For more than 1500 years, the island of Paros commemorates the Assumption (or Dormition) of the Virgin Mary. Τhe sacred temple of Panayia Ekatodapiliani, The Church of Our Lady of One Hundred Gates, celebrates the Dormition of the Virgin with traditional religious ceremonies attracting locals and tourists alike.
The Church is situated northeast of the capital of Paros, Paroikia, near the island’s port. Many stories revolved around the foundation, the name and the architect of the church. However, a research conducted in the 20th century demonstrated that the church’s rightful owners were Saint Constantine and Saint Helen.
The Church of Our Lady of One Hundred Gates is one of the oldest monuments of Byzantine ecclesiastical architecture in Greece. Forty years ago, a major renovation revealed the existence of a 4th century church at this site, namely, two centuries before the Justinian epoch. Throughout the centuries, the temple suffered extensive damages, resulting in the distortion of its imposing style. In 1959, Professor Orlandos started the restoration of the temple in the Justinian style, a diligently work completed in 1966.
Regarding the painting decoration of Panayia Ekatodapiliani, it is worth mentioning the frescoes adorning the church and the surrounding chapels, where a great number of portable icons were found. The icons of Panayia Ekatodapiliani, Christ and the Dormition of the Virgin Mary placed on the iconostasis of the main temple are silver-plated, donated by Nikolaos Mavroyenis, the 18th century Parian prince of the Danubian Principalities of Moldova and Wallachia.
The festivities for the Dormition of the Virgin Mary hold throughout the day. Inside the Church, vespers and eulogy are chanted, whereas in the evening the Litany of the Holy Icon and the Epitaph fill the streets of Paroikia with warm feelings and religious emotion.
In the night, spectacular fireworks light up the sky, while locals from little fishing boats hold red smoky signal flares colouring the atmosphere with religious mystique. The ferryboats blow their horns in ecstatic joy, and dancers colorfully dressed in their traditional costumes whirl to the tunes of Greek folk music.