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May 24, 2021

The Chapel of the Holy Skull in Samos

Relics from left to right: 1) Gifts of the Magi, 2) St. Febronia, 3) St. Michael of Synnada

The village of Ano Vathi is situated in the northeast of the island of Samos. Ano Vathi was created in the 17th century when the inhabitants moved away from the coast due to pirate raids. The streets are narrow and steep and some of the traditional, old houses have hanging bay windows in a Venetian style.

One of the hidden jewels of this village is the Chapel of the Holy Skull, or Agia Kara. Agia Kara is a small single aisle, tiled-roof church, built around the end of 17th century. The two main features of interest in this chapel is the wood carved iconostasis and the large fresco of the Great Judgment built at the chapel's exit.

This chapel at one time was a dependency of the Great Lavra Monastery of Mount Athos, where the sacred skull of Saint Michael of Synnada is kept. Saint Michael, who reposed in 818 while in exile on behalf of his veneration of holy icons, is commemorated by the Church on May 23rd.

Saint Michael of Synnada is especially invoked for the protection of crops from pests. This is why when the island of Samos experienced a plague of locusts that devastated their crops, monks from Mount Athos came with the skull of Saint Michael, and as soon as it arrived the locusts fled the island and cast themselves into the sea.

In honor of this miracle, the chapel of Ano Vathi was dedicated to Saint Michael of Synnada, but is known by inhabitants as the Chapel of Agia Kara, which means either Holy Head or Holy Skull.