Panagia Ekatontapyliani in Paros is one of the most important shrines in the Aegean. For more than 1500 years, the island of Paros has been celebrating the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Orthodox people from the entire world visit the Pilgrimage Church of the Holy Virgin of Ekatontapyliani.
The temple is located in the north-eastern part of the island’s capital, of Parikia, just a short distance from the port. There are various traditions concerning the establishment, the name and the architect of Ekatontapyliani. However, a survey conducted in the 20th century showed that the owners and founders of the church were Saint Constantine and his mother Saint Helen (The church was the result of Saint Helen’s vow to the Virgin, in order for her to be able to complete her journey to Jerusalem).
The church of Panagia Ekatontapyliani is one of the oldest monuments of Byzantine architecture in Greece. The old building of the Saints Constantine and Helen was destroyed and reconstructed by Emperor Justinian, according to the architectural rhythm of his time.
Through the centuries, the church was damaged, which resulted to the deterioration of its imposing form. In 1959, professor and academician Anastasios Orlandos started the restoration work of the church in order to bring him back in the form of Justinian, a great work which was completed in 1966.
Inside the church and chapels we can find numerous small images. Of these, The icon of Panagia Ekatontapyliani -the mainly venerated icon with an elaborate coating of silver- the Pantocrator icon and the icon of the Dormition of the Theotokos adorn the iconostasis of the church. All three projects of the 17th century, are donated by the Parian ruler of Moldavia Nicholas Maurogeni.
The pilgrimage complex has six chapels and what is priceless in the church is the oldest preserved baptistery in the entire Orthodox East that dates back to the 4th century AD.
Today the official name “Ekatontapyliani” is associated with the following legend: “Katapoliani has ninety-nine apparent doors. The 100th is closed and not seen. This door will appear and open when the Greeks take Constantinople”.
In Panagia Ekatontapyliani church, the feast of the Dormition of Theotokos is celebrated in an atmosphere of deep concentration and in the afternoon of August 15th visitors participate in the procession of the holy icon and the epitaph in the streets of Parikia. Also, the whole island participates in the festive celebration that makes the pilgrimage of Paros in mid-August one of the three most important pilgrimages in Greece.
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