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November 4, 2022

The Chapel of Saint Ioannikios on the Island of Hydra

Every year, on November 4, our Church celebrates the memory of our Venerable Father Ioannikios the Great of Olympus.

He was born in Bithynia in the year 740 AD, excelled in the Byzantine army, was led into the error of iconoclasm, but repented and returned to the Orthodox faith, climbed Mount Olympus in Bithynia and lived as an ascetic there, as well as in other areas.

He learned and memorized thirty of the Psalms of David and together he sang a prayer of his own, which the Church still preserves, slightly modified: "God is my hope, Christ is my refuge, the Holy Spirit is my shelter."

Then he passed through many places and performed many miracles. He was also found worthy to have the gift of foresight. After foreseeing his death, he surrendered his soul to the Lord of Glory, at the age of 94.

In Hydra, there is a beautiful and devout Chapel of Saint Ioannikios, similar to an eagle's nest, near the eastern end of the Island, about 150 meters before the famous Lighthouse of Zourvas.

The chapel seems to be hanging in the air, on a large rock, steep and difficult, at a height of about 150 meters above sea level.

The Hydrian writer Georgios Sahinis wrote the following about this spot in the book Hydraic Soul: "A most revered and dreamy place, where faith, the sea and the vertigo of the cliff tighten. The beauty, the modesty and the insurmountable beauty of the landscapes of our Island."

The chapel was built after a miraculous rescue of a full ship, which was in danger in the open sea, opposite this area.

Then the captain prayed together with the sailors and they vowed to build a chapel on that rock, in the name of Saint Ioannikios, who was celebrating that day, and it was done.

At this spot, where a small cave is still preserved next to the chapel, Saint Makarios Notaras (1731-1835), who had been Metropolitan of Corinth, lived for some time.

Here, the then young Nicholas, later known as Saint Nikodemos the Hagiorite, came and met him in 1775, and he learned a lot from him. Thus began his association with Saint Makarios which, over the next several decades, resulted in their collaborating to produce numerous soul-profiting works, which includes the famous Philokalia. While Nicholas was with Saint Makarios, Saint Athanasios Parios, a great Teacher of our Church and a member of the Kollyvades movement, arrived, as well as Venerable Sylvester the Caesarea, who would become the spiritual father of Nicholas. Hence, later that year, twenty-six year old Nicholas left Hydra for the Holy Mountain, bearing letters of recommendation from Elder Sylvester.

In the years before the Revolution of 1821, a hermit monk stayed there who lived in asceticism and completely confined, and only once a year, on Easter day, went out and visited the farmhouses located nearby, exchanged the Paschal greeting with the shepherds, he would take the red egg and return to his asceticism. At some point, he disappeared, never to be seen again.

In the Italo-German war, two Greek ships full of munitions sailing just off from the Chapel of Saint Ioannikios were spotted by German planes and fled to the bay, right below the chapel.

From the Monastery of Zourva, the Nuns saw planes bombarding the ships, but none of the bombs hit the ships, rrather they all fell into the sea, and when night fell and the flights stopped, then the ships, safe and sound, came out of the bay, attributing the rescue to the miraculous intervention of Saint Ioannikios.

Several years ago, someone daring, went down under Saint Ioannikios, in a difficult place, to collect capers (a grass of the area), but he found it very difficult to climb up and in his fear he started shouting "Saint Ioannikios, save me," whereupon he saw some unknown monk grab him by the hair and lift him up, until he brought him up to the chapel of the Saint.

In recent years, the late philanthropic Metropolitan Hierotheos of Hydra built a small house behind the chapel, with two rooms and a small cistern, for those clergy who wanted to stay there for contemplation and study.

There, the late Elder Timotheos Thanopoulos used to go at regular intervals for asceticism, prayer and study, while two of his books and notes in his handwriting remain there to this day, as a confirmation that he was there.

Every year, a group of devout Hydrians go there, prepare the little chapel and on November 4, whatever the weather conditions, the Divine Liturgy is solemnly celebrated, with the beauty of simplicity, with an artoklasia and procession of the Holy Icon of the Saint.

It is a beautiful sight, to see the pilgrims, almost perched on rocks, for the procession of the Saint and the priest praying for people everywhere and for the sailors who are at sea.

It is worth noting, that for the last 33 years, the priest in this chapel is the Hydrean Protopresbyter and Vicar of the Holy Parish Church of Saint Demetrios of Hydra, Father Ioannikios Kalafatis, who bears the name of the Saint and honors him with reverence.

May the All-Good God always make us ready for the personal sunrise of the eternal day, so that we can reach the safe harbor of the Kingdom of Heaven, fully experiencing the meaning of the Saint Ioannikios and always reciting the concluding Doxology added to it by our Church: "The Father is my hope, the Son is my refuge, the Holy Spirit is my shelter; Holy Trinity, glory to you."
Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.