September 8, 2015

Panagia Sikelia in Chios

Panagia Sikelia (Feast Day - September 8)

Exo Didima is one of the smallest villages in southern Chios and might have taken its final form during the Genoese Occupation. The earthquake of 1881 almost leveled the village and fewer than half of the residents were actually saved. After the earthquake, people started to build new houses on the outskirts. Today, the village has very few permanent residents, most of whom are elderly.

Close to the village, there is the Byzantine Monastery of Panagia Sikelia ("Sikelia" is translated as "Sicily"). The church there today was probably the katholikon of the Monastery. It is a single-aisled vaulted basilica with an arched ceiling and a dome, dating back to the 12th or 13th century, perhaps by the Venetians. The Monastery’s premises are said to have housed a Venetian mint. Myths and legends speak of the existence of a portico or catacomb, with treasures beneath the buildings, but nothing has been proven.

Everyone says that it may have been altered and developed for tourism purposes, with religious and hiking programs. When work was done on the iconostasis there emerged very old frescoes and the images are maintained.

Panagia Sikelia is the patroness of the village, and residents maintain it as much as they are able. Its celebration on September 8th gathers many people. Funds raised maintain not only this church but all the churches of the village.