Panagia Spiliani in Nisyros is one of the most famous monasteries of the Aegean islands. It is located in a panoramic position on the hill above Mandraki, the capital of the island. Access to the monastery is from the main road, near the temple of Potamitissa, from where the 130 steps to the monastery begin.
It is called Spiliani because the monastery church is located in the cave (spilia) of the hill. Inside the church is the icon of Virgin Mary.
Tradition says that a Nisyrian shepherd saw from afar, a light sparkling, in the cave that existed on the rock. He came close and, with surprise, saw a small icon of the Virgin Mary, which he moved to the temple of Potamitissa. The area has since been called “vretou”. The next morning when they went to the church, they found out that the icon was not in its place, so they started looking for it. Eventually they found the icon on the hill. They realized that it was a wish of the Virgin to stay there, and after a few years they began to build the monastery, which was probably founded at the end of the 14th century. The main church is dedicated to the Assumption of the Virgin Mary and the chapel to the right, to Saint Charalambos.
Shortly afterwards, the locals built a great icon of the Virgin, which was identical to the small wooden icon that had been found in the cave, and they covered it with silver. The small icon was paced in the palm of the left hand of the big icon that they made, which is still there today. Of course it cannot be seen because it is hidden between wood and silver. In fact, to be fitted, they made the left hand bigger, and the difference between the two hands is obvious.
The locals say, that the left hand of the Virgin Mary in the big icon, where the small icon is placed, is hot when it is touched, that is, it has the temperature of the human body, as opposed to the other hand that is cold.
The icon of the Virgin Mary, plated with silver, is double faced: Saint Nicholas is depicted in the back, while in the other side is depicted the Virgin Mary with the Infant, crafted in the style of the Russian school.
In every difficult moment, all Nisyrians go to Panagia Spiliani, the Gerontissa of the island, and this is shown by the hundreds of offerings to its image. This is also happening in their happy moments, because in Nisyros the mysteries (weddings, baptisms) are common in the monastery of Spiliani.
On the 15th of August pilgrims arrive from almost all the Dodecanese by ships, and before the ships arrive at the port of the island, they first pass under the monastery, whistling to take the blessing of the Virgin, and the bells of the monastery are ringing in return.
Every 15th of August, when it celebrates, in Nisyros takes place the biggest feast of the year with food, singing and dancing, as is customary in all feasts in the Aegean.
This male monastery belongs to the Holy Metropolis of Kos and Nisyros. Archimandrite Stephan is the abbot.