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September 20, 2017

Synaxis of the Panagia Voulkaniotissa in Messinia

Panagia Voulkaniotissa (Feast Day - September 20 and August 15)


Rejoice O land of Messinia,
For it is the sacred festival of Voulkaniotissa

At the intersection of the mountains of Ithomi and Eva (Agios Vasilios) and between the villages Archaia Messini (Mavrommati) and Valyra of the Municipality of Ithomi, is the historic Monastery of Voulkanos, which was founded in the 17th century, and rises enormously and majestically. The name "Voulkanos" and earlier "Vourkanos", "Dorkanos" and "Voulkanis" is probably owed to a Byzantine ruler or a builder, to whom the area around Mount Ithomi belonged.

The forerunner of this monastery was the Monastery of the Panagia of the Koryphis or Panagia Epanokastritissis, now called Katholikon, and is located at the peak of Mount Ithomi, where the Acropolis of Ancient Messinia once existed.

There is a tradition that the Monastery of the Koryphis was built at the beginning of the 8th century, around 725, by iconophile monks, where they discovered the revered icon of the Panagia hanging from an oak tree in the company of a lit lamp. Another tradition says it was built by Emperor Andronikos II Palaiologos (1282-1328). Neither of these are historically confirmed. The church of the old monastery was built over a pagan temple dedicated to Zeus and stones from this were used to build it. The iconography was done by two brothers from Nafplio, Demetrios and George Moschos, in the year 1608. At the west wing of the monastery's cells, there is the Byzantine Calefactory, which was a special area with a fireplace and benches around it, where the monks sat and warmed themselves in the winter. It is reported that there are 11 calefactories in the Church of Greece.

The Monastery of the Koryphis was abandoned in 1625 because of the unpredictable cold of the winter months and the difficulty of the pilgrims reaching this place, so they sought a place to the south and found in the present location the new monastery, after having bought it from the father of the Turkish aga of Androusa for 10,500 grosia. In this newly purchased land they found a well of water and a two-storey tower, which became the beginning of the new monastery construction.

The church of the new monastery was built in 1701 and is in the Byzantine cruciform construction with a dome. It was dedicated to the Nativity of the Theotokos in as much as the church of the old monastery had been dedicated to the Dormition of the Theotokos, which is the primary festival of both monasteries.

The precious treasure of the monastery is the Icon of Panagia Voulkaniotissa which bears the inscription "The Odigitria named after Mount Voulkanos." The monastery also keeps many sacred relics of the saints, such as Saint Dionysius the Areopagite, Saint John of Monemvasia and Saint Elias Ardounis. The rich library contains many old and new books, handwritten writings, Turkish documents, and 4 Sigillium's of the Patriarchate of Constantinople which recognize or validate its privileges.

The primary feast takes place on August 15th, with the transfer of the icon of the Panagia to her throne at the Monastery of the Koryphis. Also on the evening of the 20th of September the icon of the Panagia is processed down to the city of Messinia, in remembrance of the intervention of the Mother of God during the deadly plague which struck the city around 1755, at which time a procession with the icon took place and eradicated the deadly plague. On this night thousands of pilgrims follow the Panagia Voulkaniotissa and walk a distance of 20 kilometers. The descent begins at 2:00 am from Voulkanos and ends at Mavromateiki Panagitsa around 7:30 am in the morning of September 20th. The icon is officially received at 9:30 am at the Chapel of Saint Paraskevi. The procession then continues through the streets of the city until it arrives at the dependency of the Monastery of Voulkanos, known as the Monastery Panegyristras, where the icon is placed and kept until September 28th for veneration by the people. At 5:00 pm on September 28th the icon is returned to its monastery with another procession that ends around midnight, upon its arrival.

The Monastery of Voulkanos has always been a male monastery and has never ceased to be in operation. It is today the only male monastery in the Metropolis of Messinia.

Apolytikion in the First Tone
All in Messinia venerate their boast, your wonderworking Icon of Voulkaniotissa O Lady, sprouting abundant gifts, of heavenly graces to the faithful, and fleeing quickly from everywhere to your monastery, with longing they boast in you. Glory to your wonders Pure One, glory to your divine protection, glory to you Immaculate One for the care you show to us.

Kontakion in Plagal of the Fourth Tone
Your mighty hand, Lady Voulkaniotissa, do not take away from us who call upon you, for your many hymn-worthy miracles, but as you saved in olden times the people of Messinia, grant also unto us each day that which is beneficial, who cry unto you: Rejoice the help of all.