The monastery of Panormitis in Symi

panormitis-symi The monastery of Saint Michael Panormitis in Symi,  is one of the most important monasteries in Dodecanese. It is visited all year around by Greek pilgrims and tourists with boats from Kos, Leros, Rhodes and other Dodecanese islands.

It is a spectacular building in an even more spectacular setting at the end of a huge enclosing bay on the southwest tip of the island.

Panormitis dates back at least to the 15th century and is dedicated to the archangel Michael, the patron saint of seafarers, and so a popular place of pilgrimage for Greek sailors.

The modern-day monastery has expanded enormously since a nave was built on the remains of a Byzantine chapel in 1783.

Panormitis is dominated by a remarkable bell tower built in 1905, a copy of one at Izmir in Turkey. It has a courtyard covered in flags and wonderful paintings inside, although most of the treasures were stolen by Germans in World War Two.

The monastery has two museums; one of ecclesiastical artifacts, the other of folk art that includes stuffed crocodiles and model ships. Exhibits include various bottles cast into the sea by seamen, usually containing prayers to Archangel Michael and some with coins.

Many faithful bring brooms to sweep the church and leave them behind for the monks to sell to those who don’t bring their own.

Panormitis has a library with Byzantine manuscripts and a gallery of fairly nondescript landscape paintings. It also has a guest house that can accommodate up to 500. There is a taverna here and a small bakery.

Near the taverna is a memorial to the abbot and three resistance fighters who were executed by the Nazis in 1944.

Excursion boats from Rhodes arrive at Panormitis in droves and there seems rarely a time when it is not busy. There is a narrow strip of shingle that technically passes for Panormitis beach although it is not much more than a few benches placed under the trees on a short shingle strip.

There is another small shingle beach beyond this, away from the crowds, and there are also walks to enjoy in the nearby woods.