Byzantine Museum in Paros

The Byzantine Museum in Paros is located within the Church of Ekantotapiliani. The Church of Ekantotapiliani is one of the most important churches in Paros and is also known as the Church of A Hundred Doors.

The church is located within short distance from the port and is one of the best maintained, though also one of the oldest, Christian temples founded in Greece.

Its real name seems to be Katapoliani (located towards the city “kata-polis”). The official name it has today Ekantotapiliani is the creation of scholars from the 17th century with the purpose to give the place more worth and hence was named like the ancient Hundred Gates of Thebes in Egypt.

Legend has it that St. Helen the mother of Emperor Constantine the Great (first Christian Emperor) went to Palestine to find the Holy Cross. Her boat docked in Paros and prayed in the temple near the harbor (where now stands Ekantotapiliani). She made a vow so that if she finds the Holy Cross she would come back and build a big temple on the same spot. Luckily, her prayer was heard and she found the Holy Cross. She fulfilled her vow and built the majestic temple.

Other legend has it that Helen couldn’t fulfill her promise. But she told her son to build the temple and he fulfilled his mother’s vow by building the temple.

Another legend has it that there was no temple on the site until the 6th century when Emperor Justin wanting to strengthen the religious feelings of the residents built the temple.

During the restoration of the temple, carried out more than 30 years ago, researchers found that the rightful owners are Saints Constantine and Helen. Also the researchers proved that there has been a church on the exact site since the 4th century (long before Emperor Justin). The old temple was a wooden basilica which was probably destroyed by fire and then Justin rebuilt it in the style of his own era. During Ottoman and French occupation the temple was plundered and damaged and it also suffered after a major earthquake in 1733. But the temple was restored in his original Justinian style.

Today the church also houses a Byzantine museum with marvelous icons and church relics, wooden carvings, as well as other ecclesiastical objects. The icons found in the temple date, most of them, to the 17th and 18th century. The Praying Madonna dates back to the 15th century. The three icons of the iconostasis in the main church are: the Virgin Mary of Ekatontapiliani, the Pantokrator and the Assumption of the Virgin Mary.

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