Inside the “Holy Monastery of Myrtidia” is the symbol of Kytherian tradition and legacy: the icon of Panagia Myrtidiotissa (the Madonna of myrtle), symbol of orthodox faith for thousands of Kytherians ever since it was discovered. Emigrants always remember this symbol that binds them to their birthplace, making it the guardian angel of every Kytherean. The monastery is located in the western part of the island, a few kilometers from the village of Kalokairines. Visitors are immersed in the holy atmosphere of this place which, through divine power, provides peace, love and harmony.
According to the legend a shepherd was walking his sheep in the area. One day, as he was taking his animals to a drinking point, he saw an icon of the Virgin Mary near a small myrtle tree. He took the icon home but when night came the icon made its way back to the small tree. During the shepherd’s sleep an angel visited him in his dreams and told him that the Virgin Mary would like him to build a small church next to the myrtle tree. This small church can still be visited today: it is located below the current church of Panagia Myrtidiotissa, which was built in the 19th century. The monastery includes many cells.
In Kythera there is a custom known as the “fortnight”. Every summer, between the 1st and the 15th of August (the day of the assumption of the Virgin Mary) hundreds of devotees go to the three main monasteries of the island (Panagia Myrtidiotissa, Agia Elessa and Agia Moni) and remain there during that 15-day period, fasting and abiding by the monastery’s program. Should you wish to try this custom please check with the Metropolitan Church of Kythera.
On your way to Panagia Myrtidiotissa don’t forget to visit the “Stavros”, a large cross offered by a sailor, which overlooks one of the western hills of Kythera. The view from up there is breathtaking. You can also drive (rough road) to the west of the monastery of Myrtidiotissa, where you will come across the tiny church of Agios Nikolas o Krassas, which according to the legend was built with earth mixed with wine. The sunset here is considered the most beautiful in Kythera. Should you wish you can also spend the night in Limnaria, northwest of Myrtidia.
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