January 15, 2010

Nea Moni in Chios and Panagia Neomonitissa

The Monastery of Nea Moni was built in the mid-eleventh century by the Roman Emperor Constantine IX Monomachos (1042-1055). According to tradition, three monks, Nikitas, Joseph and John, who lived as hermits in a cave on Mount Provateon, kept seeing a light every night in a forest nearby. Since they could not find its source during the daylight, they decided to set fire to the forest; the fire miraculously stopped in front of a myrtle, which was not inflamed. The icon of Virgin Mary without the Christ Child was lying on its branches. Today this icon is treasured in the monastery and known as Panagia Neamonitissa.

In the meantime, Constantine Monomachos was exiled on the island of Lesvos. The monks, after a divine revelation, visited him and announced to him that he would become an emperor. Constantine, though doubting the news, promised that, in such a case, he would build a monastery dedicated to Virgin Mary's icon. A few years later he became emperor of the Roman Empire, and kept his promise. He built a splendid church at the place where the icon was found, bringing a skilled architect and the best artisans and fine materials from Constantinople.

Nea Moni of Chios is decorated with exceptional mosaics of byzantine art, true masterpieces of the era of the Macedonian dynasty. During the following years Nea Moni became a famous monastery and a refuge for people looking for consolation, sympathy, or guidance by the monks and by the Virgin Mary (who responds to all deep and faithful prayers). It is a miracle that both the icon of Virgin Mary and the church with its magnificent mosaics stayed intact from all the tragedies that suffered the island of Chios, like the tragic massacre of the Greek residents by the Turks in 1822 and the violent earthquake of 1881.


For more information, see here.

For a photogallery, see here and here.

For a brief video in English and Greek, see here.