The French naturalist and wanderer Tournefort, who visited the island in 1700, described the monastery of Hozoviotissa being very impressed. The same feeling is experienced by the visitors even today climbing the 300 steep stairs leading to the most important religious monument of the island, admiring the spectacular view of the deep blue sea.
Here, at the Devil’s place of the extremely old Amorgian legends, with the unobscured view of the open sea, a unique creation of the Christian faith and the indomitable struggle of man is revealed. Hozoviotissa is one of the oldest and most important monasteries of the Archipelago built on the foot of a giant steep rock. The vertical, white, outer walls create a stark contrast to the gray rock, while the glossiness of its surface will interact with the bulges and the recesses of the enormous stone’s rugged relief that accompanies it for centuries.
The foundation of the monastery, through the recorded variations of the local oral tradition, is inextricably connected to the miraculous discovery of the treasured icon of the Virgin Mary. According to that tradition the monks wanted to build the monastery on another location, but the divine intervention brought the mason’s level and hammer to another location, in which the monastery was finally founded 600 years ago, during the reign of Alexios I Komnenos (1081-1118).
On September 1700, botanist and wanderer Tournefort arrived on the island and wrote that the monks reassured him that the owner of the monastery was Alexios I Komnenos. Furthermore, we learn that the foundation of the monastery happened when the miraculous icon of the Virgin Mary was found, which was kept at the katholikon as a valuable jewel. They said that the icon arrived until the foot of Amorgos’s rock from Cyprus where it was cut in half. When they found the icon, the parts were reunited and many miracles were connected to it since then.
THE NAME OF THE MONASTERY
The epithet “Hozoviotissa” is probably a local variation that prevailed in Amorgos in contrast to other scholarly types of the monastery’s name, which we see on various documents of its archive, and it probably derives from an alteration of “Hozivitissa” or “Kozivitissa”. It is also intersting that the two icons of the Virgin Mary in the monastery bear an inscription with the name “Hozivitissa” on their silver coating. The origin of the icon, according to the oral tradition from Hozovo or Hozova, seems to be connected to the Greek Orthodox monastery of Agios Georgios tou Hoziva on the dominating gorge of Wadi Q[i]elt, which is located on the Western Bank of Palestine’s land.
THE BUILDING COMPLEX
The current outer look of the monastery is the result of various changes that happened through time. The building of 40m hight and 5m width, has 8 overlying storeys that develop in a larger width utilizing functional wall recesses of rock. There is a labyrinth interior with the church, the cells and the various auxiliary rooms forming a set that with resourcefulness and usability meets the needs of the monastic brotherhood.
The small stone staircase, which leads to the low and narrow entrance on the east side of the monastery, replaced the wooden ladder that would raise to prevent the invasion of undesirable visitors in the difficult times of pirate raids. The pointed arch above the gate dates back to the 15th century. The stone-relief doorframe of the gate is associated with the renovation of the monastery in the 17th century.
The narrow staircase that connects the storeys of the monastery begins from the entrance. Generally, its architecture leverages the long expertise of the Cycladic craftsman who maintains his anonymity. The numerous cells, the kitchen, the ‘magipio’ (kneader) with the firewood for the production of bread, the built-in ovens designed with semicircular arches, the storeroom for the storage of grains and the cellars with the large jars ensured the sufficiency of the monks. The altar of the monastery with the wooden ceiling and the impressive monastic table is interesting as well.
The katholikon with the elegant bell-tower and the wonderful view to the pelago is located on the highest point of the complex. It is single-roomed and vaulted. On the wood-carved iconostasis of the 18th century it hosts the Despotic icon of Panagia “Ktitorissa”, which is also called “Mavromata” by the monks.
In the shrine there is the small icon of Panagia “Hozivitissa” that is also called “Taxidiotissa (Traveler)” and remains hidden from people’s gaze behind its silver coating. There are other notable portable icons of the Virgin Mary, such as the one known as “Samiotissa.” On the lower right side of the iconostasis the visitor sees the icon of Portaitissa which arrived here from the Holy Mountain. It is known as “Theotokion”, or little Panagia, and it is a work of the Cretan School, of the 15th century. The silver-covered icon of Christ on the right of the Beautiful Gate dates back to 1656. In the shrine there is an icon of Ai Giorgis Varsamitis. Very interesting is the icon that is known as the “Deisis tou Gennadiou” (Prayer of Gennadios). At its bottom there’s an excellent illustration of a sailing boat desperately struggling with the waves between two rocky islets. The captain and his sailors seem trying to save the boat and one priest prays for their salvation from the shipwreck. Very interesting is the image that is known as the “Prayer of Gennadi.” At the bottom there’s an excellent illustration of a sailing boat struggling desperately with waves between two rocks. The captain and his sailors seem trying to save the boat and one priest is praying for their salvation from the shipwreck.
In a showcase of the katholikon along with the holy relics, the iron chisel of the craftsman is kept to whom, according to legend, Virgin Mary pointed out the exact location of the monastery’s construction. The silver chandelier of 1749 and the bronze candelabra are offerings of the faithful believers.
The monastery holds one of the most remarkable collections of Byzantine and post-Byzantine manuscripts preserved in the area of the Archipelago.
In the recent years, works of promotion and maintenance of the monastery were made along with an expansion of its existing artifact-case with European Union funds and the related studies of the 4th Ephorate of Byzantine Antiquities.
There is a marvellous exhibition of artifacts.
The monastery celebrates the Presentation of the Virgin Mary on November 21. The Virgin Mary is the patron saint of the island and the residents of Chora go uphill to the monastery for the glorious celebration.
It is open for the pilgrims until the sundown.
Tel.: +30 22850 71274