Anogi - Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
The Church of the Holy Mary in Anogi Ithaca, was built at an altitude of 500m, and is considered to be one of the biggest, most important and oldest churches in the Balkans. Its rhythm is cross-shaped basilica (length 30m and width 10m approximately) and is said to have been built, piece by piece, 700 years ago. The interior of the church is entirely covered with Byzantine style murals. For this reason it has been declared a historic monument by the Ministry of Education. Wonderful paintings of saints and technically rare forms of angels depict the talent of the artist of that era, Antonios from Agrafa, who flourished in the mid of the 17th century. The painter graduated from the school of Vrangiana, Agrafa, where the Byzantine tradition was preserved. According to an inscription on the stone temple, Antonios from Agrafa painted the paintings in 1680. The church was severely damaged in the earthquakes of 1953 and was repaired with the care of the Ithacan ship owner Panos Gratsias. The murals were renovated and restored by the preserver Anastasios Koutsouris. The paintings are arranged in five parallel zones in the northern and southern side of the temple. In the first zone there are decorative pictures. In the second zone, starting above the floor of the church, a series of whole body saints is shown. At first glance, part of this zone of the west wall across the main entrance reminds of the mosaics of San Vitale in Ravenna and the murals of Meteora. The Mosaic of uniformed Theodora in Ravenna relates to the Hagiography of Constantine the Great and St. Helen at the church in Anogi.
In the case of Anogi, the hagiographer inserts a double cross -now widely known as the Cross of Lorraine and the emblem of General de Gaulle during the Second World War- between Constantine and Helen. In the third zone there are saints in a ring layout. In the fourth area scenes from the life of the Holy Virgin and the Martyrs of the Church are depicted. In the fifth and last area, which was cut in half by placing a metal ceiling in the year 1910, the hagiographer quotes scenes from the life of Christ. As a whole, the paintings are of continental style, with influences from the Cretan school and probably the famous mosaics of the Byzantine temples of Ravenna.
Vathi - Church of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary
The Old Cathedral of the Island
The Church of Saint Mary was built in 1800. Before that, a small temple existed in the same location, which was enlarged for the needs of the parishioners. It has a wonderful sculpted wooden temple, of Byzantine art of 1793, built by Metsovitis, and a magisterial old Venetian tower of 1820, built by original local stone. The murals of the church are Byzantine hagiographic artwork.
Monastery of Kathara
The Holy Monastery of Kathara, worship and reference point for all Ithacans, is built on the southeast peak of the Homeric mountain Nirito, 600m above the sea and 15 kilometers from Vathi. The icon of the Virgin is attributed to St. Luke and represents the birth of the Holy Mary. The church tradition claims that the name 'Kathara' (“pure”) stems from the local dialect and refers to the twigs and the shrubs, which are cut and burned to clear the place. According to the legend, Epirus inhabitants persecuted by Turkish - Albanians left their homes and fled to Ithaca, where they settled on the mountain of Nirito, in the location "Mazos", about 400m away from the monastery. Amongst their few possessions, they discovered that the miraculous icon depicting the Nativity of the Theotokos was missing. One night they saw a blinding light at the spot, where the temple is located today. Despite thorough search, they found nothing at that point. This was repeated for several nights, so they decided to cut and burn the bushes and the twigs in order to clean the place and see what was going on. When the fire was extinguished they saw an image, which had not been burned. Everyone recognized the picture of the Nativity of the Theotokos, which they used to have in Epirus. Since they miraculously found the sacred image amongst the burned twigs and shrubs, they called it "Kathariotissa".
Furthermore, at that point they built a small church in order to put in the icon in. According to another version of the legend, the monastery was founded by the supporters of the catholic heresy, the Purans. A third version is stated by the author Mrs. Rita Tsintili-Vlisma, according to which there was an ancient temple of the goddess Athena at today’s location of the monastery. One of the many names of the goddess was ''Kathara''. Albeit, the archaeologist and author W. GELL, says that the area was dedicated to god Apollo. The life of the monastery begins in about 1696.
Just a bit farther from the Monastery stands its belfry. At the ground floor there is the chapel of Saints Constantine and Helen. The belfry collapsed during the earthquake of 1953 and was rebuilt. The view from the belfy is unique. It reveals the entire southern part of the island, part of eastern Cephalonia, the islands Echinades (on the left), the west coast of Aitoloakarnania and, on clear days, one can see the coastline of the Peloponnese and Zakynthos.
The Kathariotissa is considered the patron saint of the island, and is celebrated every year on September 8th.