Religious Tours On The Island’s West Side

Religious tours on the island’s west side

On the main road from Rhodes city to Ialisos, next to “Kritika” district and between large hotels, is the church of Panagia Faneromeni. On the same road and on the left side, among a green landscape, the monastery of Three (Archangels) stands. Those two are samples of the area’s art and tradition.

1. Panagia Filerimou

Situated at an idyllic scenery on Filerimos hill that dominates the namesake bay at an altitude of 247 meters. Following the main road from Rhodes Town to Ialisos and turning left on Ialisos main crossroad you will reach the foot of Filerimos hill. The site appears to have been attractive from ancient times particularly. The Acropolis of Ialisos and the ancient temple of Athena Poliados, who, in the 5th century A.D., became a Christian three-aisled basilica, were at the same location.The only remain of this temple is a cross-shaped font. Passing through the eastern gate, a wide stone staircase, with tall cypress trees right and left, leads us to the monastery of Panagia Filerimou dedicated to Zoodochos Pigi (Life-Giving Source). The church complex was built by the Knights over an older Byzantine church and was rebuilt in its present form by Italian archaeologists. Right next to the font is the restored stone Gothic church. To the left of the main entrance of the site at a lower level of the monastery there is a small one-room underground Byzantine church of Agios Georgios tou Hostou, pre-knight era, with rare frescoes depicting the knights and dating from the 14th-15th century. Opposite the entrance of the site and outside the fence begins the so-called Calvary, a paved corridor with twelve engravings on one side, standing on pedestals, which represent the Passion of Christ. The path ends in a cross of 17,80 meters tall. Inside, staircase leads to the top of the cross offering a breathtaking panoramic view. A few steps down the hillside, is a partially restored Doric fountain with six Doric columns and an equal number of columns in the interior (4th century B.C.).

The icon of the Virgin Mary of Filerimos is one of the most important Christian relics. The story of the icon seems to start from the 11th century A.D. Mary’s face was painted on canvas, which then was applied to the wood surface. Many believe that the icon comes from Jerusalem. Some historians argue that members of the Order of St. John brought it to Rhodes to this location from which it got its name. Other historians say that the Order of St. John found it on the island after its conquest in the year 1310, and that the residents had already established Virgin Mary as their protector. The icon from 1200 to 1480 A.D. was located on the hill of Filerimos. The year 1480 A.D. during the first Ottoman siege, the icon was temporarily transferred to the city of Rhodes and on the ramparts to inspire the army. From 1490 until 1523 A.D., the icon moved several times in the castle of the Knights due to the reconstruction of the temple on Filerimos hill, after the 1480 A.D. invasion and earthquakes. The last year, 1522 A.D., the icon moved back to the city of Rhodes during the second Ottoman siege, and was stored at Agia Ekaterini’s church and then at Agios Markos church within the Medieval Town. On January 2, 1523 A.D., the icon forever leaves the island of Rhodes to start a long journey through time and history. From 1523 to 1527 A.D. it was located in Italy, and from 1527 to 1530 A.D. in France. On the island of Malta, first in the church of San Lorenzo from 1530 to 1571 A.D. and then at La Valletta, in the church of Our Lady Beata Maria from 1571 to 1578 A.D. and finally the Cathedral of San Giovanni from 1578 to 1798 A.D. It is said that the icon had great power during its stay on the island of Malta, protecting it especially during the long Ottoman siege in the year 1565 A.D.

When the Great Napoleon occupied Malta in 1798 A.D., robbers while ravaging palaces and churches, removed the cover of the icon. The icon travelled through Trieste and arrived in Russia, where Tzar Paul A’ welcomed it with honors. A new gold lid decorated with additional expensive jewelry such as diamonds, rubies and sapphires was placed on the icon. At the Tsar’s workshop, similar decorations were used in two other knightly relics that were with Virgin Mary’s icon. The hand of St. John the Baptist and a relic of the True Cross.

The icon stayed in Russia until the October Revolution in 1917 A.D., hidden in Moscow,then St. Petersburg, and then through Estonia, in 1919 A.D. it was transferred to Copenhagen (Bei Di Ciaro). The icon was given to Maria Fiontorovna, the Queen Mother of Russia, who managed to travel to Denmark after the October Revolution. The icon remained in Denmark from 1919 to 1928 A.D. By order of Maria Fiontorovna the three relics were moved to the Russian Orthodox Church in Berlin, where they stayed from 1928 to 1929 A.D. The royal family Karagiorgevits kept the relics in their palace in Belgrade from 1929 to 1941 A.D. After the bombing of Belgrade on April 6, 1941, the relics were transferred to the Ostrog monastery and remained there until 1952 A.D. Then they were taken over by the Montenegrin government and were placed in the National Treasury. In 1978 A.D. The government handed over the two relics in the official Church and now there are placed in the monastery of Cetinje and the icon was delivered to the museum of Cetinje. It is currently stored at the National Museum of Montenegro. Since 2002 A.D., the icon remains in the Blue Chapel of the National Museum of Montenegro. Today there’s a copy of this marvelous icon at the church of Panagia of Filerimos that was transferred by the Metropolitan of Montenegro and Serbia Seaside Church Mr. Amfilochios.

2. Agios Nikitas in Damatria

Situated on the western road of the island. Northeast of the village Damatria on the way to Maritsa, drive 100 meters and then turn left, follow the 1500 meters long dirt road that ends in a square with a spectacular view. Then a path about 70 meters leads to the chapel located at an altitude of 100 meters. This is a Byzantine building carved into the rock dating on the 13th century A.D. It has arches that stand pretty well carved in the rock ceiling, a small sanctuary and a small altar. The inner surfaces of the walls of the monastery are covered with frescoes dating back to the 14th century A.D. Also, in the monastery there are two graves whose tombstones bear a cross similar to the Order of the Knights of St. John.

3. The Holy Monastery of Kalopetra

Located on top of Butterfly Valley at an altitude of 470 meters. Follow the main road from Paradisi to Psinthos to get there. Before Psinthos, on the road stands the Holy Monastery of Kalopetra dedicated to the Assumption. The monastery can also be reached if you follow the path from the Valley of Butterflies.

4. Agios Soulas (Saint Silas)

It is a small chapel located in a valley, four kilometers south of Soroni on the western road of the island. The chapel is built in the name of Saint Silas the inseparable companion of the Apostle Paul. The area all around is full of overgrown tall pines. The temple is Basilica and it is unknown when it was built. At the top of the entrance there’s a relief cross dated 1836 but the local tradition places its construction during the first Christian centuries, from 100 to 150 A.D. Inside the temple and across from the entrance on the north side, there is a water spring in an artificial cave. The holy water heals various skin diseases. According to local tradition, when the Apostle Paul came to Rhodes, to spread Christianity, he was accompanied by Silas. Tradition says St. Silas, a dermatologist, cured many sufferers from various diseases.

Also, while Paul tried to organize the administration of the newly created Church in Lindos, Saint Silas and his disciples toured the various villages to teach the new religion. When St. Silas reached the present site of St. Soulas, there was a settlement with a holy altar, where he began to preach the teachings of Jesus Christ. Saint Silas remained there several days, teaching and baptizing in the name of Christ.He appointed priests and teachers of the new religion, he cured many patients of nearby settlements and returned to Lindos, where he met the Apostle Paul. In 1931 A.D. the Italian General Governor of the Dodecanese Mario Lago sent the water of this spring for chemical examination and the analysis showed that the water contained ingredients that made it perfect for drinking. Also, that water had antiseptic properties for certain infectious intestinal diseases. Mario Lago after seeing the ingredients and properties of the water of St. Soulas, built an underground tank, a few meters from the south side of the monastery to save water.From this tank the water was led to a fountain. When Mario Lago visited the festival, after studying the charming location of the monastery and generally beautiful wooded area, thought to brighten the festival and he built a race course.

5. Monastery of Prophet Elias

Located at the top of the namesake mount, 610 meters above sea level at one of the tallest mountains of Rhodes. Following the road west of the island. Arriving in Kalavarda turn south to the mainland and continue to Salakos. Among the villages Salakos and Apollona there’s a road sign that leads to the “Monastery of Prophet Elias”. In order to get to the monastery of Prophet Elias, apart from the road there’s also a structured path 650 meters long starting from Salakos. Enjoy the spectacular view of the sea and a large part of the island. This location, according to the late Rhodian Archimandrite Chrysostomos Moustakas “Is a very secretive and peaceful land,that combines the wonderful mountainous nature with an exquisite panoramic view of the sea.” From the local tradition we learn that during the Byzantine period on a cypress.

6. The Holy Monastery of Panagia Amartou

Located on the western road of the island on the main road from Embona to Kritinia, between mountains and valleys tands the Holy Monastery dating from the Middle Ages. Its name was probably taken from a French nobleman Amarto who had a tower there and still exists in semi-ruined condition. Near the steep hill there’s a small cave,the Agiopetra, where the miraculous icon of the Blessed Virgin Mary was found. Holy water drips from a rock. It is miraculous for mental and physical illnesses.

7. Monastery of Agios Ioannis o Theologos (Artamitis), Church of Agios Panteleimon in Sianna and Chapel of Agios Panteleimon in Monolithos castle.

Continuing west on the road before reaching Embona turn left heading towards the village of Agios Isidoros. Before reaching the village and right on the road, stands the Monastery of Agios Ioannis o Theologos (Artamitis). It stands at an altitude of 380 meters and at a vast green area. The old monastery functioned as a seminary and was a dependency of the Monastery of Agios Ioannis o Theologos in Patmos. Continuing west on the road to Sianna, you can visit the Church of Agios Panteleimon. There’s a great feast on July 26th. From there we head to Monolithos.

8. The chapel of Agios Panteleimon in Monolithos castle

Located at the top of the fort near Monolithos. It’s a really breezy chapel, the sanctuary of which is pitch black and dotted with littlr stars (very rare decoration in Greece). The view is spectacular from there especially at sunset.From Monolithos you can either:
1. Head south and continue your tour in the south of the island starting from Agios Georgios “Kalamos: in Apolakkia, or
2. Start your tour from the city of Rhodes along the eastern coast of the island.