The greek tradition of “Panigiri”
Greeks are very religious and attached to their traditions. Most of them are orthodox, while there is a small minority of catholics. Like in many other religious countries Greek celebrate Christmas, Easter and other religious festivity. But this is not all……. During the summer months, all over Greece, from the tiniest of churches in the tiniest of villages, to the largest of cathedrals in the towns, Greeks keep a centuries old tradition alive: the “Panigiri”. This tradition of “Panigiri” consists in celebrating the name day of one church’s or of one town’s main saint.
The Feast begins at the local church in the morning. Later during the day, the celebration will continue with good greek folk music, food, local wine and lots of traditional dancing. All these are the key elements that make a Panigiri what it is.
Also in Lefkada the locals are attached to their traditions. The island has a long religious history. So, if you travel around, you can find a large number of churches. Moreover scattered here and there, you can also find the ruins of many abandoned churches and old monasteries. Over the past, these religious worships used to offer shelter and religious services to local inhabitants.
Nowdays for many of them only a few stones remain in place. A few others are in better conditions. And likewise in other parts of Greece, during the summer months, in Lefkada many “Panigiri” take place.
Among the many celebrations, the tradition of “Panigiri” of the Faneromeni Monastery, is definetely worth a special mention.
The Monastery of Faneromeni
The Monastery of Faneromeni is the most important religious monument of Lefkada Island. It is also considered one of the most important monastery of all Greece. Located just a few Kilomenters from its capital, it is set out on the slopes of a green hill. It stands behind the beach of Agios Ioannis as a white hiddem gem, from where you can enjoy spectacular panoramic views over Lefkada Town, the lagoon and the Castle, the beach of Aigios Ioannis and the opposite coasts of Mainland Greece.
History of the Faneromeni Monastery
The Monastery stands on the site where previously an ancient temple dedicated to Artemis, the goddess of Hunting, was in place.
According to the tradition this area is where the students of Apostle Pavlos, who arrived first in the island, gathered the inhabitants and preached the Christianism, creating the first place for prayer.
In the years of Konstantinos the Great, the so called 5 Fathers arrived together with the Bishop Agatharchos. Two of them settled in the Monastery and three of them in the Hermitage of Holy Fathers (outside Alexandros village). The Fathers constructed the first cells, extended the church and organized the monasticism of Lefkada.
During the 18th century, under the Venetian rule, the monastery of Faneromeni took its final shape. Unfortunately, two fires burnt it down. That is why, from the late 19th century, the monastery was reconstructed again and again.
Together with the main church, the Monastery hosts an interesting Ecclesiastical Museum, with rare Byzantine icons and old manuscripts. Inside the building of the Monastery there is also a naval museum with miniature models of ships and other navy objects. In the courtyard finally there is a little “zoo” where the monks take care of various animals ( locals and exotic).
The icon of Panagia Faneromeni
In the church of the Monastery there is an image of the Vergin Mary called Panagia Faneromeni. This is the copy of a sacred icon. According to the tradition, infact, the original icon was the result of a miracle. It was revealed as a “God made icon” (was not made by human) to the monk and hagiographer Kallistos, after his prayer. For this reason, the monastery brings the name of Faneromeni ( Panagia = Vergin Mary, Faneromeni =the revealed).
In every corner of Greece and in the world still, the Lefkadians honor the Virgin Mary as their patron saint and protector. On Mondays of the Holy Spirit, every year, all Lefkada’s mind turns to its holy monastery, built above the city of Lefkada to honor and celebrate with all grandeur the Icon of Panagia Faneromeni.
As part of the celebrations of the Holy Spirit, the Faneromeni Monastery hosts a four day “panigiri” (ΠΑΝΗΓΥΡΙΣ ΠΑΝΑΓΙΑΣ ΦΑΝΕΡΩΜΕΝΗΣ) . The feast goes from Friday morning till the following Monday night. This usually happens on the first week of June (depending when is the day of the Holy Spirit).
The Panigiri of Panagia Faneromeni : the religious celebration
The program of the celebrations for the religious feast of the Holy Spirit at the Faneromeni Monastery is very rich. There is the philarmonic orchestra of Lefkada. It plays music marching at the beginning of the religious parade. Then the priests and the other religious authority follow. They bring in procession the sacred icon of Panagia Faneromeni.
During the four days of the celebration many pilgrims from the Island and from all over Greece visit the monastery. They want to see the icon and pray the Virgin Mary. The city of Lefkada organises a public transportation system. Nearly every hour one bus brings up to the monastery those wish to go there.
The Panigiri of Panagia Faneromeni : the outdoor street market
Together with the religious celebration, a big market takes place on the streets surrounding the Monastery of Faneromeni. It stretches in three different directions and is a few kilometers long. You can spend hours there seeing what the merchants have to offer.
The outdoor market sells just about everything at inexpensive prices, from clothes, underwear, purses, shoes, jewellery, belts, curtains, bed sheets, carpets, table cloths, towels, blankets, picture frames, kitchen wares, toys, sweets, to other household items, and more.
You can also buy food and local products in a special area of the outdoor street market. You can sit down at the tables and listen to traditional Greek music with a group of friends. Food and drinks available includes things such as souvlaki (Greek style shish kebabs), french fries, hot dogs, sandwiches, cotton candy, loukoumades (deep fried honey balls), popcorn, wine, and soft drinks.
In 2019 The panigiri of Panagia Faneromeni will take place from the 7th until the 10th of June.
Will you be on holiday in Lefkada these days? If you wish to eXperience local culture, food and the tradition of Panigiri….this is an amazing place to go!