Pilgrimage of Saint Brigadiers

The Taxiarhis Monastery

“During the 9th and 10th Centuries, the Saracen pirates had become the terror of the entire island. One of their targets had been an old monastery in the Mantamados area. During one of their raids, the Saracens slaughtered all of the monastery’s monks. In his attempt to escape the inevitable, one of the monks climbed up on the monastery’s roof, but the pirates were in hot pursuit.

As they approached him with swords drawn, the Taxiarhis suddenly appeared in front of the Saracens with his own sword drawn, forcing them to retreat in a panic, and saving the life of the monk. In a show of respect and gratitude, the monk decided to create an icon in honor of the saint out of clay and his fallen comrades’ blood. However, since he did not have enough clay, the head of the saint turned out to be disproportionately large to the rest of the body.”

This is the legend of the celebrated saint’s icon at the Taxiarhis Monastery in Mantamados, the only carved icon on Lesvos. To this day, pilgrims have mixed emotions regarding this icon, since according to personal accounts the saint’s expression can at times appear severe, sad or happy, according to the message that he wants to convey to the faithful.

The monastery, which dates back to 1700, is located only a short distance from the village in a clearing surrounded by olive groves and pine forest. Taxiarhis is the patron saint not only of the area, but the entire island, and is oftentimes revered even by the Muslim Turks thanks to his many miracles. Pilgrims come to pray at the monastery’s church from throughout Greece and abroad, and leave various offerings in his honor, that include everything from swords to shoes.

The Agios Stefanos church is also home to the ceremonial robe of Ecumenical Patriarch Gregory V of Constantinople that was slaughtered by the Turks, where it is revered as a holy relic of national and religious significance. The robe was purchased at an auction by Metropolitan Porfyrios Fotiades from Mantamados, who during the reign of Patriarch Gregory V was a top ranking official in the Patriarchate. After his death, his relatives donated the robe to the holy pilgrimage site. Aside from the patriarchal robe, several other religious relics, antique bibles and other artifacts are preserved at the monastery. Furthermore, numerous of the monastery’s icons date back to the 16th Century, while the natural spring that flows in the courtyard is considered on the oldest on Lesvos. Metropolitan Porfyrios’ tomb is also located on the monastery’s grounds.