February 2, 2011

6 Orthodox Churches Which Celebrate on February 2nd

1. Panagia Chrysaliniotissa in Nicosia, Cyprus

The small church of Panagia Chrysaliniotissa (or Aliniotissa) is the oldest Orthodox Church which lies within the early Frankish and later Venetian walls of Nicosia in Cyprus. It owes its name to the miraculous finding of the icon of the Theotokos inside dense thorny bushes (alinies). It was built in the mid-15th century AD by the wife of the Frankish king John II, Helen Palaiologina, to serve the spiritual needs of Orthodox residents of the capital, which until then there only existed Catholic churches and monasteries in the area. The church over the years received numerous reconstructions to get the current form. One radical change was during the Ottoman occupation, when a substantial reconstruction towards a Byzantine architecture took place around 1735.

The church once housed the western-style image of Madonna della Consolazione, which today is found in the Byzantine Museum of Nicosia.

2. Panagia Goumenissa in Goumenissa, Greece

The Monastery of Panagia Goumenissa is in the small town of the same name which is also the seat of the Metropolitan of the newly established Metropolis of Goumenissa, Axioupolis and Polykastron (established in 1991).

The first report with the name Goumenissa comes from the year 1346, during the era of the Palaiologos Dynasty. In an Imperial Act of this year, the region of Goumenissa was granted to the Holy Monastery of Iveron of Mount Athos and it eventually became an important spiritual centre of central Macedonia because of the Monastery of the Virgin Mary. Next to the Monastery existed a settlement that a little later with the union of small agro-pastoral settlements created a dynamic town that was named Goumenissa. Since the Virgin Mary is the Abbess (Igoumenissa) of Athonite monasteries, the name stuck for this monastic dependency and the town. In 1931 the Monastery became independent.

The Monastery has its origins from the various ascetics who had settled on the slopes of Mount Paiko in the 14th century. It is thought that the ruins found at the Church of Saint Paraskevi Pentalofou were once monastic cells. These monastics especially venerated an icon of the Theotokos, which one day vanished from its place and settled 7 km further down where Panagia Goumenissa is found today. When the icon moved they brought it back, but after three times of it miraculously moving away, they realized that it was the will of the Panagia for the icon to settle there.

During the Ottoman occupation (1430-1912), the Monastery acquired great wealth and land because of it spiritual importance in the area. In the 19th century, because the monks resisted the Turks, bandits from Turkey and Albania looted the Monastery and hanged the Abbot in the woods of the Monastery, which is today's central square. It was in memory of his sacrifice that the town acquired the name of the Monastery - Goumenissa. Since then the town and the Monastery have been inextricably tied.

The current katholikon of the Monastery is not the original church, but was built in the end of the 17th century. Many renovations were done in 1802, 1837 and in the middle of the 19th century as well. In 1924 many Greek refugees from Asia Minor settled in the area. In 1931 Iveron Monastery gave over their metochion to the State and the local Church. The sacred vessels and holy relics were returned to Iveron and the Monastery was occupied by the refugees. In 1951 the Monastery of Panagia Goumenissa was re-established (12/17/1951). Because the Monastery lacked monks, Metropolitan Ambrose of Kilkisios and Polyani made it into a shrine while preserving the monastic regime. In 1991 the monastic community revived with the establishment of the new Metropolis as a male monastery.

The Monastery has four feast days:

- February 2 (with vigil)
- First Sunday of March (with procession)
- The third day of Pascha (with procession)
- A three day feast beginning on August 15th

3. Panagia Marouliani in Oia, Santorini

In the village of Finikia next to the village of Oia in Santorini there is a large church called Panagia Marouliani dedicated to the Reception of Christ in the Temple and is celebrated with much festivity annually on February 2nd.

The origin of the name "Marouliani" is rumored to have stemmed from Asia Minor where many years ago (around 1800 AD) in a rural suburb of Smyrna, a Greek farmer found buried in his field under roots of lettuce (μαρουλιών or maroulion) a small wooden icon of the Reception of Christ. Later, with the establishment of the Greek State, there arrived refugees from Asia Minor in Santorini (ca. 1840 AD) and they built the church that stands today to house the icon.

4. Panagia Thalassitra in Kastro, Milos

Panagia Thalassitra Church, renowned patron of sailors, is located in Kastro, just above Plaka, in one of the most beautiful spots of Milos. The church dates to the thirteenth century. Over its side door are the arms of Giovanni IV Crispo (r. 1517-1564), the last duke of Naxos to rule over the Cyclades before they fell to the Turks. It was reconstructed in 1738, and later on renovated and united with the small chapel of Panagia Eleousa. Thalassitra means "of the sea". The church houses fine icons by Emmanuel Skordilis and his students.

5. Panagia of Holy Obedience in Kostos, Paros

The Church of Panagia of Holy Obedience (oi Agia Ypakoe or η Αγία Υπακοή) is also known by locals as Agia Pakou (Αγία Πακού) or Panagia oi Pakou (Παναγιά η Πακού). It is dedicated to the Reception of Christ and was formerly a dependency of the Monastery of Chozoviotissa in Amorgos and renovated in 1609 AD. They gave her the nickname "Holy Obedience" honoring the Virgin Mary's obedience to God's will in giving birth to the Son of God, and in accordance with this the people ought to obey the will of God as well.

6. Panagia of the Wicked Bees in Levadi, Kythera

The icon of the Theotokos of the Wicked Bees (Θεοτόκου Κακιάς Μέλισσας) is found in the village of Levadi in Kythera. It received its name because at one time certain pirates invaded the island in order to plunder the monastery. Suddenly there appeared a swarm of bees which attacked the pirates and forced them to retreat.