CHURCHES AND MONASTERIES
The deep religious feeling of the Skopelos residents can be understood by the number of churches and monasteries that have been built on the island.
Within Chora alone there are 123 churches and some chapels ,many of these private. Also, around Chora there are 15 monasteries - and over 40 all over the island.
It is said that there are 360 religious buildings in all!
It is said that if the church bells ring on Skopelos and there is a south wind, they can be hear on Mount Athos, and the opposite if there is a north wind.
We must mention, however, that despite the history of many centuries on Skopelos, all the churches that are saved to date in the town are dated in the post-Byzantine period.
So it is worth visiting some of the many churches and monasteries, starting from the town of Skopelos.
In the oldest quarter of the town of Skopelos, there is the church of the Birth of Christ, which is also the town See. It is of composite architectural type, combining the domed cruciform square church with a triple basilica. From the main dome hangs a wooden performance with dual aspect icons and the forms of the Apostles and the Prophets. Apart from the main dome, there is a second smaller one above the sanctuary.
The temple of the church is dated back to 1765. Among the other heirlooms kept in the church, there is a special place for icons and relics of the temple of Saint Athanassios in the Castle, as well as the relics of Saint Riginos.
In front of the sanctuary, there are still crypts covered with marble slabs, where the relics of older priests of the church were kept. In the yard there are graves of old bishops, while the church tower contains parts of an older Byzantine church.
In the bell tower of the church there is the bell that was given to Skopelos by Alexios Orlof for their participation in the Cesme seafight (1770), where the Turkish fleet was destroyed.
There are other churches in the parish of Christ, of remarkable archaeological interest.
Church of Agios Athanassios:
This is at the highest point of the Castle. It is an aisled vaulted basilica of the 11th century. According to the tradition. The church of Agios Athanassios was the first See on the island. It is one of the oldest churches on Skopelos; the fact that it is not mentioned among the churches that bishop Anastassios founded in the 11th century constitutes strong proof of its antiquity.
The church remained intact until the earthquakes of 1965, when it suffered great damages to its roof and walls, but these were then restored. However the rare wooden temple and several old icons were totally destroyed, while some that were saved were transferred to the church of Christ.
Church of Agios Athanassios of Athos:
A single-aisle vaulted wooden roof temple built in 1761, probably in the place of an earlier church. This is where the remarkable portable icon of the 16th century (1548) is kept, with its representation of the Lamentation.
Church of Agios Georgios of Kyratso:
This is a single-domed church, located in the district of Christ. There is a remarkable old temple, which depicts the Great Prayer with the 12 Apostles. The floor is strewn with gravel and there are icons of the 16th, 17th, 18th century..
Church of the Annunciation:
Located in the northern part of the town and built on a cliff cascading down to the sea. A two-column church with a dome and a remarkable temple, dated 1669.
Church of Agios Dimitrios:
A small basilica of the 17th c., built on an older Byzantine church of the 11th or 12th c. It has beautiful 17th c. murals in three zones and an old temple with painted decoration.
The church of the Presentation of Virgin Mary (Panagitsa tou Pyrgou):
Located in the NE on an imposing rock overlooking Skopelos, when we see it from the sea. It is a temple of a complex four-column cross type. The temple of the church dates back to the 17th c. There are also icons from the 18th and 19th c. and a large icon that was salvaged from the sea.
Beside the church there is a picturesque single-aisle chapel dedicated to All Saints ( Agion Panton ).
Church of Agios Nikolaos:
A small single-aisle basilica with a dome. It is built on an older church, whose wooden temple it still retains. There are pictures of the 17th, 18th and 19th c.
Church of the Saint Apostles:
Located on the rock above the town hall. A barrel-vaulted church of the 11th c., built by Bishop Anastasios on the site of an ancient temple of Athena. It has a remarkable old temple and murals of 16th century.
Church of Agios Michail and Synnades:
Located just below the church of the Birth of Christ. This is a complex cruciform domed church with a magnificent temple of the 17th c., old icons, five built-in Roman sarcophagi and a wall inscription from the 2nd century BC.
In the center of Chora of Skopelos, below the parish of Christ, is the church of the Three Hierarchs.
This is a cruciform church with three gable roofs. The church has an 18th c. temple. and interesting icons, like one from 1670 and one of the Three Hierarchs.
There is also a dedicatory inscription of 1850 on a mural located in an alcove at the entrance, from Constantine Apostolides, father of writer Paul Nirvana. (Nirvanas family home is located next to the church).
Agios Panteleimonas and Agios Spyridonas are also very important churches of our island surrounded by beautiful neigbhours.
High up in Chora, close to the church of the Three Hierarchs, is the church of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary or Panagia of Papameletiou. It is a composite cruciform domed church, dating from the 17th century, and it was built by Father Meletios. The church hosts the richly decorated wooden temple, with icons painted in 1683 by painter Antonios Agorastos from Crete. The four columns supporting the dome are monoliths and come from old Byzantine churches.
Near the beach of Skopelos lies the church of the Birth of the Virgin Mary (Panagia Eleftheotria). A single-aisled basilica with a dome, built in the 18th c. It has a remarkable temple, probably of the 18th c. Ancient and Byzantine sculptures have been incorporated in the walls of the church..
Near the port of Skopelos there is the church of Panagia Faneromeni.
This is a single-aisle basilica of the 16th-17th c. which probably replaced an older temple. It is worth noting that the temple and the icons are of the 17th, 18th and 19th c. According to the inscription over the door of the church, it was a monastery dependency of the St. Dionysios monastery on Mount Athos..
At the southern end of town, near the Elementary School, there is the church of Agios Nikolaos stous Kipous (in the gardens). The church of St. Nicholas, a single-barrel vaulted church, was built by Skopelos resident Stamatis Raptakis the 17th c., but it was destroyed by fire before the last war and was completely renovated.
The history of the church is associated with the Academy of Stefanos Daponte -father of Kaisarios- which was founded in the early 18th c. and it seems that it was housed in Agios Nikolaos, which had then been transformed into a monastery.
The temple preserves many of the older building murals and rare icons and triptychs. In the churchyard there are scattered remains of an early Christian church. Also, books and manuscripts of the school are kept in the sanctuary of the modern church.
Leaving the town of Skopelos and following the road to the area of Pefkias, we find the church of Panagia Polemistria, , a small single-aisle basilica built in the place of the ancient temple, probably dedicated to Athena of the sixth century BC. This derives from the ancient walls surrounding the opening of the church.