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  • Writer's pictureLætitia

Top Five Greek Island Monasteries Perched on Rocks

In past centuries, Greek monks tried to build monasteries in places that were hidden or difficult to access in order to protect themselves from bandits, invaders, and conquerors.

On islands, monasteries faced increased threats from pirates, so they had to be well-fortified. The most well-protected of them all survived for centuries and is still standing proud in its remote fastness as a testament to Christian Orthodox faith and devotion.

Today, some of them are still operating and are also open to the faithful and to visitors who want to admire the monumental stone buildings that stand stubbornly in place, housing generations of ascetic monks who have lived there.

Panagia Hozoviotissa, Amorgos

You will find the Monastery of Panagia Hozoviotissa on Amorgos clinging to a steep rock above the endless blue of Agia Anna Beach. The Monastery of Panagia Hozoviotissa has been standing there, a bright white sentinel against the grey rock surrounding it, since the year 1088. According to tradition, the miraculous icon of Panagia arrived by boat on the beach of Asia from Hozova in Palestine, sent by a pious woman who wanted to save the icon from the Iconoclasts.

It is remarkable that the icon arrived there because the location was rumored to have been inhabited by demons. The people of Amorgos began the construction of a church to honor the Virgin Mary, but every morning, they saw that what they had built the day before had collapsed—that is, until one day they saw their tools hanging high in an inaccessible place on the rock.

They took this to mean that the will of the Virgin Mary was to build her small church up there on that spot.

The monastery stands there today, imposing and pristine, perched on steep cliffs 300 meters (984 feet) above sea level. Incredibly, it is only visible from the sea.

The feast of the Virgin Mary is celebrated on November 21st on the island, and a big festival is organized in her honor there.

On the eve of the great feast, people who wish to participate can spend the night in the monastery. It’s a unique experience since being there at night, you feel like you’re up in the sky, and you become one with the stars that seem to touch the rock.

At dawn, the spectacle is stunning, with the sun rising up out of the sea and the incredible colors of the rising sun reflected on the waters. The celebration is very festive and attracts people from all over Greece. The monks have cod, fava, fish, wine, raki, pasteli, and other foods for sale on the day.

Under the monastery, the beach of Agia Anna is well known for its crystal-clear waters, and the chapel is considered one of the most popular for weddings. The film The Big Blue was shot there, making Amorgos famous all over the world.


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