The Holy Church of ‘Kimisi tis Theotokou Chrysoskalitissis’ is an orthodox monastery built in the 17th century on the Southwest edge of the municipality of Kissamos and at an altitude of 35 m, overlooking the Libyan Sea. The time of the first holy pilgrimage to Theotokos Chrysoskalitissa is inconclusive and, according to legacy, coincides with finding the Assumption icon wedged against a rock. It is said that it was found by a local farmer, who had visions of an oil lamp flame burning in the night at that spot; it is thought that someone hid it there during the era of Iconoclasm, namely between 726 and 842 AC. Before it was built, another church stood there on the inside of a cavernous rock, dedicated to Assumption Day, atop of which was a second structure, used as the top floor, called Agia Triada.

When it was decided to rebuild it anew, it was observed that the icon although removed from the niche on the rock wall, would always mysteriously re-appear to be wedged back in. This was interpreted as the will of Virgin Mary to have the church built at that spot, and so was done. It is also said that the name Chrysoskalitissa (=of golden stairs) was given because the last stair (the 98th) of the flight was golden, not surviving today, as it was sold off during the first years of Turkish occupancy to gather the necessary money to pay off heavy taxes imposed by the Sultan. On Easter Sunday, 1824, following the massacre of women and children on Elafonisi, as retaliation for the Greek Revolution, the Turks destroyed every church they came across. One of them was Chrysoskalitissa, but legend says that they could not take it down, although deserted, for a swarm of bees that lived in the niche where the icon sat, hindered them. Afterwards, a monk, Ioannikios from Kythera, lived there until his death.

In 1855, first up Manassis Karagiannakis, from Sfakia, and later Emmanouil Kalitsounakis, from the village of Tzitzifia – who, upon being ordained, was called Meletios – began living in the church and started renovating it, through personal hard work as well as help from the local congregation. The church renovation lasted from May till August 1894 and opened on the eve of Assumption Day, on August 15. Several soldiers, freedom fighters, allies to the Greek Revolution occasionally found refuge here until 1943 when it was taken over by the Germans driving the monks out. That was when English airplanes continuously bombed the site with damages done to an icon found on the lower part of the altar, visible to this day.

DISCOVER ALSO