Monastery of Panagia Ekatontapyliani

Exterior view of the Byzantine Monastery of Panagia Ekatontapyliani in Paros, Cyclades

The Monastery of Panagia Ekatontapyliani (or Ekatontapiliani) in Paros is one of the oldest and most important monasteries in Greece. Located few meters from the port of Parikia, the capital of Paros, this is a well-preserved paleo-Christian monument. Its name Ekatontapyliani means One Hundred Doors. According to the tradition, this monastery has 99 doors and one secret door that will open when Hagia Sophia of Constantinople will become again an Orthodox Church.

Tradition also says that this monastery was founded by Saint Helene, mother of Constantine, the first Byzantine emperor. During her journey from Constantinople to the Holy Land in quest for the Holy Cross, a storm brought her to Paros. There, Saint Helen made a promise to Virgin Mary to build a church if her quest was successful. Eventually the church was built by her son, Saint Constantine, after her death and it was dedicated to the Assumption of the Virgin.

Although the original church was constructed in the 4th century AD, two centuries later transformations were made by another Byzantine Emperor, Justinian. More transformations were made in the centuries that followed and today the monastery has many elements of Paleo-Christian, Byzantine and post-Byzantine style. An interesting thing to mention is that many parts of Ekatontapyliani Monastery were built by marble fragments of ancient temples, a frequent practise in the early Christian times.

The complex of Ekatontapyliani Monastery in Paros has many churches and chapels, such as the churches of Agios Anargyros, Agios Philippos, Agios Dimitrios, Osia Theoktisti and others. Around the yard are the cells of the monks, while the icon of Virgin Mary at the main church (katholikon) is believed to be miracle-working. The Monastery of Ekatontapyliani in Paros celebrates on August 15th with a large religious festival.