging, grabbed over it. Its width does not exceed five meters and its height is divided into five floor levels between which there is a man-hole with whitewashed narrow stairs. In 1088 the Byzantine Emperor Alexius Comnenus granted the monastery stauropegic (directly subordinated to the Ecumenical Patriarchate) Rights and since then, along with the Monastery of “St. John the Theologian" in Patmos, the monastery was one of the two most important Orthodox shrines in the Aegean Sea. 

Indeed, on the island you can find the light of the divine, not only during following the folk procession, but also while just enjoying the incredible natural beauty. The Greek Nobel prize winner poet Odysseas Elytis also drew inspiration from the island for his poem "It Is Truly Met", which as a hymn of praise echoed "Amorgos Truly Met" ( «Άξιον εστί η Αμοργός»). In another poem "Monogram" he says: "I transfuse in love as the light from the full moon, from everywhere.” 

A close friend of his and also to the poet Nobel prize winner Giorgos Seferis, the poet Nikos Gatsos, became known as the author of a single book of poetry entitled "Amorgos" (1943), although he never even visited the island. Unusual phenomenon in Greek literature, he occupies an important place in the history of Greek modernism."Amorgos" by Gatsos printed during the German occupation, is a long poem, which in an impressive way combines surrealistic elements with images of Greek folk songs. The huge popularity of these poems is also owed the music of composer Manos Hadzidakis: "With my homeland attached to the sails and oars / hanging in the wind / The castaways gently slept like dead beasts in / pallet of sponges." 

Amorgos is known from ancient times, but mostly to European travelers from the 17th and 18th century, because of Cycladic idols, especially those found at the nearby - now vacant - island of Keros. Traces of the Cycladic culture there, were first established in 1850 by German archaeologist Ludwig Ross - model of scientist-Hellenist, who settled in Greece after the liberation, together with the court of the first Greek King Otto, son of the ruler-Hellenist Ludwig of Bavaria. The main findings are Cycladic idols, small marble statuettes, and also a number of ceramic vessels and objects. Samples can be seen at the Museum of Cycladic Art in Athens, and the samples, which left Greece, because they were re-sold by antiques dealers and treasure hunters or took away by European diplomats before the liberation of Greece from Ottoman rule, are located in prestigious museums, among which are leading collections in the British Museum and Ashmolean Museum. Found on Keros is the oldest image of a musician - an idol depicting a man playing a harp. Due to their shape and size, before realizing their true value, the locals called them "dolls". 

In recent years, Amorgos is undergoing a period of resurgent popularity. It is one of the most beautiful islands in Greece and there is no doubt its cordial, nice, sociable and kind people are its greatest asset. Its beaches are not the most comfortable in the Aegean Sea, and its night life cannot be compared with that of Santorini, Mykonos and Paros, but the unique island radiates energy and magnetism. 

The sea view from its bare steep slopes, intersected by terraced dry masonry, reinforcing them against landslides, is breathtaking. A population of 35 000 goats creeps all around, destroying each newly grown sapling, unless they are closed in. The sea around Amorgos has crystal clear waters, and the two deserted islands opposite of it, to which during the summer there are boats every hour, provide alternative diving for those who prefer solitude. 

Tags: Amorgos Cyclades Islands Greece Le grand bleu Luc Besson Buddha enlightenment
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