In front of the cosmopolitan Nidri, on the northern end of the Geni peninsula, there is a small white chapel. This is the church of Agia Kyriaki, also known as ” The Chapel of the Rock”. On the 7 of July Nidri becomes the center of a 3 days celebration to honor the Martyr to whom the church is dedicated : Agia Kyriaki. Together with the Panigiri of Faneromeni Monastery, the celebration for Agia Kyriaki in Nidri, is the most important religious celebration of Lefkada.
The celebration attracts on the island many pilgrims from all over Greece. For the visitors who are on the island this is a great opportunity to attend a traditional event and get deeper into the local culture and traditions of Lefkada.
So let’s learn a bit more about the celebration for Agia Kyriaki!
Who was Agia Kyriaki
Agia Kyriaki was born at the end of the 3rd century AD. Her parents, Dorotheos and Eusebia, had been childless for years. They had asked God to give them a child. Indeed, God pleased this Christian couple. As she was born on the Lord’s day, on Sunday, they called her Sunday ( Kyriaki in Greek means Sunday).
According to tradition, she was a girl of rare beauty and grace. Likewise her parents, she she had a strong faith in God. She devoted her life to God and made a vow of chastity.
During the persecution of Diocletian all the 3 were arrested and tortured. Dorotheos and Eusebia were first sent far away from their daughter and after beheaded. The young Kyriaki, instead, was referred to Caesar Maximian. From there to the ruler of Bithynia Hilarion. Hilarion tried to tempt her with promises and reminded her that her beauty deserved pleasure rather than torture.
But she responded: “Neither in my youth, nor in my beauty, I give the least attention. And the brighter of earthly things are temporary, like flowers and hollow, like shadows….”
Outraged, Ilarian tortured her harshly and ordered to decapitate her. But before the sword fell, she delivered her spirit praying to the Lord.
History of the Church of Agia Kiriaki
Tradition says that, during the night, sailors who navigated in this area saw a light on the coast. The light came from a cave between rocks. Here it was very difficult for the sailors to approach.
One day , one of the owners of neighbouring estates went to see where the light was coming from. In the cave, he found an icon of Saint Sunday (Agia Kyriaki). He took it and placed it on another, smoother part of his estate, planning to build a small wanderer. It was impossible, however, because he found the image again in the cave of the rock. This was a miracle!
Nowdays Agia Kyriaki is the Saint Patron of Vliho, a small settlement close to Nidri. Crowds of believers are on their way to the 7th of July each year to commemorate the Great Martyr and miraculous icon of Agia Kyriaki.
The celabration for Agia Kyriaki, is the most significant festival in the Nidri area. The evening festivities take place in the village of Vlicho. All along the seafront, there are tables, chairs and makeshift bandstands. Usually around 11pm the orchestra with the traditional clarino starts play and go through the night until the early hours of the morning.
During the festival period, which lasts three days, a market is set up along the seafront in Nidri. Small boats run a regular ferry service from Nidri harbour across to the church on this day. Also the private cruise boats, that usuallly bring tourist around the Prince Arcipelago, give their conrtibute to the celebration offering a lift to those who want to reach the Chapel of the Rocks.
For those who would like to access the area, the church of Agia Kiriaki is also accessible by a path in the nature at the end of the road to Geni.
If you decide to attend this celebration remember that close to Agia Kyriaki you can also see the tomb of William Doerpfeld. This was a German archaeologist who was trying to prove his theory that Lefkada is Homer’s Ithaca! But this is another story that we will tell you in one of our next blog article…..
So keep tuned!