RELIGIOUS ITHACA ....
LAZARETO ~ THE ORNAMENT OF VATHI
The island of Lazareto or Sotira -with the homonymous church- is located in Vathi near the SW beach of the port. It dates from 1560 where it was renovated. The two-storey building was built by the English in 1817 where the bust of the then English Commissioner Sir Thomas Meytland was built. It used to host a sanatorium (1836), later a prison for convicts (until 1912) and today it is not used. In previous centuries in every port there was a disinfectant (lazaretto) in which the ships coming from abroad had to stop for a medical examination. Many fighters were imprisoned in this, such as G. Petalas Petas, the colonel of the struggle of 1821, Odysseas Androutsos and other opponents of King Otto and George A.
On the islet there is also a church of the Transfiguration of the Savior founded in 1668.
The Lazaretto of Ithaca was severely damaged by the 1953 earthquakes and was later demolished. We know that most of it was built with stones from ancient Greek ruins, in which whole inscriptions were read. This important material was not recorded.
Overlooking the unique port of Ithaca, the famous Vathi, and with the background of the most ancient story of faithful love, that of Odysseus and Penelope, couples in love from Greece and abroad exchange vows of eternal faith and love in the church of the Savior, above in historic Lazaretto. Almost in the center of the beautiful bay that forms the picturesque port of Homeric Ithaca, this small island tends to become a favorite destination for weddings, with many newlyweds, famous or not famous, already having booked the wedding dates !
Monastery of Kathara
The Monastery of the Panagia Kathariotissa celebrates on September 8th , the feast day of the Nativity of the Theotokos. A smaller feast day takes place on September 14, the Day of the Holy Cross, when according to tradition and because it is a fasting day, boiled broad-beans are given to the pilgrims.
The whole life of the Island is interwoven with the Kathariotissa and her Monastery. Twice in the past, after the earthquakes of 1928 and in March of 1954, after the earthquakes of 1953, the Icon of the Holy Virgin was transported from her Monastery to Vathy, the capital of the island. All the inhabitants accompanied the procession on foot, a fact that shows that the people of Ithaca place their trust in Her and take courage and hope from Her in their difficult times.
Monastery of Taxiarches
The Monastery of Taxiarches is found just beyond the village of Perachori, in the area of Vouni. It was built in October of 1622 by decision of the Elders of the village and by contributions of the inhabitants (land, animals, produce), on the sight of a previous Church of the same name. It consisted of the Church, the residence of the Abbot and the cells. Up until 1898 the Monastery was headed by Ithacan Abbots with a significantly-high level of education. From 1910 onwards the Monastery began to decline. Despite the noteworthy efforts of the priest Spyridon Vlismas, the years that followed were difficult. The final blow came with the earthquakes of 1953 that reduced the Monastery to rubble. A few years later the inhabitants of Perachori, with their persistence and goodwill, some with their personal labour and others with their financial contributions, rebuilt the Church and an adjoining cell.
The Monastery was always a point of reference for the villagers. It celebrated feast days three times a year (Ascension Day, 13 July and 8 November) and during the summer months this was always followed by festivities according to the tradition of the locals. May day festivities, with dancing in the threshing floor in the shade of the chestnut trees, are still renowned. In our days the Monastery continues to celebrate as it did in the past, with the familiar generous spirit and cheerfulness of the villagers of Perachori.
Churches & Chapels
Saint Andrew Chappel (VATHI)
The picturesque chapel that welcomes the visitors at the entrance of the harbor of Ithaca, is dedicated to Saint Andrews and stands right next to the sea. It is a small, simple and warm chapel, constituting the trademark of the port. The easiest way to reach Saint Andrews is by boat, which will leave you at the small pier, right in front of the chapel. Alternatively, you can follow the path from the beach Loutsas, at the edge of the paved road of the port. It will take you about half an hour to 40 minutes to cross this path, since you will have to pass over the rocky coast and through the yews-covered hill. The small boats that make the route from Vathi to Gidaki, pass very close to the chapel of Saint Andrews, giving you the chance to admire it and to take beautiful photographs. Every year on the day of celebration, which is on November 30, people come here by boat from the port and the chapel is full of life.
Panagia – Pernarakia (EXOGI)
At a distance of 2 km from the settlement of Exogi today, in the southwest, at the top of the mountain, in the location "Pernarakia", is built the old monastery of Panagia Eleousa.
We do not know much about its history. It is reported that it operated until the First World War. Radical renovation took place until Dec. 1940, by the monk Iakovos Mavrokefalos, abbot (1919-1944) of the Holy Rosary of Ait / nia and his relatives, in his memory. The antimony of the inauguration made in the Holy Temple by the late Metropolitan Dorotheos in 1946 survives to this day. Fr. Iakovos had an ardent desire to retire to Pernarakia until the end of his life, but he did not succeed. He was executed by the German occupiers in Vonitsa, on July 13, 1944. In the precinct of the Monastery there is his tomb, to which his remains were later transferred.
The view from "Pernarakia" is endless, imposing, fascinating - in any direction you look. Next to the temple there is a cell and a bell tower. Celebrates the first Tuesday after Easter
St Constantine (VATHI)
The church of Agios Konstantinos is located in the area of Kanelata, in Vathi, Ithaca, on the road that leads to Sarakiniko and Filiatro. The date it was built is not known. However, according to the information we have, there was a time when Saint Joachim lived, the well-known Papoulakis. That is, it is over 150 years old. It is an elongated church, built of stone with plaster and wooden roof. The strange thing about this is that it has two niches in Agios Vima, because as we know, Agios Konstantinos is celebrated together with his mother Agia Eleni, so one niche is for Agios Konstantinos and the other for Agia Eleni. Inside there are newer images, because the old ones have been lost. Only an old one of the Virgin Mary survives, which is kept for security reasons in the Metropolitan Church, to the parish of which this chapel belongs.
St Fanouris (VATHI)
The church of Ai Fanouris is located in Vathi Ithaca, in the district of Kavos. It is small, white and is hidden behind the houses and in the olive trees, above the road. It stands out from afar only if one pays attention to the blue doors and windows. From its small balcony one can see the houses, the beach in Vathi and the small island of Lazaretto, standing overgrown with pine trees in the middle of the port of Ithaca. Every year on the eve of the feast of Agios Fanourios, on the 26th of August, a large number of believers flock to the chapel for the evening service. The homemade, delicious Fanouropites are also plentiful, offered to everyone in honor of the Saint!
St Nikolaos Mavronas (KIONI)
The monastery of Agios Nikolaos is located in the northeast of the island of Ithaca, on the outskirts of the beautiful and picturesque village of Kioni. Tradition has it that it was built by villagers after their victory over pirates (perhaps in the 17th century). The monastery operated until the end of the 19th century. Its buildings were destroyed by the devastating earthquake of 1953, but the church remained intact. An ancient column is preserved at the base of the Holy Table, probably coming from an ancient pagan temple in the area.
The access to the beach of Mavronas and the church is made from the settlement of Rachi. The church is landscaped and tidy, it celebrates on May 10 every year, in memory of the passage of the holy relic of St. Nikolaou, ep. Myron from our islands.
Panagia Spiliotisa (MARATHIAS)
Actually, this is a cave whose opening has been closed, giving the impression of a church facade, which is why it was named Panagia Spiliotissa. To reach the church, one must walk the path that starts from the plateau of Marathias. The signs inform about the end of the route by car, while from there you have to follow the special marking of the path: red circle with white in the middle. About 40 minutes after the walk in nature, where the visitor sees the richness of the flora of the island - from age-old olives to aliphaski - reaches the church of Panagia Spilaiotissa. Every year on its feast day, July 2, the chapel receives a large crowd. Her miraculous icon is kept in the church of the Assumption of the Virgin, in Perachori and on that day, the faithful carry it in their hands all the way. After the end of the festive service, the image returns in the same way. According to the tradition many years ago, two families lived in the specific area, cutting wood and making charcoal. One day, passing in front of the cave, they saw a light coming from inside. At first they were surprised, but decided to go inside the cave and see where this light was coming from. Going deeper and deeper into the cave they found themselves in front of an image of the Virgin Mary. With faith and reverence they took the image and transported it to Perachori. However, the next day the image disappeared from the village and was found again in the cave. This happened three times. The image disappeared on its own and returned to the cave, where it had been found. So the villagers realized that they had to turn that cave into a small church, as it was done.
The ‘Metropolis’, the Cathedral Church (VATHI)
On the eastern side of the town of Ithaca, in the suburb of Karavata, one finds the ‘Metropolis’, the Cathedral Church, dedicated to the Entry of the Theotokos in the Temple. It is a single, spacious, roadside structure of the 1800’s. The date is testified by the foundation stone that is on the wall, next to the western entrance. Before the building of the present structure, a smaller Church existed in the same area. This was called the “Panagia at Linobrochia”. Rain water often pooled in the area, and the sea, upon reaching it, would render it brackish. It was in this brackish water that the locals softened their flax before processing it further.In the present-day Church one can see the magnificent, carved, wooden Iconostasis or ‘Icon-screen’, dating back to 1793. It is the work of the carver Ioannis Paschoulitis from Metsovo. On the left side of the Church stands the Pulpit, a work of excellent artistry by the Ithacan Spyros Komninos from the village of Lefki.Also, within the Church are housed the exquisite Icons from the Church of the “Panagoula of the Count”, destroyed by the terrible earthquakes of 1953. Next to the Church, at a short distance, stands its bell tower, a work of superb architectural art, completed in the beginning of the twentieth century.
Church of Vlachernae (VATHI)
Not far from the Holy Church of Gardelaki and on more or less the same elevation, we find the Holy Church of Vlachernae. The Foundation stone, found on the eastern side of the Church, informs us that it was built in 1792. In older writings it is mentioned that it is a building of 1720 and that it functioned as a Holy Monastery.
In the Church we find an exquisite wood-carved Icon-screen with an iconographic uniformity. In other words, all the icons from the top of the Screen to the doors, are the work of the well-known Iconography studio of Perligides from Lixouri of Kefallonia.
In the courtyard of the Church stands a medium-height bell-tower of same age. Its staircase is of special architectural interest. It leads to the bells and is comprised of stone ‘vertebrae’, placed one on top of the other.
Church of the Theotokos – “Gardelaki” (VATHI)
On a western hill of the city of Ithaca rises the Holy Church of the Assumption of the Virgin "Gardelaki". It is a one-room, street building of 1845. In its place, in the past, there was a smaller church and the Vlassopoulou families renovated it to its current size.Inside this Temple is kept, of great art, a large gold-embroidered Epitaph with the Assumption of the Virgin. Next to it, the bell tower rises, a work of modern architecture and high aesthetic value.Apart from being a parish church, this church is also a cemetery. In his cemetery is the tomb of the famous Theofilatos family, which was active in Romania with the famous "slepia", the famous boats on the Danube. This family is the first to bring steam-powered ships to Greece.
Church of the Dormition of the Theotokos (ANOGI)
The Holy Church of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary in Anogi is of large Royal style. Magnificent images of Saints and figures of Angels of rare technique, testify to the talent of the painter of the time, Antonios of Agrafa, who flourished around the middle of the 17th century. According to an inscription on the stone iconostasis, Antonios of Agrafa handed over the icons in 1680. There are five hagiographic zones in the church. Part of the second zone of the western wall, opposite the main entrance, is reminiscent of the mosaics of San Vitale of Ravenna and frescoes of Meteora. Here we find, among others, the figures of Constantine the Great and St. Helen, between which is inserted the cross of Lorraine. All the frescoes are of Continental style, with influences from the Cretan school and perhaps from the famous mosaics of the Byzantine temples of Ravenna. The temple was severely damaged during the earthquakes of 1953. shipowner Mr. Panos Gratsos and the murals were preserved by the conservator Mr. Anastasios Koutsouris. Remarkable for the visitor are the wooden dodecahedron of the era of 1821, the clay walled pitchers for the acoustics of the church, the old stone monuments and the two-storey gynaeconite in front of which the Divine Judgment is represented. Finally, imposing and beautiful from genuine Negro stone, stands the Venetian bell tower of the church, a symbol of the village and a pole of holy pilgrimage to the Assumption of the Virgin, which celebrates August 15.
Church of St Raphael (PERACHORI)
The Church of St Raphael, built on the site where the home of the Saint was, next to the old olive tree known locally as “the olive of Laskaris’, was founded in 1978 and consecrated on July 6, 1980. The church, apart from its distinct form, excellent acoustics and natural lighting, has a remarkable wooden iconostasis of the 17th century transferred from the Church of the Assumption, (also in Perachori) , a working church which was destroyed by the earthquake in 1953.St Raphael was born in 1410 in Myloi in Perachori and his secular name was George Laskaris or Laskaridis. He was a priest at the church of Agios Demetrius Loubardiaris in Athens (near the Acropolis) and was later ordained Abbot in Constantinople. After the fall of Constantinople he went to Lesvos where he was the Abbot at the monastery of Karyes in Thermi. It was there that he suffered tortures and died in April 1463
Church of St Barbara (STAVROS)
The Church of St Barbara is on a small hill on the southern side of the village of Stavros. It is a rectangular, free-standing, single-room structure that was built before 1836. A smaller Church dedicated to the same Saint existed previously on the same spot. This was then enlarged by Saint Joachim, ‘Papoulakis’ (1786-1868), using donations and money collected for this purpose. He did not initially demolish the smaller Church, but built the larger one around it. Only when this was completed was the smaller one then demolished. The Church served as a parish and later, when the Church of the Transfiguration of the Saviour was built in the center of the village, it began to function as a cemetery Church. It has a beautiful wood-carved Iconostasis with icons of the popular-Byzantine style.
Church of Evangelistria (KIONI)
In the seaside village of Kioni and on a hill, there is a large, one-room, street-driven church of Evangelistria. It is also a church built with the subscriptions and fundraisers of Saint Joachim of Papoulakis (1786-1868) in the middle of the 19th century. It is a spacious and tall building with several large windows, which give plenty of light inside. The unique old wood-carved icon panle and all the decoration of the temple are influenced in a western way.
Church of St John, the Baptist (KIONI)
The church of St John, the Baptist is a parish church, a basilica with one nave and an arched inner ceiling. It was badly damaged by the earthquake in 1953 and was restored with great respect to the historical and aesthetic value of the monument. Church documents attest that in the same place there was a church dedicated to St John, the Baptist, but it is unknown whether they refer to the present church or an older one.The carved iconostasis, depicting rich vegetation, is an exceptional example of the Ionian school and is attributed to Kefallonian craftsmen. Inside the church there are six very impressive large paintings –three on the northern and three on the southern walls – by Spyros Gazis, a painter from Lefkada, from the period 1899-1909. These paintings are copies of western pictures and constitute, together with some of the great icons of the temple, the distinctive contribution of the painter in the painting of the church.The church celebrates on 24 June but the big feast takes place on 2 February, the feast day of the Presentation of the Lord. The eponymous icon shows the Virgin Mary sitting on a throne and holding Christ on Her right hand “Dexiokratousa” , a work by the painter John Tamvakis from Zakynthos that dates back to 1859.