Lo­cals’ View: Santa Maria

“Santa Ma­rina, one of the hun­dreds of hid­den chapels of San­torini.”

Santorini Traveler - - EDITORIAL -

Santa Ma­rina of Me­ga­lo­chori (Aghia Ma­rina) is a small basil­ica chapel, lay­ing just be­fore the cliff of the caldera, fac­ing the Kammenes islets in cen­tral San­torini. The small church was built be­tween 1537 and 1650, out of the bound­aries of the nearby set­tle­ment, sur­rounded by the fa­mous vine­yards of the island. The chapel is pri­vately owned by the Aky­las fam­ily. Re­cent ren­o­va­tions un­der the aus­pices of the Hel­lenic Min­istry of Cul­ture re­vealed an in­ter­est­ing part of the his­tory of the church. Bel­low the ubiq­ui­tous white plas­ter cov­er­ing the ex­te­rior walls, thump­ing an­cient carved mar­bles were dis­cov­ered, many of which dec­o­rated with in­scrip­tions and re­liefs. Con­sid­er­ing the lack of such build­ing ma­te­rial on the island, the ori­gin of the mar­bles is thought to de­rive from an­cient tem­ples that were dis­man­tled to pro­vide those valu­able el­e­ments. Apart from its un­usual past, Santa Ma­rina pos­sesses icons of unique beauty, as well as an im­por­tant wooden tem­ple in­clud­ing a cap­ti­vat­ing ortho­dox paint­ing of Archangel Gabriel on its left door. How­ever an­other im­por­tant as­pect of Santa Ma­rina, om­nipresent in all San­torini’s chapels and re­li­gious his­tory, is the cel­e­bra­tion of the name­day of the Saint. Early in the morn­ing of the 17th of July, as well as at its eve, the Aky­las fam­ily pre­pares a full

panigìri, feast, with the tra­di­tional dur­ing which food, wine as well as the blessed bread is pro­vided to more than 500 of rev­el­ers that visit the chapel to cel­e­brate the Saint’s day. Tra­di­tional del­i­ca­cies like split peas, stewed beans, sar­dines, lo­cal toma­toes of San­torini, and dry white Assyr­tiko wine is pre­pared in the small kiosk by the church and served to vis­i­tors, af­ter the morn­ing mass. These feasts, still widely ob­served on the island are some of the few sur­viv­ing old cul­tural cus­toms of the Aegean Ar­chi­pel­ago. Once these cel­e­bra­tions served the pur­pose to pro­vide food to the poor, espe­cially when the pop­u­lace of San­torini used to be fam­ished only half a cen­tury ago. Nowa­days this cus­tom has evolved to a cel­e­bra­tion of the unique cul­tural iden­tity of the Cy­clades, and hope­fully will be pre­served by the gen­er­a­tions to come.

Van­ge­lis Par­avas Photographer & Marine Bi­ol­o­gist

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