The Monastery of Zoodochos Pigi or Panagia Kalamiotissa is located over the narrow isthmus separating the main island from the Kalamos peninsula.
It is built over the eminent ancient temple of Apollo Aeglitis, which was linked to the asty by the paved Iera Odos (sections of which can still be seen today). Quite high sections of the walls of the temple itself, and its enclosure have been preserved, and incorporated into the enclosure of the modern-day Monastery.
The Monastery has functioned as a pilgrimage since the times of Turkish rule, and is well-known both within and outside Anafi. The island's most important religious feast takes place there on September 7th-8th.
The Kalamiotissa religious feast
The seventh and eighth of September are two special days for the island. This is when the feast of Panagia Kalamiotissa, the Madonna of Anafi, takes place. Preparations for the feast start days in advance, to make sure everything is ready on the big day.
On the eve of the feast (September 7th), almost all the island's inhabitants used to gather their belongings and go to the monastery. It was like a mass house-moving event. Some went to the monastery by donkey or mule, but most of the villagers travelled there by fishing boat, if the south-westerly wind behaved. Usually, only the very elderly were left behind in Hora.
The Panagia feast is a feast for everyone. The atmosphere was at once religious and filled with the expectancy of great celebrations. Dinner was served after the church service; this always included kid from the Monastery’s flock. Then it was time for the "tsambouna" bagpipe and for dancing. On the next day, September 8th, everyone would return to Hora after the church service, and the festivities would continue in the village. Besides the inhabitants of Anafi, the religious feast was also attended by many people from Santorini, who often come on a pilgrimage to Anafi’s monastery.
However, the influx of civilization, which brought a tarmac road as far as the monastery, has changed the nature of the festivities. Now people go there by car, and they don’t stay the night at the monastery, preferring to go home after the service. The feel of the feast and people's attitudes are different. The feast is not organized by the abbot of Profitis Ilias in Santorini, to which the monastery is subject; the abbot views this ancient tradition only through the eyes of the church. He has tried, and succeeded to change many of the old traditions that were interlinked with the religious feast.
The Kalamiotissa feast will certainly continue for many years to come, but for those of us who have seen what it used to be like, it will never be the same again...
The only thing that remains unchanging is the imposing rock above the monastery, which stands there recalling the old Kalamiotissa feasts with nostalgia.
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