Saturday, December 03, 2005

HCS Reader Creates Weblog for St. Taxiarchis of Lesvos

HCS received email correspondence recently from a Mytilinean reader, Manos, who had created a weblog for St. Taxiarchis of Lesvos. He encouraged us to visit it and invited others to comment and offer feedback in the hope that more information would become readily available on the Internet about the history of this important Christian shrine and its patron saint whose miracle-working icon is highly regarded on the island.
To the reader unfamiliar with Greek and its various systems of transliteration scattered throughout the literary world and the arena of computerized technology, "taxiarchis" translates as "archangel." In the case of St. Taxiarchis of Lesvos (singular grammatical form), the name appears to apply solely to Archangel Michael. Hence the often interchangeable translation of "Taxiarchis" with "Michael" in English, even though the correct Greek counterpart of "Michael" is "Michalis" [sometimes transliterated also as "Mihalis"]. Few Orthodox churches, however, are named after St. Taxiarchis, prefering to take the name "Taxiarchae," meaning "Archangels" (plural grammatical form).
Taxiarchis is known as one of the patron saints of the Greek Aegean island Lesvos. Many children, both boys and girls, are named after this saint, taking the baptismal names of Taxiarchis (male) or Taxiarchoula (female), for example, or Michalis and Michaela (male and female, respectively).
According to island guides, the Monastery of the Archangel (Taxiarchis) is located just outside of the village of Mandamados on the northeastern side of the island, among pine groves (36 km from the capital, Mytilene). Local history places the date of the first building of the church before 1700, with a complete reconstruction and enlargement in 1879 to a three-aisled basilica. Its interior is decorated in a special roccoco style with striking colors. The church is one of the most important pilgrimage destinations, best known for its embossed icon, a silver-wrought icon surrounding the head of Archangel Michael molded out of some unknown, dark substance. Tradition maintains that the head was fashioned by a monk from blood and clay after surviving a slaughter there by pirates. Some accounts date the massacre to about 1000 A.D. The monk was the only one to escape alive, having crawled up onto the roof of the monastery; when the Saracens tried to reach him, huge waves engulfed them. They soon became frightened and left him. The monk credited his salvation to a miracle of the Archangel and made the icon out of clay earth mixed with the blood of his slain brothers.
The monastery also possesses many icons dating from the 16th century, precious sacerdotal vestments, including a gold-embroidered ecclesiastical stole dating to 1656, and the episcopal robe of martyred Ecumenical Patriarch Grigorios V, brought back by Bishop Porfirios Foliadis after Patriarch Grigorios was hanged by the Muslim Turks.
Another icon of Archangel Michael, life-size, is situated just outside the church. Local tradition relates that during the Turkish invasion of Cyprus the icon would disappear for days at a time, returning periodically with dusty feet and shoes. Natives believed that the Archangel was guiding the Greek forces at that time.

Hellenic Communication Service

I would like to thank Christos and Mary Papoutsy for publishing a wonderful article on the Hellenic Communication Service site ( about my blog. It is very kind of them especially because they give to all of us valuable information about the Saint. Thank you so much to both of you!

You can read this article on the next topic: HCS Reader Creates Weblog for St. Taxiarchis of Lesvos


Thursday, December 01, 2005

Saint Taxiarchis of Mandamados, Lesvos

I just don’t believe that I’m doing this…I’m not a fan of blogs and I’m not really a fan of sharing personal feelings with the rest of the world.

I have a friend though that I love dearly and I wanted to give him a gift that has a meaning, something that is precious for me, something that will protect him and keep him safe. As strange as it sounds I decided to send him holy water and oil from Saint Taxiarchis Monastery...

I’m a religious person but I don’t go that often to the church; neither I pray every day. I have my own personal reasons though to have faith as many other people…

I have traveled many times to Lesvos just because I felt the need to visit the Monastery of Saint Taxiarchis in Mandamados. He is a Saint that has done so many miracles and being there was important for me.

But anyways, I sent the holy water to my friend and I also wanted to send him information about the Saint so he can understand why he is so important to the people of Lesvos. Even though I found some information on line some of the things I read were not clear (example: when did the monastery first destroyed, who destroyed it, Turks or pirates as I read to many sites?)

Ok, I admit it. I don’t know a lot about the story behind the Saint mostly because I haven’t put the effort to learn-I don’t have the patient to read religious books when they are usually long and somehow boring-sorry. I know from my family that he has done so many miracles, he is important, and in my heart I believe in him but there are so many things that I don’t know, or many people don’t know.

The fact though is that his Monastery has survived one way or the other more than a thousand years and he is a Saint who is loved and respected by so many people.

I don’t see this as an obligation but something like I really feel like doing. I really think that it would be so great if there is a place on line where people will share their thoughts about the Saint, stories, and tell how their faith helped them face the so many problems that are challenging their lives. Since there is so little information about the Saint on line, why should I not be the one who will help more people learn, understand and believe like me?...and simply since I’m the one who first had the idea why not do it than expecting someone else to do it? If the faith for Saint Taxiarchis has survived from so many people for hundrends of years, why not, now that we live in the information age, help more people like me get inspired?

I’m not going to preach, but I will just say that religion is very important, and faith is very important. It helps us survive and it makes us stronger. There are many times that I see the world as a dangerous place, so it is nice knowing that there is innocence out there and there is a hero always ready to come to our rescue.

This is a place devoted to Saint Taxiarchis of Mandamados, Lesvos. Any stories, ideas, subjects for discussion are welcome…and Max, thank you for inspiring me!