August 14, 2010

Panagia of Mikrokastrou and the Dormition Monastery

Panagia Mikrokastrou (Feast Day - August 15)

Mikrokastrou is a village in northern Greece near Siatista in the Kozani district. It is an old village with a chapel dedicated to St. Athanasios dated to 1050 AD with an inscription that says: "Within is entombed the head of Nicholas the Priest". It derives its name from Mount Kastraki which lies on the other side of the village. This mountain is on the way to Siatista and is known for the massacre which occurred there at the hands of the Turks in November of 1912, which is also the year the inhabitants gained independence from the Turks.

The Monastery of the Dormition of the Theotokos was founded in 1753, though the church was not built until 1797 and it was not dedicated until 1842. It houses the miraculous icon of Panagia Mikrokastrou, which is celebrated annually on August 15th amidst much festivity. Thousands come annually from Western Macedonia to venerate the holy icon of Panagia Mikrokastrou, which dates back to 1603 and is of the Eleousa type (experts indicate the icon to be much older, probably from the 12th or 13th century). From 1993 the monastery has functioned as a female convent. Though not functioning today, the monastery at one time operated an old age home, an orphanage, and a hospital for sick children. During war times many sought refuge and sustenance from the monastery, and in turn the people loved the monastery and the bishop who made the monastery a center of the peoples lives. The monastery was the heart of Western Macedonia and it was truly a place where the command to "love one another" was exemplified.

Yearly on the 15th of August the male inhabitants of Siatista parade with their horses (the Cavalry of Siatista) in a procession of the icon from the monastery to Siatista. In Siatista a party ensues and the men dance on the backs of the horses while the wine flows freely, and people break their fasts with a great feast among friends and family till the early morning hours. This festivity goes back to Ottoman times when the Turks granted the inhabitants one day of freedom to do as they wished according to their traditions, and the men would ride their decorated horses to show the Turks their leventia.

Telephone # for the monastery is 24650 23516.

Read more of the modern history of the monastery here.