Moni Mirtidion, is the largest monastery in Kythera! Located in the area of Mirtidia in the west of the island, it is built on a natural rocky opening among many myrtles! The icon of Panaghia Mirtidiotissa is the island’s most precious relic and the patron of all Kytherians.
Tradition has it that a shepherd dreamt of an angel pointing at the area he kept his sheep where, inside a myrtle was an icon of the Madonna. The shepherd woke up alarmed. In the morning he went there, found the icon and took it home, in the neighboring village of Kalokairines. At night the icon would disappear and return to the myrtle. The shepherd saw the angel again, telling him that the icon had to stay there, close to the myrtle; so the shepherd built a small chapel next to the myrtle and placed the icon there, naming it Mirtidiotissa.
When the icon was found it didn’t have its current dimensions, those were acquired later when placed on a wooden frame. In 1837 artist Nicholas Spithakis added the gold dress. Only the two faces are still visible on the ancient icon, even their features cannot be distinguished anymore. At the lower part of the golden lining, the three miracles of Mirtidiotissa are depicted: the miracle of the icon’s discovery, the cure of the paralytic and the miracle of rescuing the fortress of the town of Kythera by a lightning strike in 1829.
During the pirate raids, the icon was kept in the homonymous church inside the fortress in the town of Kythera for security reasons. The major religious tradition of Kythera is the icon’s procession from Mirtidia to Chora, on the Sunday of Orthodoxy. The procession lasts 15 days, passing through most of the island’s villages before it arrives in Chora and there are many believers following the icon throughout the whole period! “Myrtidiotissa” celebrates on the 24th of September, the date of the icon’s finding.