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Saturday, July 12, 2014

The Monastery of Panagia Hozoviotissa

High above the Aegean Sea on the island of Amorgos, the most eastern of the Greek Cycladic Islands, lies the spectacular Byzantine monastery of Panagia Hozoviotissa. Visible only from the sea as a patch of bright white, it clings to the cliff side 300 meters above the sea level. The monastery was built in the 11th century in order to protect a 9th century religious icon of the Virgin Mary from marauding pirates. The icon, which is on public display inside the monastery, is believed to have mysteriously arrived on the shore below on an unmanned boat from Palestine.
The building of the monastery lies flat against the sides of the cliff. Its about 40 meters tall and 5 meters wide, and has 8 overlying stories 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.
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A small stone staircase leads to the low and narrow entrance on the east side of the monastery. There used to be a retractable wooden ladder there that could be raised to prevent the invasion of undesirable visitors in the difficult times of pirate raids. The building's exterior as it is today is the result of several various changes that happened through time. The pointed arch above the gate dates back to the 15th century, while the stone-relief doorframe of the gate was installed during renovation of the monastery in the 17th century.
There are numerous cells for the monks, a kitchen, built-in ovens designed with semicircular arches, and storeroom for the storage of grains and the cellars. The altar of the monastery with the wooden ceiling and the impressive monastic table is interesting as well.
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