Brief history of the Church of Saint Mary Kastrianon
The Church of Saint Mary Kastrianon (or Panayia i Ypapanti or Flevariotissa) is situated inside the Old Pyli settlement. The Monastery was founded before 1080 AD by the monk Christodoulos Latrinos (Saint Christodoulos), on the property of a Koan monk named Skinouris, when he came to Kos after leaving Strovillo in Asia Minor. It is dedicated to St Mary and parishioners hold a big celebration to this day on the 2nd of February. The church was raised in three phases. The original structure was built by Christodoulos around 1080 AD, as the central church of the Monastery of Theotokos (Panyperagnos or Castrianon, named from the neighbouring castle/castro). Later in the Byzantine period an antenave was added with a flat roof, and later on an arch in the western area of the chamber. Excavations within the church revealed tombs dating back to the 16th century. The central church is the only building from the initial monastery that is still preserved to date. The other ones were covered by newer structures or were scattered in mounds of walls around the central church.
The murals in the Church
There are a number of exquisite murals. The oldest ones depict saints and the Genesis of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and date back to the 12th or maybe even the 11th century. St Mary holding the infant with angels also dates back to the 12th century although in the later part and is situated in the south east area. The rest of the murals which constitute the largest part of the surviving murals date back to the 16th century and are probably the work of the artist Nikolaou who also painted murals in the Castle of Kalymnos.
Access to the Church
Unfortunately the Monastery of St Mary Kastrianon is usually locked and rarely accessible to the public. To see the interior one would probably have to join the festivities on the 2nd of February…
Saint Christodoulos and the Church of Saint Mary Kastrianon
In his monastic rule (hypotyposis), Saint Christodoulos, who later on became master and owner of Patmos (where Apostle John wrote the Book of Revelation), writes about his choice of establishing the monastery at its emplacement:
“I came by chance to a very high and uninhabited hill, graceful and otherwise airy, with an abundance of water and a nice climate (this mountain was called Pilion, by the islanders), and which, as I saw was surrounded by ravines and natural valleys, standing out from close round about, and it looked like a fortress; I was suddenly glad about the location and was eager to build a monastery there […]. I built a church from the foundations up and I completed it to be exquisite and most beautiful, having dedicated it in the name of pure mother of God. In addition, I erected a surrounding wall and cells and those other (things), which characterise a complete and self-efficient monastery.”