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Culture > Religion > Myrtidiotissa Mysteries

Culture > Religion

submitted by Rowan Parkes on 14.05.2004

Myrtidiotissa Mysteries

The monastery of the virgin Myrtidiotissa, patron saint of Kythera, is located on the western side of the island, in the exact place where the icon of the virgin with her blackened face was found. The shepherd who found her in the myrtia (myrtle) from which she derived her name originally wished to build the small chapel in her honour on the hill overlooking that valley, when however he carried the icon up the slope, he found that by some mysterious means it would return to the spot where it was found whenever his back turned. Therefore the monastery stands in the valley where it was found. The monastery has of course over the years developed from a miniscule chapel built with the shepherd’s last penny to a large monastery built on and over the original foundations. The icon is taken round the island twice a year, for half of a year it remains at the monastery and for another half in the castle at Chora, the capital. And the Myrtidiotissa has ever been famous for the miracles she is said to bring to pass. Healing and salvation are her traits, and most families of the island can boast the miracle recovery of some distant ancient relation on her account. Two of the most well known stories, both from the times of the pirates are the following:
At a time when the icon was residing in the castle of Chora, in an attempt to protect the people from piracy, a boat, bringing provisions to the island, was seen coming into land, with a pirate ship in hot pursuit and gaining fast. The day was cloudless and bright and all was visible from the castle and the people watched in terror as the islands small vessel battled to reach port before the large one. It did not however look as though the smaller was going to make it, and in desperation the people sent up a prayer to the virgin Myrtidiotissa for help, at which point a bolt of lightning sprung from the sky, circled the castle and then plummeted to the bay where it struck the pirate ship full on and caused it to burst into flames. The smaller vessel made it to safety and the people rejoiced and gave thanks to the virgin for their salvation.
Many people went to worship the holy icon and to beg for cures for friends and family. One such party came with a cripple, whom they laid before the Myrtidiotissa and then fell to praying for a happy end to his sufferings. Suddenly a cry of “Pirates!!!” went up, at which anyone within hearing, even those around the cripple, took to their heels and ran for shelter, leaving their charge alone and helpless. The man offered up a prayer for help and then, miraculously got to his feet and ran as well as any of those who had preceded him to safety.
There are many such stories, but these, as well of the finding of the icon, are portrayed below the golden replica of the icon , and are the better known examples of the virgins powers as she watches over the island and it’s well being…

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