Do you all know the game “Chinese Whispers”? It starts with a jolly table of at least eight. The first person whispers a sentence to the next. He then repeats it to the next, and so on and so forth. As the last participant receives the message, he/she must repeat it out loud. Inevitably it has nothing to do with the original sentence
The legend of the Hozoviotissa Monastery (Greek Παναγία Χοζοβιώτισσα) passed through ten centuries of ears and mouths before reaching mine.
This is the version I was told: During the second iconoclast period, in the IXth century, numerous icons were destroyed in Jerusalem. The icon of “the dark-eyed Mary” did not escape this fate, but the two halves were thrown to sea by a wise woman, hoping to save what was left of the icon. One half drifted for an undetermined time before finally being brought to shore at the foot of Profitis Illias mountain. A chapel was built there and, at the start of the XIth century, the Amorgian community decided to replace the chapel by a monastery.
Devotedly fulfilling their religious task, workers started to build the first stone walls, but each day, by morning, the work of the previous day had been destroyed by unknown hands. No prayers or incantations would help them succeed in their endeavour. One morning, a shepherd, leading his goats along a path 300 metres above the level of the sea, noticed something hanging off the cliff of Profitis Illias mountain. A builder’s tools were hammered into the rock. He hurried back to the village with the news. There, all the villagers came to the only sensible conclusion: it was the will of God that the monastery should be built in that spot. Construction began and it took another 80 years to build the monastery as we see it today.
But what of the other half of the icon?
It drifted to the island of Patmos where another monastery was built. The two islands are therefore connected by the icon of Panagia Hozoviotissa. The two halves of the icon were reunited and… miraculously sealed together.
In the monastery of Hozoviotissa, there is a painted icon of a ship at sea, caught in a storm. The monks are hailing Mary for help. She appears to answer their prayers as they reach land in safety. They were returning to Amorgos from Patmos and painted the icon in her memory.
Do you know why there is a cross in the heart of every poppy? The Amorgian shepherds say it is because when Jesus was crucified, each drop of his blood gave birth to a poppy holding part of his soul
Continuing this never ending game of Chinese Whispers, I transmit these legends in the hope that they have reached me intact.
Monastery of Hozoviotissa opening hours and dress code
Location of Monastery Hozoviotissa