The All-Holy Mother of God of the Watchtower
At the top of the mountain Skopos on the island of Zante / Zakynthos, at a height of 543 meters, stands the church of Panagia Skopiotissa (The All-Holy Mother of God of the Watchtower) and the ruins of the renowned monastery.
“Skopos” means watchtower; from the top of the mountain one has excellent view of the ships approaching the island. Consequently, “Skopiotissa” is the female (the Mother of God) who abides on the watchtower. In antiquity, Skopos was called Elatos and was dedicated to the goddess Artemis. In fact, a temple to Artemis used to exist on the place, where the current church to the Mother of God now stands.
The church, which has an architectural style unique to Zakynthos, is built from carved quoin, in the form of an isosceles cross with an acute dome and chapels. Its interior contains frescoes (but with significant damage) painted in 1669 and 1699. The sanctuary doors of the stone templum (iconostasis) were painted by Elias Moskos.
The date of construction for the church and the monastery is unknown. However, a document from 1446 notes that, in that year, they were given by Leonardo Tocco, Count of the Kingdom of Naples, Italy (which had annexed Zante), to the Boniventi family. Later, in 1534, they were granted to the Greek Orthodox priest Nikolaos Logothetis, who was from a Byzantine family that arrived on the island after the fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Turks (1453). In 1624, Matropolitan Anthimos of Corinth began to rebuild the monastery, which was nearly in ruins from earthquakes, as a coenobium in which he would serve as abbot until his death. The church suffered damage in the earthquake of 1953, but did not fall, unlike the monastery, which was completely destroyed. In 1962-1963, the state restored the church, thanks to the intercessions of the author and MP of Zakynthos, Dionysios Roma. In 2006-2008, the Department of Byzantine Antiquities undertook some work to stabilize and restore the church. The area has been declared an archaeological and historical site, and the church a preserved Byzantine monument. The complex of church and monastery continue in the ownership and care of the Logothetis family.
According to local tradition, the icon of the All-Holy Mother of God of the Watchtower (Panagia Skopiotissa) came to Zante from Blachernae Monastery in Constantinople in 1341, as a gift of Emperor Andronikos III. Under the Venetians (1484-1797), the Mother of God was declared the patron of the island. Today, the icon is the only treasure inside the church. The library of the monastery, the holy relics, the scrolls, oil lamps, and chandeliers of exceptional beauty, etc…, were stolen over time and left the island.
The church celebrates its feast on August 15th and welcomes a host of pilgrims.
The cache: visit both places (waypoints) to collect necessary information and guess the indices necessary for final cache location coordinates: N37 44.ABC E20 56.DEF
A. Monastery, entrance gate, above – how many bells can you see: (1 bell A=6, 2 bells A=0, no bells A=3)
B. Monastery, rectangular corner building/small tower – how many doors can you see: (1 door B=9, 2 doors B=8, 3 doors B=2)
C. Monastery, front, white info-panel – the circled number (1534 C=1, 14 C=2, 13 C=0)
D. Monastery, entrance portal with columns – what material has been used for the columns: (both columns are marble D=9, one column sandstone, other column marble D=0, both columns are sandstone D=6)
E. Monastery, front, entrance gate pavement – how many rectangular fields you can see: (4 fields E=7, 2 fields E=9, 6 fields E=0)
F. Church ruin – what’s inside the church: (nothing F=1, stone well F=2, grave F=7)