EkatontapilianiParos 844 00, Greece
The holy gem of Paros is the Cathedral of Our Lady Ekatontapyliani, one of the most significant early Christian monuments throughout Greece. Located in the north east region of the city of Paroikia, the church’s history begins steeped in Byzantine legend with the first construction somewhere in the 4th century A.D. Saint Helen (Aghia Eleni), mother of the emperor Constantine, was on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land in search of the cross of Christ. Her ship stopped in Paros where she found a tiny church, one of the first dedicated to the new faith. She prayed there and made a pledge that if she were to find the Honoured Cross she would build a Cathedral in the place of the tiny church. Her prayer was answered and she found the Cross, so as she had pledged, construction of the church began. Another version claims that Emperor Constantine built the Cathedral on his mother’s orders as she herself was unable to see her pledge to fruition. The original structure was a cross shaped, wood roofed Basilica most probably destroyed by fire. During Justinian’s reign the church was re-built as the vaulted dome we see today. The greatest religious festival on the island is that of Our Lady on the 15th of August – an occasion where religious celebration of the faith is combined with lively traditional folk bazaars and festivities.