Panagia Spiliani is one of the most famous monasteries of the Dodecanese. Built at the top of a hill, northwest of Mandraki, it is the most important pilgrimage for the people of Nisyros. The Monastery celebrates on August 15, day on which crowds of pilgrims visit the island from all over the Dodecanese to pay tribute to the miraculous icon. The ships, before mooring in the port, pass under the monastery whistling to receive the blessing of the Virgin Mary and in return the bells of the monastery ring. That day a big festival is organized in honor of the Virgin Mary with food, traditional songs and dances in the village’s central square.
The name “Spiliani” derives of the fact that the church is built in a cave on the top of a hill. According to tradition, the icon was found inside the cave around 1400 AD. by a farmer who brought it to the Church of Panagia Potamitissa. A few days later the icon disappeared to be found again in the cave. The incident was repeated many times, so it was decided to build a church inside the cave.
The cave is divided into two churches. The north is dedicated to the Kimisi tis Theotokou (Assumption of Mary) and the south, to Agios Charalampos (Saint Charalampos). The icons of Jesus, the Virgin Mary with the Infant, the Assumption of the Virgin Mary and Saint Charalampos are based on the wooden-carved iconostasis of 1725 AD. The icon of the Virgin Mary is made of silver and is identical to the small wooden icon that was found in the cave. It is double-faced: on the back it features, Saint Nicholas while on the other side the Virgin Mary with the Infant. Locals believe that in Virgin Mary’s left hand lies the small wooden icon that was discovered in the 13th century AD. For this reason, the left hand is warm when you touch it, having the temperature of the human body, in contrast to the right hand. To reach the monastery you must climb 130 steps.