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The Assumption or "Summer Easter": 10 Greek churches which celebrate it

15 August 2013 / 00:08:49  GRReporter
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The Assumption is one of the greatest feasts of the Orthodox Church and one of the official holidays in Greece. It is celebrated with special solemnity and is even called "Summer Easter" because it is the greatest celebration in the summer, the preparation for which starts on 1 August with fasting which continues until August 15.

A variety of customs and traditions are celebrated in towns and villages, on islands and in monasteries and each town or village can tell its story about its patroness the Virgin Mary.

Hundreds of names have been given to the Virgin Mary, depending on how the icon had been painted, on its age, how it had been discovered, etc.

Almost every Greek house celebrates the name day of Maria, Despina, Marios, Panagiotis. This is an occasion for the expression of religious worship but it is also a purely Greek folk feast with dances, songs, selected appetizers and lots of wine.

Three of all the churches in Greece are considered as the most popular places for believers, namely the church of Panagia Evangelistria of Tinos (Our Lady of Tinos), the church of Panagia Ekatontapiliani (Our Lady of the Hundred Gates) on the Island of Paros and the Monastery of Panagia Soumela, Vermio Mountains.

Island Greece

There are large and small churches dedicated to the Mother of God on many islands in the Aegean and Ionian Seas where great feasts mark the "Summer Easter" every year.

The Island of Tinos – the Church of Panagia Evangelistria (Our Lady of Tinos)

The Church of Panagia Evangelistria (www.panagiatinou.gr), also known as Our Lady of Tinos, is one of the most important orthodox shrines of pilgrimage, not only in Greece but also throughout the world. It was built on the site where, according to the legend, the icon of the Virgin Mary was found in 1823 after the visions of nun Pelagia.

On the eve of the Assumption, the residents dress the island in festive decoration and many believers come to seek comfort, strength and support from the Virgin Mary. During the celebrations, the solemn liturgy is followed by an impressive procession in the streets of the city. The celebrations continue until 23 August. On the same day, Tinos marks the sinking of warship "Eli" in 1940 which was berthed in the port.

The Island of Paros – the Church of Ekatontapiliani (Our Lady of the Hundred Gates)

The Church of Ekatontapiliani is located in the main town on the Island of Paros, which is Parikia. It is one of the most important and best preserved Christian monuments in Greece and, certainly, the largest. Its name originates from a legend according to which its 99 gates are visible and the last one, the 100th, will appear with the opening of the secret gate in the Hagia Sophia.

The Assumption here is celebrated with great solemnity and in the afternoon on 15 August, the guests of Parikia participate in the procession with the icon of the Virgin Mary and epitaph. The culmination of the celebrations is in the evening when there are spectacular fireworks, folk songs and dances.

The Island of Kefalonia – Panagia Fidoussa (Our Lady of the Snakes)

Every year the snakes of the Virgin Mary attract near the village of Markopoulo in the southern part of the Island of Kefalonia in the Ionian Sea thousands of believers who see with their own eyes a unique phenomenon, namely the appearance of harmless snakes in the church every year on 15 August. According to the legend, nuns of an ancient monastery in the area had asked the Mother of God to transform them into snakes in order for them to avoid falling into the hands of pirates.
During the evening prayer, the snakes crawl freely among the believers without fear and without bothering anyone and leave the church after 15 August.

The Island of Karpathos - Our Lady of Olympos

Many people visit the Island of Karpathos to see the village of Olympos, which is one of the most beautiful and traditional villages in Greece.

Here the church of the Virgin Mary, which is known for its magnificent iconostasis, celebrates the Assumption. The believers enter through its main door, carrying whole bundles of basil, dedicated to the Virgin Mary. Women in folk costumes carry on their heads baskets decorated with flowers and myrtle. The liturgies are deeply connected with mourning which is typical of this great Christian celebration and the peak of the traditional feasts are the people perforning a ring dance in the small square in front of the church.

The Island of Nisyros – Panagia Spiliani (The Virgin Mary of the Cave)

The cult to the Virgin Mary is very important on the Island of Nisyros. The monastery of Panagia Spiliani, visible from almost every point of the island, celebrates the Assumption from 6 to 15 August. It was built on top of a hill northwest of the main town of Mandraki.

The celebrations begin when the icon of the Virgin Mary arrives in the village and they involve dances, songs and lots of wine.

The Island of Lesbos – Panagia Agiasotissa

The church of the Assumption is located in the centre of the picturesque town of Agiasos. The church is known mainly for the miraculous icon of the Virgin Mary with the infant. The church also houses the church museum which has a rich collection of manuscripts, vessels and other church plate.

The Assumption here is an amazing experience because believers, guests and local residents attend one of the greatest celebrations in the eastern Aegean Sea. A large number of believers leave from the town of Mytilini, walking 25 km to reach the church where they spend the night. On the day of the celebration, after the traditional liturgy, the people go round the church with the icon of the Virgin Mary and music and ring dances in the village square are its culmination.

Mainland Greece

Churches and monasteries dedicated to the Virgin Mary in many villages and towns in Greece celebrate the Assumption which has changed from mourning to a folklore religious feast.

Imatia – Panagia Soumela

Panagia Soumela Monastery (www.panagiasoumela.gr) rises proudly on one of the slopes of Vermio Mountains, near the village of Kastania. It was built in 1951 by Pontic Greek refugees in an attempt to restore the eponymous medieval monastery, the remains of which are on Mela mountain near Trebizond.

It houses the ancient miraculous icon of the Virgin Mary which, according to the legend, was created by Apostle Luke the Evangelist. A large number of believers gather there on 15 August to worship the icon and participate in the celebration, which continues for two days. Pontic groups from the region of Macedonia offer the people wonderful moments with traditional folk songs and dances.

Ferres, Evros region – Panagia Kosmosotira (Our Lady, Saviour of the World)

The monastery of Panagia Kosmosotira, which was built in 1151-1152, is located in the city of Ferres in the south-eastern part of the region of Evros. The Virgin Mary was declared patroness of all Thracians in the world.

The church celebrates liturgy on the afternoon of 15 August. A procession with the icon of the Virgin Mary sets off from the church and the celebration ends with folk songs and dances.

Siatista, Kozani region – Panagia of Mikrokastrou

The monastery of Panagia of Mikrokastrou dedicated to the Assumption is located very close to Siatista, in the village of Mikrokastrou (Little Fortress). The local residents worship the miraculous icon of the Mother of God which is in the monastery and, on 15 August, large groups of people ride decorated horses and visit the monastery to worship the Virgin Mary. They return to the city at lunchtime, where the celebrations with songs and dances in the streets and in the houses continue until dawn.

The custom is known as the "Riders of Siatista" and every year it attracts many visitors from all over Greece, as it is the largest and most glamorous celebration of the Assumption in the region of West Macedonia.

Grevena - Samarina and other villages

The feasts dedicated to the Virgin Mary are particularly splendid in the region of Grevena and especially in the mountain villages of the district. Thousands of guests from all over Greece gather there and the endless celebrations in the name of the Virgin Mary start.

The village of Samarina where the feast lasts for three days is at the centre of the celebration. The situation is similar in the neighbouring village of Avdela where, for five days, the square is dressed in festive decoration and is full of life.

Other churches that celebrate the Assumption are the churches of Panagia Faneromeni on the Island of Andros, Panagia Myrtidiotissa on the Island of Kythira, the church of Panagia in Kato Koufonisi and Panagia Ambelakiotisa in Nafpaktia, the churches of Panagia on the islands of Skiathos and Thassos as well as the churches in Zagorohori and many more.

Tags: The AssumptionChurchesPilgrimsSolemn liturgyProcession
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