CHURCH OF THE AKATHISTOS YMNOS
© FOUNDATION OF THRACIAN ART & TRADITION
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This is the only church of this name, meaning ?Standing Hymn?, throughout the whole of Greece, with the exception of a chapel on Skorpios, Aristotle Onassis? island. The date at which this church was built is unknown. Before it was built, however, a chapel stood on this same site, which it is said was constructed during the Ottoman period in five days, around which they built piles of wood and stone so it could not be seen. We can safely assume that this chapel was much smaller and occupied almost all the south side of the surrounding area when it was rebuilt after the earthquake of 1829. The church of the Akathistos Ymnos was burnt down twice. The first time was in 1912, when only the icon of St Eleftherios survived. The second time was relatively recently, New Year 1991, when the icons of the Panayia (Virgin) and the Bishop?s Throne miraculously survived. This church, as of old, preserves that unique quality that makes you feel close to God. Twelve columns support its dome, at the top of each of which there is an icon of one of the twelve Apostles, signifying the underpinnings of Christianity. The iconostasis is very old, with priceless icons. In front of the iconostasis are two candelabra similar to the Holy Sepulchre at Jerusalem, only that their white torches, three each, have been destroyed. It is said that the icon of the Panayia has some connection with St Luke, and dates to circa AD 600. The original is in Mount Athos, along with 12 other representations of the Akathistos Ymnos. Instead, then, of there being an icon corresponding to the church?s name, there is in its place an icon of the Panayia Megalometoros. The church?s old Epitaphios is embroidered and hand-made with gold and silver thread. All the relics are from donations, the church having been built in an area where many wealthy donors lived, primarily tobacco merchants. To support the church in the past, every Great Thursday the procession of the Crucified Christ was done by the person who had donated the most money. In the church forecourt was the house of the church janitor and the priest?s residence was inside the chapel of St Phanourios. Even today, preserving the custom, on the eve of Great Thursday the Epitaphios is decorated by Christians chanting the funeral dirge of the Panayia. The parish of the Akathistos Ymnos is today comprised of around fifty families, making it the smallest in the Old Town.