Symi is a small island, yet you’d be surprised to know that it has at least 300 churches and chapels throughout its geographical area. The most emblematic one is Panormitis, a big monastery in the south of the island, where thousands of pious Christians are gathered here, yearly, in order to pray to Archangel Michael, the patron saint. The churches are around thirteen and the other are mostly chapels and little monasteries scattered everywhere! Most of these were built back at the Byzantine era, so they are also important from a historical point of view, besides the religious one.
Visitors (pious pilgrims or adventurous souls) from all over the world are exploring these sacred places, that are usually found at an altitude, which offers a majestic view either of Symi’s town or villages from above or of the endless blue sea of the Aegean. Either way, you’ll create some images in your mind that will make it impossible to forget this place!
The biggest and most known churches are that of Michael Roukouniotis that was said to be built around 14th -15th century. It is one of the 9 churches that are devoted to Archangel Michael. There are two temples and 15th century frescoes are gracing the walls of the first, and much newer murals from 1738 are decorating the other. Those were created by the artist that also painted the Virgin Mary of Lindos, Gregory Symaios. The religious icon of the Archangel is made of silver leaves, same as the one at the monastery of Panormitis.
Another important monastery is that of the Great Savior (Megalos Sotiris) that’s ten kilometers away from Panormitis, in a rocky location called Nireus. This too is one of the oldest monasteries that could exist from 1727 or even earlier. The impressive building has arches that dominate, cobblestone floors with floral and geometric designs and the stunning basilica of the Transfiguration of Christ is in the middle, which remains well protected like the iconographic representations inside the temple due to the double roof that is shielded by uniform stone slabs. The latter contributes to little or no humidity and eliminates temperature fluctuations. The murals depict images from the life of Christ, parables from the Gospel, dances of Hierarchs, Martyrs and Saints. By far the most interesting is the representation of the Second Coming that graces the west part of the church.
Around the cathedral, one may come across the Cells and other chapels, one in the south wing of the lower floor devoted to Saint Charalambos and right above it is that of Saint Anthony. In the north wing of the same floor, there is an additional chapel dedicated to the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin. Close to the monastery, next to the vineyards (that are used to produce large quantities of local aromatic wines) is the temple of Agios Dimitrios. Every year, during the days of remembrance of these saints, a festive liturgy is hosted there, during which many pious believers gather to celebrate.
North of the gulf of Nanou, you’ll find a small monastery of Little Savior (Mikros Sotiris) at an altitude of 378 meters! Again, this is devoted to the Transfiguration of Christ and has been built on top of an older temple. This either belonged to the Great Savior Monastery or it was named like that because of the few monks that lived there.
Of course, you may find even more monasteries in the most amazing locations in Symi. Try visiting Agios Emilianos, Agia Marina, Agios Nikolaos and Agios Vasilios and combine a look at these holy chapels with a dive in the turquoise waters and a relaxing day at the efflorescent coasts! You will surely be stunned by the captivating and thrilling view of Symi’s natural habitat whatever it is you choose to do!