August 3, 2011

The Chapel of Panagia Kavouradaina in Leros

Panagia Kavouradaina is a picturesque chapel of Leros in Xirokampos, considered one of the island’s most beautiful. It is a whitewashed, domed chapel, somewhat difficult to reach, although there are stairs leading there, built inside a rock’s crack next to the coast. Further down, we find the location where, according to tradition, a fisherman was looking for crabs (“kavouri”) and found inside a crack (or inside a crab’s shell, according to a different version) a tiny, miraculous icon of the Theotokos. This accounts for the chapel’s name.

We have drawn information on how it was built from tradition.

1. One version is the following:

While a fisherman was collecting sea shells among the rocks, he was bitten by a crab. At that precise moment he saw the icon of the Virgin Mary on the rocks. He immediately prayed and soon the wound healed. Witnessing this miracle he picked up the icon and devoutly took it to the village church, telling his compatriots about the event. That same night he had a dream of a woman in black who said to him: “You must put me back in exactly the same spot where you found me”. The next morning after searching, the icon was once again found on the same part of the rocks as it had been the previous day. After this it was decided that a small church be built on the same spot as where the icon had been found.

2. A second version of how the church was built is the following:

Many years ago two fishermen from Kalymnos set out one day to go fishing. The bad weather however did not allow them to fish for long. When the wind started blowing and the weather got worse they decided to moor at Diapori. So that they would not waste a night’s fishing they decided to fish near the beach with a harpoon to catch an octopus or anything they found by the light of their fishing lamp. As they looked down to the seabed they discerned a big group of crabs. When they filled their fishing baskets with crabs, and they had prepared to leave, a miracle happened: A piece of wood rose to the surface at the exact spot where they were fishing, although the currents were pushing it behind their boat. They stopped, full of curiosity, and took it out of the water. When they cleaned it, they saw that it was the icon of the Panagia. They kissed the icon and crossed themselves.

In the morning, when they arrived in Kalymnos, they both went home. One taking the basket with the crabs and the other the icon of the Panagia. He hung it in a corner of his house and left a small olive oil lamp alight next to it. On the third night while the fisherman was sleeping, he saw the Panagia in his sleep and she said to him: “Take me to Leros and build me a little church, where you found me. Don’t forget to do it!” When he woke up, the fisherman told his friend and they set off for Leros.

They arrived at the rocks of Diapori. They tied up their boat and they went to find Lerian builders to build a church. When it was built they placed the icon of the Panagia on the wooden iconostasis. A few days later, they returned to Kalymnos satisfied that they had realized the Panagia’s wish. However, three days later the fisherman saw the Panagia in his sleep, whose eyes were full of pain and with an angry look on her face, saying to him: “My child, you set me up well in my corner. Go back again and build me the church where you found me. I’m waiting for you”. The Kalymnian was at a loss when he arrived in Leros and saw the church demolished. He tried to find the icon of the Panagia, unsuccessfully. Disappointed he took the road to Xirokampos. To his great surprise he saw the icon against the rocks a little further away from the demolished church. The fisherman thought that as the Panagia wanted that spot to be where her church was, there it must be built. This is how it happened and is still located there, up until today.

A feast for the icon is celebrated every year on the 8th of September and 15th of August.