Monastery of Panormitis
The Monastery at the tiny village Panormitis in Symi, is one of the most emblematic monasteries in the entire Greece. Dedicated to Archangel Michael, the patron of Symi island, the monastery boasts the largest baroque style bell tower in the entire world. It is a major pilgrimage site and attracts crowds of devotees from all over the world. It houses a large silver-plated icon of the Archangel Michael, reported to be miraculous. According to tradition, the icon appeared miraculously and on several occasions was removed only to reappear in the same location. The church was then built over the location.
The Monastery is believed to have been founded during the Frankish occupation and rebuilt in the mid-18th century, but it’s most significant restoration work was done by Anastasis Karnavas between 1777 and 1873. What you see today is the new building of the 18th century. It stretches along the coast on either side of the gateway and has an inner courtyard decorated with pebbles and a church. The church is on the left and is home to the two-meter-high icon of the Archangel Michael. Its interior is covered with frescoes and is decorated with very elaborate chandeliers. The Monastery also hosts a very interesting library with Byzantine manuscripts, rare books and hand-written codices as well as two museums. One houses ecclesiastical art and is rich in exhibits and the other focuses on folk culture and daily life in past centuries.
The Feast Day of November 8 draws huge crowds each year. Most of the people coming here that day, stay overnight in the guesthouses provided by the monastery. The guesthouses are open all year round and can accommodate up to 500 people. On the eve of the festival the bishop conducts vespers and the following day of the feast, Mass is conducted by the bishop and the icon of Panormitis is carried in procession. Most pilgrims who come here during that period are offered free accommodation, food and wine. They pray to Archangel Michael and promise things, as reward to fulfill what they seek. However, if these promises are not kept, the Archangel is known to demand his reward and remind the pilgrims of that, in their dreams or even in real life. A common offering is a traditional broom made of straw or reed. Church tradition has passed down, that monks from the Monastery would hear the Archangel sweeping his Monastery at night with these broom offerings. The whole place provides a great sense of peace and a visit is soothing to the soul.
There are many traditions and legends linked to the monastery. The most popular is the tradition of the broom, where according to the legend, monks and visitors could hear the Saint sweeping the monastery at night with brooms offered by the pilgrims, as brooms were common offerings in the past. Archangel Michael is also known for his righteous nature. If you have made an offering to him that has not be fulfilled, he will make it clear through various miracles that he is not pleased until you complete your promise. The Monastery is located on the sea front, about 10 km southwest of Symi Town and dominates the harbor in front of the village. It is a closed-in cove with a small sandy beach, protected by a narrow inlet that opens out into a wide harbor. You can travel directly to the Monastery on some ferries from Rhodes Island, or if you are already in Symi, you can take a bus or taxi from the town.