April 8, 2011

Synaxis of Panagia Akathis in Schinousa

Schinousa is part of the Small Eastern Cyclades, and is south of Naxos and north east of Irakleia. The island is hilly and has a population of 206 people. The residents of the island are mostly farmers and are divided between three main villages, Panagia or Chora, Mesaria and the harbour village of Mersini or Mersinia.

In Chora is the Church of the Panagia Akathis that received its rare name because it has a rare icon of the Virgin Mary with Christ standing in front of her. He is thus "akathist" or "standing".

The icon came to the island of Schinousa from the island of Santorini in a miraculous way. A poor woman from Santorini would hear at times from a specific point of her house knocks on the wall. She could not explain it but did not give much care about it either.

One night she had a dream. A woman appeared and told her that she was the Panagia Akathi and celebrates on the day of the Akathist Hymn (16 days before Easter). She told her to dig where she would hear the knocking in her house. The woman dug and found a hollow area within which was the icon with an oil lamp and a jug of oil.

At that time Santorini was a very poor island and its inhabitants were in hard times. Hearing about the icon the villagers went to venerate the icon and left gifts for the woman. One would leave a little oil and others some money. In this way the woman who found the icon was able to live a little better.

At one point the thought came to the woman to bring the icon to the surrounding islands, and when the people venerated the icon they would leave money on the table. So she went on the tour and came to Schinousa, and because there they received her well and became occupied with some work - the island was fertile and there was work for all - she decided to settle.

The icon had always been in the woman's home and somehow she took advantage of it. In a visit there, Metropolitan Gabriel of Thera did not like this taking advantage of the icon. So he took the necessary action required and the icon was transferred to the parish of the island that was dedicated to the Presentation of the Theotokos.

Today the church celebrates its feast on Friday of the Akathist Hymn and it is a great feast. Large feasts are also held on March 25th and August 15th.

Manlati’s Cave

There is a cave called “Maniati’s Cave” in Schinousa. According to an old legend it has taken its name after a pirate from Mani in Southern Greece, who arrived at the island and broke into the Panagia Akathi Church. While he was stealing the money of the church he turned his eyes towards the icon of Virgin Mary and he felt that she was watching him. He was so irritated that he pulled the trigger and shot the icon. Coming out of the church with the stolen money and he slipped down the hill next to the cave and died. He was collected and burnt and since then the rocks of the cave became black and they are black ever since.