Every day, many visitors arrive by boat, making trips from Rhodes to Symi. Also, the boats from Gialos, which make day trips, have Panormitis in their program. The Monastery of the Archangel Michael, located on the southwest side of the island, in a sheltered bay, Panormos. Maybe there was an ancient temple here dedicated to the god Poseidon. The marble columns that were found, prove the existence of an early Christian church in the same place as the present church. We do not know when the monastery was built, but it is known that there were no monasteries in the Aegean before the 9th century.
The first manuscripts of the monastery’s existence date back to the 14th and 15th centuries, and there are reports of travelers visiting the island. According to tradition, an old religious woman named Mary found a little icon of the Archangel Michael under a bush and took her in her house, but the icon disappeared from her home, and she found her again in the same place. However, when this was repeated, she realized that the Archangel did not want to stay in her house and so the church was built in Panormos.
The present church was built in 1783, and the picture wall was carved between 1783-1787 by the excellent craftsman Drakos Taliadouros of Kos. The murals were made in 1792 by two symiots, the monk Neofytos and Kyriakos Karakostis. What impresses believers and visitors is an oversized icon of the Archangel Michael, who is revered as a miracle worker. The icon is mostly covered with silver and is a work of the great craftsman Ioannis Peloponissios from 1724, the icon is older than the silver cover and was already in the previous Medieval church. We go in under the bell tower to enter the pebbled courtyard with its beautiful geometric patterns, that is mainly Baroque and also has decorative elements of antique or Byzantine style. Constructed in 1905-1911, it emulates a similar belfry of the monastery near Moscow Zagorsk or, according to others, Agia Fotini in Smyrna (nowadays Izmir).
Around the courtyard on the ground floor are the two museums, the ecclesiastical, with rich exhibits from the history of the monastery and the folklore museum with remarkable objects from the everyday life of the inhabitants of Symi. The cells, a rich library, the dining room, the rooms for the abbot and the bishop are on the first floor; from here we can take impressive pictures of the monastery.
To the right and left of the central part of the monastery complex, other buildings have been erected to accommodate pilgrims on big holidays, such as Easter, Pentecost, which is celebrated here in a particularly grand manner. However, on the 8th of November, the Archangel Michael and Gabriel’s holiday, many believers arrive here, and everything is full. In recent years, more and more visitors come to Panormitis to take a vacation, so the buildings have been modernized to provide more comfort. In the monastery, there is a cafe, a grocery store, and a bakery.
Michael Roukouniotis Monastery
After Panormitis, it is today the most important monastery in Symi but was the most important of the island in the past, as reported by the famous Russian monk Barsky, who visited the island in the 18th century. It should be noted that in Symi there are a total of 9 churches dedicated to the Archangel Michael, as many as the Order of the Archangels.
This is explained by the worship of angels, which was developed in the early Christian years in Asia Minor and has also significantly influenced Symi. The monastery was probably built in the 14th-15th century. In the area, there are two churches of particular architectural interest, the first of which has frescoes from the 15th century and the new one from 1738. The painter Gregory from Symi also painted the Church of Our Lady in Lindos. The icon of the archangel was silvered in 1734 by John from the Peloponnese, as those of Panormitis.
In the courtyard with the cells, we can rest under the large cypress, in this place every year on the 8th of November takes place the church festival.
The big Sotiris Monastery
It lies on the beautiful path between Yialos and Panormitis, at an altitude of 473 meters above the Nera Valley and is dedicated to the Transfiguration of the Savior; it is a monastery property of the Panormitis Monastery. It is a fascinating monastic architecture monument. It was built in the Byzantine period, probably in the 15th century, has a shape similar to a bastion with few cells and the arches are dominating throughout the monastery.
The oldest frescoes according to an inscription date from 1727. The paved courtyard has a unique character and even more beautiful is the floor of the monastery church, which is made of smaller stones. Every year on the Savior’s Day, a big festival takes place on the 6th of August.
The small Sotiris Monastery
The monastery of Mikros Sotiris is located north of Nanou Bay and at an altitude of 378 meters. It is also dedicated to the Transfiguration of the Redeemer and was built on the ruins of an ancient sanctuary. It was named so because of the few monks who lived here or because they belonged to the monastery of the Great Sotiris.