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Saint Riginos, the Patron Saint of Skopelos
In Greece, each island has a patron saint who is believed to protect and watch over the island and its inhabitants. The patron saint is often associated with the island’s history and culture and is considered to be a spiritual and cultural symbol of the island.
Moreover, the patron saint is believed to offer protection and guidance to the island’s residents and is often associated with miraculous events or acts of divine intervention.
THE SAINT RIGINOS
The patron siant of Skopelos Island is Agios Riginos.
Agios Riginos was born in Livadia, Greece during the 4th century A.D. He was sent to the island of Skopelos by his uncle in order to strengthen his great belief in God and the people who were exiled there. Agios Riginos strongly opposed all sects that were against the Orthodox belief. He bravely stated his thoughts in public without hesitation and fear. Agios Riginos was prosecuted during the reign of the emperor of Constantinople, Julius Paravatis (361-363 A.D).
The governor of Greece went to Skopelos island and immediately ordered the saint to renounce his religion. Agios Riginos stood strong by his beliefs and did not obey. Therefore, on the 25th of February 362 A.D., the saint was shown to the island’s stadium. There the governor’s people tortured him and finally decapitated him. That night the Christians of the island buried him in the forest on the hill where his grave remains until today.
The monastery was built at the burial place of the Saint, in his honor. This at least is revealed by the existing architectural parts of the present church. According to an inscription, the Saint Riginos Monastery was built in 1728, probably on the ruins of an older, Byzantine monastery. The text of the stone slab follows:
ΕΤΟΣ ΑΠΟ ΧΡΙΣΤΟΥ 1728
ΑΝΕΚΑΙΝΙΣΘΗ Η ΠΑΡΟΥΣΑ
ΜΟΝΗ ΔΙΑ ΣΥΝΔΡΟΜΗΣ ΔΩΡΟ
ΘΕΟΥ ΙΕΡΟΜΟΝΑΧΟΥ ΚΕ ΔΑΠΑ
ΝΗΣ ΤΩΝ ΧΡΙΣΤΙΑΝΩΝ
The church followed the architectural style of the single-aisled arched basilica. The cells were built in the southwest corner, and remain there to this day. The faithful, in the 1960s, demolished the monastery to proceed with the construction of a larger cross-shaped church. The inauguration took place on 9 July 1972.
The stone sarcophagus of Agios Riginos (dating from the 4th century BC) is located west of the church, in the courtyard. Next to it is an old fountain that supplied the monastery with water.
The person in charge of Agios Riginos Monastery is Mrs. Eleni Trachana, her contact number is +30 6980929334 and +30 24240 22395.
The monastery remains open for visitors every morning from 09:00 to 13:00 and every evening from 17:00 – 20:00.
THE CELEBRATION OF SAINT RIGINOS
Agios Riginos is celebrated with great pomp in Skopelos on the 24 and the 25 of February. Festivities are held in his honor in Skopelos Chora.
On the eve of the day, the holy relics of the saint are carried in procession. The holy relics of saint Patron are kept in the church of the Nativity of Christ. From there the procession starts and ends at the monastery of Agios Riginos. There, a Divine Liturgy will take place. In the end, the holy relics are returned back to the church of Christ.
The procession, on its return to Skopelos, makes a long stop at the old bridge, the bridge of Ai-Riginaki. Since, according to tradition, it was there that Agios Riginos, the patron saint of Skopelos, was beheaded.
At that bridge, is the oldest iconostasis of the island. This small monument has a square shape, it is decorated with plaster designs and on the dome, there is a cross.
On the day of February 25th, the faithful, after the Divine Liturgy, distribute local sweets.
The Holy Relics
In the 18th century, Hatzi Constantine (known as the monk Kallinikos) was sent to Cyprus by the Senate to retrieve the holy relics of Saint Riginus. Unfortunately, he managed to return only a part of them, which are kept in the Church of the Nativity of Christ.
DRAGONTOSCHISMA AND AGIOS RIGINOS
According to local legend, about 800 years ago in Skopelos, a dragon terrorized the island, eating the crops and livestock, and the people, There was no chance to live on the island at that time. Even from the neighboring islands, they sent boats full of prisoners who were sentenced to death, to be eaten. The dragon was said to be so fierce that no one dared to face it.
Saint Riginos, however, was determined to defeat the dragon and save the people of Skopelos. He prayed to God for strength and courage and then set out to confront the beast.
He boarded as a sailor in a convict ship in order to land on Skopelos. When the dragon saw Saint Riginos approaching get scared. While Agios Riginos landed in Elios Skopelos exclaimed, “Where in God’s mercy (eleos) is the monster” and started hunting the beast.
The hunt ended in the exact position between Stafylos and Agnontas in Skopelos. Having no other escape, the dragon jumped onto the cliff leading to the sea and was killed helplessly. The mountain was split, the ground receded, the sea was torn, and since then the area was called Drakontoschisma.
The people of Skopelos were amazed by the saint’s bravery and the power of his faith, and they built a church in his honor, where they continue to celebrate his feast day every year on February 25th.
The story of Saint Riginos and the dragon is a popular legend on Skopelos and has become an important part of the island’s history and culture.
Drakontoschisma can be viewed from above and the specific bay is accessible only by private boat.
DIRECTIONS – ACCESS
The Church of Saint Riginos is located 4 km southwest of Skopelos town. Here are the directions to reach the church:
- If you are arriving by ferry, the port of Skopelos is located just a few minutes walk from the church. Simply exit the port and head towards the town center.
- If you are arriving by car: Driving on the main road to leave Skopelos Town you will see a gas station. 500 meters after that, take a sharp uphill right turn. Another 500 meters and you reach the church.
- You can also ask locals for directions to the church, as it is a well-known landmark on the island.
Overall, the Church of Saint Riginos is easily accessible from anywhere in Skopelos Town and can be reached by foot or by car.
The Church of Saint Riginos is an important part of Skopelos’ religious and cultural heritage and is a must-visit for anyone interested in the history and culture of Skopelos Island.
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Author – Adrina Hotels Skopelos – www. Adrina.gr