Panagia Kanala: the miraculous icon

Panagia Kanala church

The Panagia Kanala church is situated in the southeastern region of Kythnos, near the village of Kanala, which stands as the sole area on the island adorned with pine trees. Close is the Megali Ammos beach with the golden sand and the crystal clear waters.

Surrounded by this picturesque setting, the beautiful Orthodox church replaces an older one demolished in 1869. Its courtyard is embellished with stone arches, terraces, and vibrant flowers, featuring a charming cobbled square. Originally, the church was modest in size and had undergone significant damage over time, even serving as a monastery at one point, as indicated by documents from the Benaki Museum.

The story

In 1869, the current church was constructed following the demolition of its predecessor. Within its walls rests the revered icon of the Virgin Mary Kanala of Berefokratousa, a handmade Byzantine icon purportedly attributed to Apostle Luke, though it is more likely the creation of the hagiographer of the Cretan School, Priest Emmanuel Skordilis (1575). This sizable depiction (1.00 x 0.80 meters) portrays the serene and tender figure of Our Lady cradling the divine infant in her arms.

Legend has it that the miraculous icon of Panagia Kanala was discovered on the shores of Kythnos one evening by fishermen who witnessed a bright light. Initially frightened, they attempted to flee but found their nets entangled in rocks. They prayed to the Virgin Mary for assistance, and miraculously, she freed them. As they approached, the light intensified, revealing a fiery flame emerging from the sea, bearing the icon of the Virgin Mary.

Panagia Kanala icon

Crafted meticulously by skilled artisans, it is an exact replica of Byzantine art, employing the technique of gold printing wherein hagiographic leaves of 22 karat gold are intricately applied to embellish the background.

During the final stages of production, the icon is adorned with a dark red hue along its perimeter and finished with a special varnish to preserve its luster. Offered on either level or recessed wooden surfaces, it is suitable for wall mounting.

In homage to this divine intervention, the island's inhabitants chose to construct a temple in her honor, at the location indicated by the Virgin Mary in a subsequent vision to the same fishermen.

An annual grand celebration occurs on August 15th, commemorating the discovery of the icon, marked by a procession and reenactment. The eve is marked by the chanting of the Great Vespers, followed by a lively festival in the village, complete with traditional music and dancing. The subsequent day witnesses the iconic procession through the village. Panagia Kanala holds the esteemed position of patron saint of Kythnos, with the icon revered as miraculous. Whether one is a devout believer or not, a visit to this site is recommended for its breathtaking views. Following worship, visitors can descend to the sandy beach below for a refreshing swim.


 Photos: Shutterstock, Wikipedia

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