PATRONS OF SEVEN IONIAN ISLANDS
The seven islands of the Ionian Sea in Greece have their own religious history. After all, it’s a tradition for the locals to celebrate and honour their own Saints who also happen to be their islands protectors. For this reason, they use to attend a religious ceremony on a special day every year. In particular, it takes place in the church dedicated to the patron saint of the island.
Therefore, the Corfu island honours Saint Spyridon on 12th of December.
Cephalonia honours Saint Gerasimos on 20th of October.
Ithaka honours Panagia Kathariotisa, on 8th of September.
Zakynthos honours Saint Dionysius on 24th of August and on 17th of December.
Kithira honours Osios Theodor on 12th of May.
Antikithira honours Saint Myron on 17th of August.
PANAGIA FANEROMENI PATRON OF LEFKADA
Finally, Lefkada honours Panagia Faneromeni every year on 15th of August. Of course, ‘Panagia’ in Greek stands for the ‘Virgin Mary’. The Faneromeni monastery of Lefkada is certainly dedicated to Her. It is a big monastery on a hill above Lefkas town and only 3 km away from the center.
Historically the bishop of Lefkada Agatharchos and two other fathers built the monastery in 4th century AD. It was just after the First Ecumenical Council in 325 AD. That time they built the first cells on a hill above the Lefkas town. Actually they were the first monks who started the monastic life on the island.
The monastery took its name “Faneromeni” from Greek word “fanerono” which means “to reveal”. In fact the local icon of Virgin Mary was revealed to the monk and hagiographer Kallistos. He was a monk in Constantinople, the capital city of Roman/Byzantium that time. There Kallistos designed the Panagia’s icon on a piece of wood just as he saw Her in his vision.
Later on monks from Constantinople brought the holy icon to the monastery. Over the years several wars and natural disasters devastated the premises but the Venetians managed to rebuild them. Also the locals managed to rebuild the whole church after a big fire in 1887. Then, it was the monk Benjamin Kontrakis from a monastery in Agio Oros who painted the new replica icon of Virgin Mary. Since 2006 the monastery operates also as a museum with many religious exhibits from other monasteries of Greece. Also, a little zoo operates there ideally for the visitors’ children. Without doubt, Faneromeni is a must see tourist attraction of Lefkada. Furthermore, the view of the town from up there is breathtaking. Hence, you have a great chance to shoot from there some excellent photos.
SEVEN ISLANDS RELIGIOUS CELEBRATIONS
All the patron saints of the seven islands in Ionian Sea are considered as the holy protectors of the locals’ health as well. For this reason, local people use to give the patron’s name to their own children. If you plan to visit this year some of the seven Ionian islands just remember the above mentioned dates. During your visit don’t miss to join these religious celebrations. Just grab the chance to feel like a local by taking part in these unique events. After all, they are a part of islands’ religious history and you will be very lucky to live them closely.