Thursday, December 11, 2014

Virgin Mary of Ayiassos, Lesvos

One of the most important Orthodox churches on the Greek island of Lesvos, North-Eastern Aegean Sea, is the Church of the Virgin Mary of Ayiassos, taken its name from the icon brought to the island by Saint Agathon, during the iconoclastic period.

In 1170 AD the Church was founded, in the same location where Saint Agathon was buried. The Church was inaugurated in 1173, standing there for 633 years. Unfortunately in 1806, the monks who lived there, had to demolish it, since it became unstable. The Church built during this period was larger than the previous one; however, the Ottoman authorities did not wish this. Nonetheless, this Church was to have a small life span. Six years after the commencement of its construction a fire destroyed it, together with a large part of Ayiassos town. Thankfully, the holiest Christian artefact in the Church, the Icon of the Virgin Mary was saved.

The third Church to be built on that site, which still stands today, began its construction in 1815. It follows, as do many Churches on Lesvos, the Western iconographic tradition, reminding the visitor of the period whereby Greece followed the iconographic and architectural paradigm of the West. This, however, is not the case today, where Greece has returned and re-remembered its Byzantine past and tradition. 

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