August 22, 2011

Panagia Faneromeni of Nea Skioni in Halkidiki

Two kilometers east of Old Skioni, on the way to Loutra, is the Chapel of the Panagia Faneromeni in Nea Skioni in Halkidiki. It celebrates its feast annually on August 23rd.

Local tradition says that in the 16th century one of the villagers saw a light coming from the sea. He thought there were pirates so he ran to the village to inform the villagers. In the morning, when the light came closer, they saw that it was a big marble slab with the depiction of the Virgin Mary on it, floating on the surface of the sea! The villagers were said to be impressed from the miracle of marble floating on the sea and so they asked the Turk who was in charge to let them build a church. He denied the request, threw down the icon, and stepped on the marble. Then the marble became soft and trapped the Turk's feet in it. The Turk then apologised and let the villagers build the church. The villagers decided to build it on the hilltop so as to be safe from the pirates, but every night the church would be destroyed and the marble icon was found near the sea. Thus they built the church next to the sea where they found the marble icon, according to the desire of the Panagia.

The white-washed chapel with a tiled roof belonged to the Flamouri Monastery in Thessalia, but when Thessalia was set free from the Turks in 1881 they gave the chapel to the Theological School of Halki, to which it still belongs today.

On the walls of the church the visitor can still see the frescoes of the 16th century. When one observes the holy icon of the Panagia made from marble, one could still see the marks of feet said to be impressed by the Turk, though it more likely belonged to the base of a pagan statue which was removed and sanctified with an image of the Panagia.

Locals say that the icon weeps every time something bad is going to happen. It's been said that the icon wept before World War II, before the Turkish invasion in Cyprus in 1975, and recently when the issue with Skopia and their name arose.