The religious sentiment is deeply rooted in the people of Kythera; about 350 churches, chapels and historic Monasteries stand for centuries as the island’s guardians of faith and tradition.
Undoubtedly, the most important place of pilgrimage and a benchmark of Kythera is the Holy Monastery of Panaghia Mirtidiotissa (Madonna), treasuring the island’s most sacred heirloom: the miracle icon of the Madonna, possibly one of Evangelist Luke’s works that was miraculously discovered in Kythera in the 16th century (or according to another legend in the 11th century). The Monastery celebrates on the 15th August (The Assumption of the God-bearer) and on the 24th September, in memoriam of the icon’s finding and the miracle of the healing of a paralyzed man, gathering people from all over Greece and the diaspora. It’s also worth to visit Kythera during the Sunday of Orthodoxy in order to witness the island’s most important religious custom: the “Round (litany) of the Madonna”. Tens of believers carry on foot the icon of Mirtidiotissa all the way from the Monastery to Chora (16klm) where it remains for 40 days. On Easter Monday the icon is carried through all the villages of Kythera, entering each church it meets on the way, before it returns to the Monastery on the Sunday of Myrrh-bearing Women.
The Pilgrimage of Agia Elessa, a saint whose martyrdom took place in Kythera in 375 AD, is set on one of the island’s highest points, offering an amazing view. It celebrates on the 1st August, commemorating the saint’s martyrdom.
The Holy Monastery of Agios Theodoros sits on the outskirts of Potamos, at the place where Saint Theodoros (from Koroni, Messinia), lived ascetically around 900 AD, The Saint’s relics are kept in the Monastery. Celebrations take place on the 12th May, day of the Saint’s assumption.
The Monastery of Agia Moni, built on the mountain overlooking the port of Diakofti, is dedicated to the Madonna and the Transfiguration of Christ. It celebrates on the 6th August.
In Antikythera, the Pilgrimage of Saint Myron (protector of the island) keeps the sacred heirloom of the Saint’s icon, found there when the island was still deserted (1423-1782). Celebrations take place on the 16th & 17th August, where loads of people gather for a traditional Cretan feast.
In Kapsali, the Pilgrimage of Agios Ioannis on-the-rock is a cave-church where, according to tradition, Evangelist John lived before moving to Patmos in order to write The Apocalypse.
Last but not least, many of the Byzantine and Post-Byzantine churches around the island are open to visitors, some of them decorated with icons and frescos of incomparable beauty.