Monastery of the Virgin Mary “Myrtidiotissa”
In the western part of Kythira, sheltered between the pine trees, lies the Monastery of the Virgin Myrtidiotissa, protector and patroness of Kythera.
The monastery was built during the 19th century, on the site of an older church. According to the legend, the miraculous icon of the Virgin was found here among the murtle bushes by a shepherd, giving the church its name (meaning “of the myrtle”). The icon’s face was worn away with no discernible features left, thus appearing to be black. Some people believe the icon to have been painted by Luke the Evangelist himself. The monastery celebrates the 15th of August, while celebrations are held on August 15th. During Dekapentismos (1st -15th of August), the monastery opens its doors and extends hospitality to pilgrims who participate in fasting and prayers.
Monastery of Agia Moni
East of the mountain above Diakofti lies the holy monastery of Agia Moni. Legend has it that Theodoros Kolokotronis (nicknamed the “Old Man of the Morea” for the gravity of his words) helped renovate the male monastery as a promise to the Virgin Mary for her help in the Greek Revolution.
The monastery of Agia Moni was built in 1840 after a sheperd reportedly found an icon of the Virgin in a bush scorched by lightning. The icon depicts the Virgin Mary with the inscription <<The monastery of all hope>> on one side and Agios Giorgos (Saint George) on the other. The monastery celebrates on Palm Sunday and hosts festivities on its nameday, the 6th August. Besides the breathtaking view, the building’s fine construction and special candlemaking chamber are definitely an interesting attraction for any visitors.
Monastery of Agia Elessa
Elessa was the daughter of a pagan officer from the Peloponnese. Raised as a Christian by her mother, she came to Kythira in 375 A.D. to become a nun. Her father, however, did not accept her faith and followed her to the island. Pursued by her father, Elesssa managed to escape momentarily through a split in the rocks that suddenly appeared, however she was not spared her fate and was strangled by her father shortly after. The opening in the rock face is quite impressive and can be seen in the cliffside to the west of the monastery. The monastery was built in Elessa’s memory by fellow Christians from the Peloponnese, who lie buried in a tomb next to the cliffside. Nearby stands the tree from which her father hanged her. The new church was erected in 1871; overlooking the southwest coast of the island, visitors can enjoy a beautiful sunset.
Monastery of Osios Theodoros
A lovely courtyard with cypresses leads into the peaceful interior of the monastery. In the early 10th century, the monk Theodoros came to Kythera to devote his life to God. The monk died on May 12th in the year 922 A.D. His body was found by some passing Monemvasian sailors several years later, who buried the saint’s earthly remains in 925 A.D. During the 12th century, craftsmen from Monemvasia came to the island to rebuild the monastery at its old site. The building was the seat of the diocese during the Venetian occupation. Inside the church lies the tomb of the saint.