The churches of Leros bear the forgotten modesty of simplicity and religious piety and when you look better in the past you understand that it is actually the course of faith through time.
The churches of Leros are many and scattered on the island along with small single-spaced tiled chapels of the post-byzantine period. They are fragrant by the fresh flowers that women bring from their gardens to decorate them. With exquisite wooden temples and mosaics of previous centuries (13th – 18th), rare icons ,grand thrones, wooden women’s area with winding narrow staircases, emerge through religious tradition, tales of miracles and customs that are preserved until today. The atmosphere is imposing, solemn and at the same time accessible and intimate, offering a unique experience to the visitor.
Church of Virgin Mary (Panagia) –Castle of Panagia
The church of Panagia (Virgin Mary) at the “Castle of Panagia”, is the most important religious and spiritual symbol of the island. Inside the church the visitor can spot the icon of Virgin Mary (Panagia Odigitria), which according to the religious tradition appeared on the island during the era of iconoclasm (9th century) from the sea and was installed miraculously in the powder keg of the castle between two lighted candles. As the locals wanted to honor Virgin Mary the temple was built in the same place and until 1719 the original small temple was renovated and expanded many times. Many people visit the castle and the icon of the Virgin inside the church as it is considered to be miraculous.
Panagia Gourlomata (Drymonas)
The Church of Panagia Gourlomatta is a vaulted church with a semicircular arch and was built with materials of previous ancient temples. It’s frescoes are dated back in the 14th century (inscription indicates repairs that were made in 1327) and are indeed typical examples of provincial art.
Holy Angels Monastery (Koloyki – Drymonas)
The monastery is also called “The Lady of the Angels” and is actually an oblation of the nun Gerontissa Gavriilia (Papagianni), who after a long missionary and humanitarian action, finished the her holy life in Leros in 1992. The foundation stone was put in 1994 by the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, the Catholic and the East Wing were built by the sisters of the nun, while the other three wings were builted under the aegis of the Metropolis of Leros, Kalymnos and Astypalaia. The scenery is deserted, evocative, reminiscent of the Karoulia of Mount Athos. Paleochristian ruins along with the temple of Apostle Peter testify that christianity in the region flourished for centuries.
Agios Ioannis Theologos (Lakki)
A three-aisled basilica with a dome, perhaps the most important church of Leros, thanks to its painting decoration of the 13th century and the equally important style of art work that captures the Communion of Saint Mairy of Egypt. As trying to trace the origin of the paint, it is believed that it was originated by a great painter who had been summoned from the monastery of Patmos. The church was built in the 11th century on the ruins of an early christian church from which mosaics are still preserved nowadays.
Agia Paraskevi is a historical and imposing church, an old metropolis of the island that was bombed many times by the Germans during the Second World War and numerous times it was repaired by islanders. Every year on the 25th of July the memory of the christian martyr Paraskevi is celebrated with great brilliance.
Panagia Kavouradena (Xirokampos)
Panagia Kavouradena is a picturesque chapel that was built on the rocks of the coast. In the chapel there is an icon depicting a crab holding the Virgin Mary in his claws. According to tradition, a fisherman was collecting shells from the rocks of the region and suddenly was bitten by a crab. Surprised he saw in a slit on the rocks the icon of the Virgin Mary. He prayed and the wound immediately healed. Seeing the miracle with his own eyes, he decides to take the picture and with reverence placed it to the nearby church .Αt once, he started spreading the word by telling to his compatriots about the incidence. The same night he had a dream with a woman, who was dressed in black, that told him, “Put me back in the same spot where you found me.” The next day, early in the morning, the picture was miraculously recovered in the previous spot between the rocks and it was then decided to build a small church at the exact same spot where the picture was found.
Panagia Kavouradena is celebrated on the 15th of August and the white stairs will directly lead you in the small chapel by the sea.
Evaggelismos is a three-aisled cruciform dome and it was under construction for two years (1860-62). As many renovations occurred internally and externally, the church is maintained nowadays in excellent condition and it worths noticing inside the temple elements of unique beauty and art. Carved stones and briquettes are placed in the church according to the Byzantine style and form spherical arches, bases and wreaths. The Amighty (Pantokratoras) adorns the dome in conformity with renaissance style and is a work of art of the well-known Kalymnian painter Antonis Karafyllakis. Looking carefully the base of the church you can identify the four Evangelists, with the same art style, which it might be also a Karafyllaki’s painting.
The ten capitals of the temple are similar to doric style, while the cross-vaults that are preserved in excellent condition in the aisles and the women’s loft are composed of byzantine bricks. A masterpiece of building art is the circular staircase that leads to the women’s loft. Each stair is a piece of carved stone in its periphery, and creates a ring in the center that is connected to each other by pencil (most likely) according to the technique of that time. These marvelous building elements of the temple were revealed shortly after the removal of successive layers of past coatings during maintenance work. The famous Rhodian woodcarver Tsimetas worked on the wood-carved iconostasis, the archaic throne and the Holy Pulpit (1912).
Saint George (Partheni)
The early Christian Church of St. George was built in the 10th century with ancient materials, probably from ruins of the temple of Artemis. Its painted decoration is placed back in the 18th century.
Saint Peter (Drymonas)
Aghios Petros is a rectangular building with low domed blinds, following the widespread architectural element in the neighboring islands. The temple was built on the ruins of an early christian triple basilica.
Saint George (Drymonas)
Saint George is a vaulted church with a large arch and fresco inside which is dated back in the 13th – 14th century.
Agios Isidoros (Merikia)
The church of Agios Isidoros is rightfully consired amongst the most beautiful chapels in Greece, as it is well known for it’s rare beauty that stands becausethe small chapel was built on a rock in the sea. A narrow, concrete strip of 50 meters length unites it with the land and if you take a look into the sea next to the rock rouins are distinguished from the old sunk port. At sunset the small chapel seems to emerge from the sea and creates one of the most beautiful images in the Aegean. The memory of Agios Isidoros is celebrated on May 14th.
And last but not least, do not forget to visit the churches of Christ and Stavros in the area of Platanos, Saint Zacharias in Merikia, the Holy Apostles in Kamara. The two last foresaid ones are constructed with low blind domes which are considered to be architectural elements quite widespread in the neighboring islands of Patmos, Lipsi, Kalymnos and Astypalea. Do not also miss Agioi Apostoloi in Kamara, Agia Triada in Kastro, Saint Spyridon in Merikia and Agios Georgios in Partheni, that preserve paintings from13th until the 18th century.