Monday, December 10, 2012

Archangel Michael Monastery, Symi

Archangel Michael of Panormitis refers to a miraculous icon of the Archangel Michael on the island of Symi and is one of the four miraculous icons of the Archangel in the Dodecanese Islands, Greece.
The island of Symi, Dodecanese, Greece, is situated in the southeast Aegean sea and northwest of Rhodes. The Greek Orthodox Monastery of Taxiarchis Mihail Panormitis is the most important on the island and second largest in the Dodecanese after the monastery of St John the Theologian in Patmos.

The monastery is located on the south end of Symi, situated on the sea front of the tiny village of Panormitis. It is a closed in bay with a small sandy beach, protected by a narrow inlet that opens out into a wide harbour. The mountainous backdrop is covered with pine trees which give the area an ambiance of solitude.
The monastery is a large 18th-century Venetian styled building with the highest baroque bell tower in the world. The facade of the main structure is white and it stretches along the coast on either side of the main gateway. In excellent condition, the Italians constructed these two rows of buildings after World War II.
The entire church interior is covered with iconography (of particular interest is the 'fall of the angels' mural at the back of the church) and is decorated with very elaborate chandeliers The exact historical date of the construction of this church remains unknown but some suggest that it was built around 450 AD over the site of an ancient temple dedicated to the pagan god Apollo. It is known for certainty that the existing church underwent a major renovation in the 18th century to bring it to the current standard.

 The monastery has two museums. One houses ecclesiastical art, and is rich in exhibits like silver icons, Russian epitaphs and ecclesiastical utensils, ship model offerings brought to Panormitis from far away by the sea, and folk art with important objects of the folk culture of the island, relevant to fishing, agriculture and shepherding. There is also a library with Byzantine manuscripts and editions of ecclesiastical, historical and philological content, as well as a gallery with paintings of the landscape of the monastery and its two chapels. There is also a memorial to a former abbot, two monks and two teachers, who in 1944, were executed for running a spy radio for the British commandoes.
In the church is the famous icon of the Archangel Michael Panormitis, who is not only considered the island's patron saint but also the guardian of sailors in the entire Dodecanese area.
One story is that this icon appeared miraculously and, on several occasions, was removed only to reappear mysteriously in this same location. The church was then built over the location, which, other sources suggest, was also a template to Apollo.

According to legend, if you ask a favour from Archangel Michael, you must promise to give something in return. However, there are numerous traditions in regards to the Archangel. A couple of them follow:
The tradition of the broom offering
The locals of the Dodecanese are known to have offered a traditional broom. Church tradition has passed down that monks from the monastery would hear the Saint sweeping his monastery at night with the broom offerings.
The Archangel Michael is famous in the Dodecanese for his righteous nature. If you have made an offering to him and do not fulfil it, he will make it clear through various miracles that he is not pleased - until you complete your promise. One famous miracle that occurs often and to this day is the miracle of the Archangel preventing the boats from leaving the dock. This has become such a regular occurrence, that the Captains of the boat will announce over the PA to the passengers that someone on the boat has forgotten a promise to the Taxiarch. Once this promise is fulfilled, then and only then does the boat’s engine work.
Message in a bottle
Another item of interest is the bottles with prayers inside. The origins of this tradition are owed to the Greek sailors, who would cast these into the sea and would end up, mysteriously, on the shoreline of the monastery. Today, many believers still practise this tradition. If you visit the museum these messages have been kept for anyone to read.

As a result of these traditions, the interior of the church is decorated with an array of gifts given by the devout pilgrims. There have been so many of these gifts that a lot of them can be viewed in the museum and include model ships made from gold and silver. The monastery is also filled with wonderful paintings, carvings and icons depicting various saints.

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